I like O: the Oprah Magazine. It's consistently the least condescending, most reasonable women's magazine around ("most reasonable women's magazine" is sort of like "nicest Nazi," but I digress). O editors feature meaty articles and contributions from an incredibly diverse and impressive group of writers — Mary Gaitskill, Susan Choi, and Sharon Olds among them. All of which is to say, I realized what continues to bother me deeply about the magazine yesterday, and it has nothing to do with the quality of the prose. It has to do with Oprah's obsession with self-actualization and the idea that emotional messiness is akin to failure. In the October issue, Tim Jarvis writes about a new "technique" called self-distancing. Apparently when you get horrible news (examples given include being fired, being dumped, and hearing a loved one has been in an accident) you're supposed to take a "mental step back" and process the information "from a distance" instead of reacting to it. And to that I say: fuck off.Sometimes, shit happens, and it is the human thing to do to have strong, maybe even unmanageable, emotional reactions. Jarvis quotes a study that says that people who "visualize moving a way from [a terrible] situation to a vantage point where they could watch themselves in the unfolding drama as if it were a video," had lower blood pressure. Maybe they had lower blood pressure because they were DEAD INSIDE. They also have someone from the Insight Meditation Society who recommends meditating in order to "detach yourself from your thoughts and feelings." I think this sort of technique is worthwhile with minor upsets. You shouldn't be having a hysterical breakdown just because you dropped coffee on your blouse. But with the major stuff? It's far healthier, I think, to get out those visceral emotional responses than it is to process them immediately. You can, and will, process them eventually. The sort of self-meditation meme is very popular with the big O to a detrimental degree. It's really just an extension of The Secret, Oprah's favorite self-help book, that advocates the power of positive thinking. For those of you unfamiliar with the distinct charms of The Secret, basically, you get back from the universe what you put out into the universe, and so you are only rewarded by thinking positively. If you think negative thoughts, any failure is your own damn fault. The whole focus on ignoring negative feelings seems like a vast conspiracy to shame women into towing the emotional line, into never being "out of control." Maybe with all her money and her endless stream of gurus catering to every emotional whim, Oprah herself has evolved beyond actually experiencing strong, negative emotions. For the rest of us, having a mini-breakdown when a loved one is in an accident is a totally appropriate reaction. How to Cope: Step Back and Get Some Distance [O] The Secret Behind The Secret: It Was Stupid Crap Even In 1910 Living Oprah
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DAMN! I thought this was going to be an article about Oprah no longer being on the cover of every.single.issue.of O.
Enough, already- Oprah. We know what you look like.