Tag Archives: Barbara Ehrenreich

Survivorship bias: when we focus only on success

15 May

by Carolyn Thomas  ♥  @HeartSisters

We were sitting around with friends and family recently over some very nice red wine when our friend Noel asked a question about my weekly Toastmasters meetings, and specifically about whether I thought there are some people who simply never learn to feel comfortable speaking in public even after Toastmasters training. After a moment’s contemplation, I replied to Noel:

“I can’t really say – because those who actually feel too uncomfortable probably just stop attending after a while. But the ones who stay seem pretty happy!”

It turns out that what I was describing is essentially what’s known as survivorship bias.*  

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Post-Traumatic Growth: how a crisis makes life better – or NOT

15 Mar
Full disclosure: I’ve always felt a bit squirmy when patients facing a life-altering medical crisis cheerfully declare that this diagnosis isn’t only NOT dreadful, but it’s actually quite fabulous! But before I dig into that theory, let’s look at this positivity phenomenon.

Psychologists sometimes refer to it as “Post-Traumatic Growth”.
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Looking for meaning in a meaningless diagnosis

16 Jun

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

“That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  If you tell yourself you feel fine, you will. Don’t cry over anything that can’t cry over you.  When life hands out lemons, squeeze out a smile.”

Translation:  Blah blah blah . . .

Here’s one I like better:  “Sometimes bad things happen to good people.” Period. End of story. As I’ve written here before, there is no Fair Fairy in life.

It is indeed tempting – and common – to spout trite platitudes designed to somehow make people feel better about those bad things with bumper sticker pop-psych. But can platitudes really lend meaning to a life-altering health crisis? Continue reading

A heart film to watch before “Pinktober” arrives

24 Sep

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

We’re approaching the Pink season, my heart sisters. It’s that time of year when breast cancer awareness campaigns and their accompanying corporate marketing shills rev into high gear. Last Pinktober, we saw pink buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken, pink-handled Tasers, and (yes, seriously) pink Smith & Wesson handguns, each somehow helping us to be more aware of breast cancer.

What could possibly top what breast cancer survivor and author Barbara Ehrenreich calls this “cult of pink kitsch” again this year?

From my perspective as a 30+ year veteran in the public relations field, I have to say that my friends working in breast cancer fundraising have done a fabulous job in raising awareness of their cause. So fabulous, in fact, that they have erroneously convinced women that breast cancer is our biggest health threat.

It is not, of course.  This year, heart disease will kill six times more women than breast cancer will.  In fact, heart disease kills more women each year than all forms of cancer combined.  Continue reading

A heart patient’s positive attitude: a “crazy, crazy idea”?

8 Jun

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

I blame genetics – and three decades spent working in public relations – for generally making me one of those smiley, glass-half-full, annoyingly über-positive personalities much of the time. Not even horrific symptoms during my heart attack could alter the weak happy face that seemed freakishly pasted on throughout that ordeal.

It’s as if I were channeling Elizabeth Banks classic character in her short yet brilliant film Just A Little Heart Attack – in which she attempts to smile brightly despite textbook cardiac symptoms, and even good-naturedly taunts her concerned family:

“Do I look like the kind of person who’s having a HEART ATTACK?”

Don’t make a fuss. Chin up. Don’t worry, be happy. Just get on with it. I’m fine, just fine.

Trouble is: people like me who sport a perma-smiley face may not be “fine”. Not at all. And I now believe that feeling obliged to pretend we are what we’re not can be both physically and psychologically damaging.   Continue reading