The dark side of looking on the bright side

I had to chuckle (I think) when I uncovered a 2009 survey revealing people’s number one for an ‘alternative’ song to be played at funerals: ‘Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life’, Eric Idle’s cheery tune from the Monty Python film, ‘The Life Of Brian’.

Twenty per-cent of people questioned by the charity The Children’s Society made it their top choice at the time.


Now if you’ve seen the film, I’m sure you’ll recall that the character played by Eric Idle tries to cheer up Brian (Cohen), who’s being crucified alongside him.

In the movie, it’s obviously a pretty ridiculous example of urging someone to think positively, clearly written tongue in cheek, and you may agree that those who urge us to take a positive approach to everything, no matter what, are barking up the wrong tree (if not actually barking mad).

Every morning the newspapers are full of stories about those who have been placed in intolerable situations, having to deal with the most awful of circumstances.

If something unexpectedly tragic happens to someone you love, for instance, surely it’s entirely natural to feel abject misery at the time?

But that’s not to say that the positive-approach school of thinking has no merit whatsoever.

If someone cuts you up in traffic for example, you do almost certainly have a choice about how you’ll react.

For example, you could flush with anger, driving your car so it’s only inches from the rear of the offending vehicle.

Alternatively you could just let it go, and tune your radio to a classical music station where they’ll hopefully be playing something soothing, rather than, say, The Ride Of The Valkyries.

I’m pretty sure that those who go through life pretending that every single day is 100% positive are living in cloud cuckoo land.

On the other hand, maybe there’s merit in adopting a slightly tweaked version of the Monty Python song: perhaps you can (Often) Look On The Bright Side Of Life?

5 thoughts on “The dark side of looking on the bright side

  1. All good points Jon, and helpful. Thank you.

    Also good to remember when others are going through hard times .When I’m down for good reason, I find people who ask me, sometimes symbolically, to look on the bright side are not usually empathasing with me. Rather I feel, they are trying to make themselves feel better, or being avoidant.

    Patient friends with empathy are great – I try to be one too. Not always easy for any of us – but more help in the long run.

  2. Ah…and ‘happy talk, keep talking, happy talk!’….maybe we should just sing our way out of ruts and stresses!

  3. Slightly off-topic, my favourite Monty Python song is The Galaxy Song, which always makes me smile somehow. If I am feeling over-anxious about something and getting lost in a horrible downward spiral, this song helps me regain a sense of proportion about things. It’s here on YouTube :

  4. After 2 days spent on a trip with a miserable, negative colleague I have realised that I actually have a suprisingly bright view of life……and I was under the impression that I had problems :-). ! It would appear therefore that appreciating small things in life like a smile from a stranger, appreciating a comfortable bed and enjoying a plane ride do indeed make for a happier outlook on life.

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