Can a Pessimist Be Positive?
There has been a proliferation of books on how to think positive and be happy so that you can become successful and fulfilled. More often than not our brains prefer to choose negative thoughts. Poet John Milton once said, “The mind is its own place, and in itself, can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” He certainly knew what he was talking about!
On any given day, we average about 60,000 thoughts. Many of them are focused on what’s wrong or what could go wrong. This made a lot of sense thousands of years ago when there was a huge possibility that our village could be obliterated by our enemies or we might be attacked by a behemoth while taking a morning walk. Unfortunately the brain has taken its time catching up with modern day society.
We are still struggling to rid ourselves of our fears, which often result from negative thoughts. Researchers have proven that our brain patterns are defined in part by how we think. Optimists take credit for their successes and see bad events as flukes. Pessimists, on the other hand, blame themselves for anything that happens and often discount success.
Psychologist Dr. Martin Seligman says that pessimists use the three P’s to explain themselves:
Personalization: “It always happens to me!”
Pervasiveness: “It happens to me every day in every way!”
Permanence: “It will never end!”
This thinking guarantees a life of hopelessness and suffering. It also contributes to a sense of inner worthlessness and a lack of self-control. The more we think we are a certain way, the more we become that way.
Learning to change our inner dialogue can be very difficult for those whose biology predisposes them to depression and or anxiety. So learning to parrot positive statements may prove to be an act of futility.
For those of us who have simply become habituated to thinking that the universe is not a friendly place, I suggest spending some time every day thinking about what you feel good about. There is always something we can extrapolate from our day to day that can help to buffer our fears. If you can engage in this practice you will find yourself more able to handle difficult situations and there’s a good possibility you may even live longer.
Lighten Up Your Week:
What do you feel good about today?
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