Heard that before? I have, unfortunately at a time when I was being paid to listen to it. Apparently the truth isn’t actually the truth, it’s my truth and may not actually be true at all. Okay, so my perceptions of what is going on around me affect what I think about things. Right. Okay I’m jiggy with that. But let’s not stop there lets apply that to our whole lives! So, didn’t get that job you wanted even though you thought you interviewed really well for it? There must have been something wrong with your attitude. Didn’t get that flat that you wanted? It’s not that the real estate agent took one look at you and crossed your name off the list because of how you looked, it’s that you went in there with a negative perception about getting a place in the current market. Any other obstacle in your life? Well obviously you just aren’t thinking in the right rosy glowing terms. The basis of this thinking model was that we are all self sabotaging ourselves by thinking negatively before we even start, and if we just think positively then we will get what we want.
At this point I pointedly asked him if this was the same as saying that you are sending your thoughts out to the Universe to get what you want and you only get bad things like cancer if you think bad thoughts? He huffed and puffed and said no, but I think if you take it to its logical extent that is exactly what it is. YMMV.
Later I also asked him about discrimination. He said that a lot of the places he worked in people thought that was the reason but in 95% of cases it wasn’t true. He had nothing to back up this assertion. I call bullshit on this. Of course there was the obligatory person there to say ‘but this has never happened to me!’ There wasn’t quite an audible hiss from many of the other women in the room but it was close.
Basically what I got out of this was it is your perceptions of what is happening that affects how you deal with things and that most of the time what you think is standing in your way is imaginary. So, you think that you didn’t get the job because the panel was all white men and you are a woman, or POC, or PWD, or a parent, or a single, or gay, or trans, or queer, or fat, or one of any number of reasons someome might discriminate against you? It’s all in your head! You must have gone in there with a negative attitude and killed off your chances before those old white men got the chance. Some young bloke getting promoted ahead of you? It’s just his positive attitude and nothing to do with an old boys network. Remember, 95% of workplaces didn’t discriminate at all in a statistic fresh from someone’s bottom.
I’m just not sure why we need anti-discrimination policies you know. Obviously it would just be easier to send everyone to positive thinking sessions and then blame them for failing or negative thinking when someone else with less skills and experience gets promoted past them. Or they suffer from workplace harrassment. They just aren’t taking it in the right spirit!
I’m not suggesting that positive thinking doesn’t have a role to play in our lives. I use positive thinking as a motivator quite a lot. But I also know when to recognise that no amount of positive thinking is going to get me what I want. Positive thinking is never going to make me a world class gymnast. Only a time machine and a completely different childhood and possibly different parents could accomplish that. But silliness aside we do need to accept that at times there are systems and ideologies in place that systematically discriminate against people and it isn’t something that the people being discriminated against can control. How someone being crap to you affects your mental health might be down to how positively you can think about it, but it doesn’t change the fact that someone is making the effort of being crap to you.
Authors note: I haven’t been passed over for a job or had an harrassment complaint ignored, so this is not sour grapes. This is just incredulity and horror that this type of crap is still being promoted and in fact this person’s entire business model was based on this. I would have thought there was enough crap around making white men feel good about themselves but apparently not.