How can we be so surpassingly “positive” in self image and stereotype without being the world’s happiest and best off people? The answer, I think, is that positivity is not so much our condition or our mood as it is part of our ideology — the way we explain the world and think we ought to function within it. That ideology is “positive thinking,” by which we usually mean two things. One is the generic content of positive thinking — that is, the positive thought itself — which can be summarized as: Things are pretty good right now, at least if you are willing to see silver linings, make lemonade out of lemons, etc., and things are going to get a whole lot better. This is optimism, and it is not the same as hope. Hope is an emotion, a yearning, the experience of which is not entirely within our control. Optimism is a cognitive stance, a conscious expectation, which presumably anyone can develop through practice.
But we cannot levitate ourselves into that blessed condition by wishing it. We need to brace ourselves for a struggle against terrifying obstacles, both of our own making and imposed by the natural world. And the first step is to recover from the mass delusion that is positive thinking.
– Barbara Ehrenreich How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America