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Barbara Ehrenreich

Barbara Ehrenreich says people can't boost their immune systems or attract wealth with positive thoughts.
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Related: Robyn Blumner: The smiley-face facade



It is a creepy phenomenon. Depression has its negative health effects, but fake smiles and bottling up your real emotions probably is just as destructive.

It seems like so few people trend towards embracing reality sometimes.

I'm not sure if being deluded doesn't help you from the inevitable. If you can still do something, then yeah maybe being realistic is better. Sometimes I wish I had the capacity for delusion others have.

We all know we are going to die from the moment we are aware of life an death.

Being deluded about it is the primary reason for religion.

Yeah, but if you thought about your inevitable death all the time and didn't enjoy the worldly pleasures you'd be a freaking wreck and wouldn't accomplish anything.

Besides there's other inevitable things besides death that I'd like to be oblivious about, at least until they come.

avoidance trumps delusion in my view.

I wish I could avoid the inevitable... wait, maybe I can!

I've never seen any evidence that 'being afraid of death' is a major force in the religiosity of young people. (if that is what you are saying)

I wonder what science does have to say about this, and if it has more to do with the individual person than "optimism vs pessimism" in general. Like, for some people, maybe it really does help them get through chemo to stay upbeat and process things in that way. for others, maybe it really does help to just be realistic or even pessimistic, because that's how they deal.

I totally agree with this comment, and get as angry at this woman for saying "people who are positive suck and are deluded" as any other person pushing THEIR opinion on others.

In this case she is saying it to sell her book.

I also think she is dead wrong about the 'Secret-believing executives of Wall Street'. They knew exactly what they were doing... They did it anyhow, and we are paying for it just like they knew we would.

I can form lucid counter-arguments for nearly every one of her points, but I do agree with her final one, that finding problems and finding solutions to those problems works better than just thinking about it.

i don't know, i think some people can improve their health via positive thoughts (deluded or otherwise). isn't that what the placebo effect essentially about?

isn't that what the placebo effect essentially about?

Actually it isn't. We had a link here on OGM about this.

    The term “placebo effect” is unfortunate; it leads to misunderstandings. Placebos themselves don’t have any effect. They are inert: that’s what placebo means. The word placebo comes from the Latin for “I please.” You can think of it as the opposite of “I benefit.” What we really mean by “the placebo effect” is not some mysterious effect from giving an inert treatment, but the complex web of psychosocial effects surrounding medical treatment. Those effects occur with effective treatments too, not just with inert treatments.

    Mark Crislip, MD, thinks the placebo effect is a myth. “I think that the placebo effect with pain is a mild example of cognitive behavioral therapy; the pain stays the same, it is the emotional response that is altered … Ain’t no such thing as a placebo effect, only a change in perception.”1 He’s correct in saying that the placebo effect does nothing to change the pain signals in the nerves. But most people think the change in perception is the placebo effect and is worth pursuing.

Emotional well being reduces stress on the body that is already undergoing stress from the illness. It allows a better resolution if one is possible. The placebo effect is perception only, but may I ask you, when it comes to feeling pain, what else matters?

Sometimes people aching to debunk things become anal-retentive fools that miss the actual benefit of something they deem 'unscientific'.

Emotions, and therefore positive thinking (etc.), do play a huge role in the machine called the human body, and that has nothing to do with magic dust or voodoo.

Frankly, most of this is drivel without any hands-on experience.

Go spend a Christmas Eve in Children's Hospital and look at terminal kids with tinsel on their med stands walk around with smiles. Trust me, it makes your sad 'problems' go away in a hurry, and you encourage every single one of them to be positive.

But my guess is people discussing this would rather get a FatFreeGrandeLattewithaCinnamonStick than take the same time to give blood to save a kid's life.

Prove me wrong. Go give blood.

I think you would be right to be angry if you were correctly interpreting her meaning.

But she isn't saying people should be miserable or that people shouldn't try to "cheer up" the kids at the children's hospital.

But rather that positive thought, in denial of reality is beneficial. Certainly it helps to look on the bright side and not become depressed but that is taken too far at times.

I had someone close to me face a near death medical emergency and it was when I helped them take the time to let out their negative emotions that they really were able to release and relax.

Stress is bad and burying your real emotions is stressful.

Also, you are falling into a common misconception of the placebo effect.

It isn't the power of the mind making you better. Its two things. People under treatment change their behavior as a treated person. maybe they eat better or exercise more or drink less. That has a positive effect on health. Also they interpret their situation as better. SO they say they think their pain is less, even when it isn't, but because they are taking a pill they think it must be getting better.

Cancer isn't getting smaller from a placebo effect.


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