The Devil’s Rant: The Failures of Positive Psychology

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As the Devil, I choose to live up to my mission statement of opposition and dissidence. There is no topic taboo enough and nothing is beyond reproach. And the failures of positive psychology are no sacred cow. And while the fundamental intentions of this movement are, as its name implies — positive — their more popular interpretations are recipes for disaster and failure.

The Failures of Positive Psychology

I am often indignant and annoyed at the incomplete advice passed around as valuable. It amuses me to hear people submit that they should only be themselves. And that no one can tell them what to do. “Be yourself,” they say, “follow your heart.” “Don’t let society determine your beliefs,” and so on.

These seemingly wise but rather silly nuggets of information are ostensibly about empowering you towards creative individuality, yet, obviously about regurgitating some noise (that strikes an emotional string), making people feel better about their intellectual and moral shortcomings.

What a recipe for social disaster and failure they are!

Even superficially, they are damaging. Think about some of the least charming characters in human history. Hitler was, I’m sure, convinced that he was doing the right thing and following his heart’s desire. He wasn’t. Richard Ramirez, Ted Bundy and the colourful Stalin all knew that their actions made them different, and in a very pure sense, themselves.

Now, and while there is good epistemic value in the idea of striving for individuality, the push to do so must be afforded better thought and qualified correctly. We cannot forget that we all need guidance and are responsible for abiding by social rules – not lower expectations like gender roles – but standards that ensure cohesiveness.

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If we forget that we were all trained NOT to shit our pants once, we cannot possibly remember that there are more complex notions in the world that demand the same dedication as toilet training but with much more severe consequences.

I could point to the current North American governments as samples validating my argument. But as convincing as that may be, more critical validation comes from talking to the regular population. Especially where too many believe they are perfect and should be considered the best at everything just for showing up.

This nonsense, all this, serves to ensure the celebration of mediocrity.

Alas, humans have taken intellectual and moral dishonesty and made them appear virtuous.

— The Devil Unbound

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