Well, thoughts make for well behaviors. It is hard to be sick or to feel “unwell” in mind that is balanced and positive. Optimism is well thinking and increases positive mood, moral, persistence while increasing creativity and the ability to solve-problems. It is very needed, especially in our complex world.
Optimism can get a bad rap. Perhaps, some of us have known people who possessed blind optimism – looking at the bright side of things at any cost – All the while discounting another’s personal pain. This can feel immensely invalidating. This type of blind optimism is often another person’s defense against what they deem negative and unacceptable – What they cannot tolerate. It can be wounding to another, however. I hear this often in my counseling practice in West Chester and Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, PA. I work with people who suffer mood problems, anxiety, or have challenging personality traits and teach them skills to become more flexible and resourceful. However, it can be hard for some people to accept being more optimistic and open because others have made light of their pain and tried to reframe issues and problems in an unhelpful way. Taking an optimistic view can feel like giving in or making the other people “right.” This can become quite a dilemma – a real set up.
The Fear of Disappointment
Each one of us has unique talents and strengths. However, we often focus on our less developed parts of ourselves rather than maximizing our strengths. Perhaps this comes from fear of lack in that if we have all the bases covered we can be prevent anything “bad” from happening. Of course, this is a form of self-protection often manifesting as perfectionism. Much like a performance review whereby accomplishments are acknowledged, but, then there is that one “opportunity for growth” which stands of like a demerit igniting alarm bells. What happens to the accomplishments? Yes, they get lost and the perceived negative gains complete focus.
What gets in the way of being more optimistic? Perhaps, it is not fear of trying or failing, as much as it is a disappointment. Disappointment can feel heavy and be a letdown. In fact, perhaps it is not as much the fear of things not turning out as planned as it is the difficulty accepting the feeling of disappointment. Time after time disappointment can erode at mood and outlook. It can weave into the fabric of a person’s personality. This is what makes change so hard – Although not impossible! Just to be optimistic of course. It takes time a dedication to increasing optimism. Pessimistic thoughts need to be identified and replaced by more optimistic ones, based in reality. This means that optimistic thoughts must have depth, purpose and value – Not be repetitive “fake it til you make it” talk.
Just like we talked about in last week’s blog on pessimism – We develop a lens based on our world view. Through that lens, we filter information in support of that view.
Choosing a Lens: Positive or Negative
Here’s a snapshot of the difference between optimism and pessimism –
Suppose you are scheduled to meet a colleague for lunch to talk about an important piece of business. You are waiting, and she is late and not answering her cell phone. By the time, 20 minutes pass you notice some pessimistic thoughts:
– “She is not interested and blew me off.”
– “I was duped.”
– “This was not a priority and she forgot.”
There is a choice here, on how to think about this situation. You may tell yourself instead:
– “Something must have come up or is in the way of her getting here and in the car and can’t answer the phone.”
– “I am sure there is a good reason for her not being here or being here yet. I am sure she will be apologetic.”
– “She is human and maybe she genuinely forgot.”
The optimistic thoughts leave more room for moving forward with the relationship. They are less personal and upsetting. They are more kind to both parties, while preserving self-esteem and possibilities. They keep people’s character and integrity intact. Optimistic thoughts also put less pressure on our bodies and less strain on our central nervous system.
Not to mention many times it is more important to be kind rather than right – Open rather than “decided” and forgiving rather than just. It gives us all more room to “be.”