Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Positive thinking, Little Miss Sunshine, and quicksand

Movie review time. Don't read this if you haven't seen Little Miss Sunshine. Consider yourself warned.

We saw it on a rainy day and like everyone else in the theater fell in love with Olive, a little girl (played by Abigail Breslin, watch out for her!) who makes it into a California beauty pageant.

She's a happy little kid in an unhappy family that has to work at faking being happy--for Olive's sake. They fake it because they love her. That alone is a wonderful thing, right?

Fake happy to be happy is the stuff of behavioral therapists. We really think that you sometimes have to fake it till you make it. In the process of faking it you forget that you're faking it and you simply are that which you fake.

Anyway, I surf the blogs, true confession, to see what the world out there is thinking. The self-esteem bloggers and the life coaches are telling us that true happiness is about loving ourselves, not looking for validation from others.

We have to love ourselves to be happy, they say, and they're right. Plus, at the end of life most people are alone, so this helps, at least at the end, apparently.

The bloggers also talk about the power of positive thinking. This is not the same, believe me, as faking it 'til you make it, but it's not that far off.
See Aurelia Willams' blog for a pep talk on that.

For most of us, however, positive thinking is a sincere challenge. LIFE simply gets in the way.

Negative thinking's more natural, for a lot of reasons, the primary one being that we're human and we get tired. When we get tired we don't feel like doing anything much, even being happy or thinking positively, especially, which is work.

And we get hung up thinking of all the things that we have to do that we're not doing. Some of us end up feeling like losers, even, in the process.

And that might be because of fatigue, or it might be because the brain is depressed when fatigued, or it might be because of depression, often the case.

One of the prima facto symptoms of depression, not surprisingly, is fatigue. And becoming tired, every day, is as inevitable as death. So thinking positive? A challenge.

So what's this got to do with Little Miss Sunshine?

The little girl's father, Richard (played by Greg Kinnear), is a positive thinking confidence seller. That's what he sells for a living. He's selling Nine Steps to Winning, which are basically about thinking positively. And he drives everyone else crazy. Why? They're all depressed, and they CAN'T think positively.

The family is positively stuck in reality, and their reality is kind of dark (no money, etc.). The family is depressed so Richard's positive thinking flies inanely in their face. It's funny. His denial is quite laughable.

Things perk up in the movie, the family gets better, actually, when Richard steps into the family reality. He quits working his agenda and works with his family, not against them.

The moral of the story, and the moral of this post, is that if indeed you face reality and tackle it together with the people who care about you, reality's not as bad. Being together, solving problems together, is functional, no matter how dysfunctional our first degree relations.

Thinking as a group, no matter how bizarre the thinking, feels really good. The thoughts don't all have to be positive.

That's not to say we shouldn't try to be optimistic. Dwelling on the negatives (there are so many) can really feel like quicksand. Whereas, hope (something, something, is it "springs"?) eternal? Well, yeah. It does get the serotinin flowing, I'm sure.

Copyright 2006, Therapy Doc


Amanda M said...

Little Miss Sunshine was indeed a wonderful example of how it all can get better together, even when it's really hard.

BTW, the audience here in Portland, Oregon laughed until they cried, and clapped when the movie was over, old and young alike. It's a gem of a movie.

Many thanks for your earlier comment on my blog :)

Ella said...

When you are a little kid, you really want your family to stick up for you the way Olive's family stuck up for her.
You know that the other kids are picking on you, laughing at you, but if your family envelops you in love you will get by. I will do that for my kids.
I watched this movie on my iPod on a balcony in Cancun (yes, tough life), while my kids slept in the room. I laughed so hard, tears streaming down my face, my husband had to shush me.

Anonymous said...

Good one on positive thinking and it helps a lot.

Karim - Positive thinking

Better Things-- Seeing Ghosts