Keeping positive entails holding both a fixed grin and troubling intestines in the same social body. Having a positive attitude is like smiling in the face of adversity, knowing that the train coming down the track is a train, and not the light at the end of the tunnel and yet somehow fixing the smile to show resilience, pragmatism, an undaunted sense of optimism perhaps in opposition to everything your experience is telling you. In Rogerian terms, unconditional positive regard is a counseling term used to encourage blanket acceptance and support of a person regardless of what the person says or does – and may have some link with the need to ‘be positive’ and upbeat in whatever situation one finds oneself: redundancy, bereavement, behaviour modification, the works.
The fixed grin of the positive attitude is essential at times when all the other options have been taken away and exist no longer. Whilst attempting to develop a ‘positive attitude’ may lead to one straying into the realm of self help manuals which can be purchased frequently at motorway service stations, in this context, it might be enough to glance at the work of Dan Berg, Founder of Attitutor Services for the web site http://www.teach-kids-attitude-1st.com to alert us to the perils of mindlessly adopting the fixed grin of the positive attitude: In education positive attitude is not mere obedience. Nor is it unreflective or unthinking conformity. A positive attitude in education is about learning to be in touch with reality, which inherently means a life long process of continuously deepening our practice of disillusionment. (Berg, 2009)
The juxtaposition of education at the start of the phrase as somehow deepening our practice of disillusionment is an interesting one in that it seems counter-intuitive. Surely education is about not disillusioning people, but about re-illusioning them? About enlightenment through illusion? Not becoming satisfied, becoming more experienced at being dis-illusioned? Of having our dreams and aspirations washed away from us in an inevitable tide of disillusionment due to the workings of some other bigger, more forceful realities?