Academic journal article Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship

Positive Coping Strategies: Linking Historical and Contemporary Views

Academic journal article Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship

Positive Coping Strategies: Linking Historical and Contemporary Views

Article excerpt

Executive Summary

The purpose of this paper is to examine how Dale Carnegie's self-help classic How to Stop Worrying and Start Living resonates with our contemporary understanding of positive coping strategies relating to healthcare. Using the rational approach to historical interpretation suggested by Bevir, we identify and discuss the three primary positive coping strategies, prescribed by Dale Carnegie, which might assist patients interfacing with the healthcare industry. We further compare and contrast how Carnegie's prescriptions correspond to the latest conceptualizations in positive psychology. Further, we discuss how historical interpretation of Carnegie's works can illuminate today's research and practice in positive psychology, especially as it impacts the healthcare industry.


The ostensibly pathological individualization of life and work roles, facilitated by industrialization and globalization, has engendered a demand for self-help books that provide prescriptions for successful coping with major social changes (Beck & Beck-Gernsheim, 2002). When engaged in coping, as the process of managing life's challenges while pursuing valuable goals and personal growth (Lazarus, 1996), individuals tend to search for self-help books that prescribe the ways in which they can act as the authors of their biographies (Larson & Sanne, 2005), i.e., captains of their own ship. Moreover, how individuals navigate increasingly complex environments has been found to either increase or decrease stress (Halbesleben & Buckley, 2004), which greatly impacts myriad health-related outcomes such as high blood pressure, heart attacks, and strokes (Pressman & Cohen, 2005). It is a popularly shared belief that self-help books can influence people to cope positively with life changes, particularly when it becomes difficult for them to perform their life and work roles by following established traditions. In America, arguably, the most prominent author of how-to or self-help books for social influence has been Dale Carnegie. Dale Carnegie's first bestseller How to Win Friends and Influence People was initially published in 1936 and has sold more than 30 million copies by 2000 (Peterson, 2000).

First published in 1944, Dale Carnegie's second book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living remains one of the most popular self-help books for positive coping ever written in America, with approximately 25 million copies sold as of 2000 (Peterson, 2000). Part of the book's success is due to the popular Dale Carnegie Training seminars, which have been attended by a total of approximately 5 million people (Peterson, 2000). Yet, it is not clear why this book has continued to be so popular and still remains relevant today, despite its many parochial attitudes and views, particularly towards the social role of women, and the vast changes brought about by modern technological advances. Perhaps, its success is a product of something much more deeply rooted in American culture-its singular, enduring emphasis upon the individual capacity for positive coping. This capacity is commonly manifested as the display of cheerfulness, a culturally valued and stress-reducing emotion that reflects one's enthusiasm and appreciation for others (Carnegie, 1952).

The cultural value of individual capacity to cope positively and display cheerfulness first emerged in America during the Age of Enlightenment. In those days, the focus of Christianity in England and America shifted from valuing suffering to valuing "self-love as a natural principle of Man bestowed by God" (Kotchemidova, 2005). An outward display of cheerfulness became associated with being a faithful Christian because to do so was a sign of gratefulness for what one was given in life, regardless of how much or how little one had. Thus, it could be said that "one had a moral duty to attend to oneself and try to stay happy in the world" (Kotchemidova, 2005: p. …

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