Sunday 26th September 2021

Optimism. 26/51. #LifeThisWeek. 79/2021.

Optimism. 26/51. #LifeThisWeek. 79/2021. 

Bernard, my husband,  has offered to share some thoughts on this week’s optional prompt of optimism. One reason for asking is that I, like many, tend to be more on the pessimistic side and I know his help for me to turn this around at times has been invaluable.

Thank you Bernard.

 

 

What is optimism?

 The prime minister of Great Britain during WW2, Winston Churchill presented as a highly optimistic personality and is notably quoted as saying, “a pessimist sees only difficulty in every opportunity while an optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.”  The great effect for the nation was the hope that his optimism generated during that tragic conflict.

Most definitions of optimism share common components such as hope and confidence about future positive outcomes. Optimistic philosophers believe that optimism is about good prevailing over evil while the world of psychology is split into two main bands. For some, optimism may be attributed to a belief that experiences will generally have positive outcomes. The second band attributes optimism as having more to do with the way we explain event causes. This is called our explanatory style and its established in early childhood.

Studies tell us that our DNA is more likely to be hardwired as optimistic rather than pessimistic despite the negative bias we also carry around from birth thanks to our cave-dwelling ancestors. Their world abounded with negative experiences and, so, their very survival depended on being prepared for the worst. Decision-making was a little more cut and dried in those days – “Kill the f***king beast before it kills you!!!”

It is fair to say that our levels of optimism are a combination of nature and nurture. Being transmutable, the environment into which we are born and grow up enables optimism to either flourish or flounder. Exposure to risk in childhood encourages the development of a more optimistic mindset as well as creativity.

 

What Does It Mean to Be Optimistic?

Optimists are likely to see the causes of failure or negative experiences as:

  • temporary rather than permanent – “It’s just a minor setback. All will be well tomorrow.”
  • specific rather than global – “It’s just that particular group of people. We won’t be involved.”
  • external rather than internal – “What just occurred wasn’t my fault. It was the extreme heat of the day.”

Such a perspective enables optimists to more easily see the possibility of change.

So long as the optimism isn’t cockeyed as a result of engaging in fanciful thinking, realistic optimism is a worldview that gives its owner a greater sense of influencing their well-being. This flows from optimism being generally accompanied by a healthier outlook in relation to the consequences of any actions. Optimists encourage the growth of resilience as they display a tendency to look for meaning in difficulties.

What are some of the benefits of being realistically optimistic?

An optimist can also expect to:

  • live longer;
  • feel the hope that is necessary to ameliorate doubt and despair;
  • be less susceptible the negative effects of illness, fatigue and depression
  • be able to manage pain more effectively;
  • have improved immunity;
  • have better heart-lung function; and,
  • be fitter.

Can optimism affect relationships?

 You bet, if it’s unrealistic! Where both partners are optimists there is a danger that their positivity about their future can lead to expectations that become too high for anyone to fulfil, especially as such a mindset can discourage the growth of problem-solving skills required during difficult. Being overly sure of a rosy future tends to ignore the very real fact that our journeys through life are littered with difficult times. This is an effective way to lower relational quality.

What’s the key to all this?

So, if there is a question mark over being optimistic, maybe we should just resort to playing it safe all the time and be pessimistic. That way, you wouldn’t have your hopes dashed. It is not advisable that you adopt that strategy.

Pessimism is driven by fear of failure. Living one’s life being afraid to take any risk and assigning reasons why not against any and all plans is quite dysfunctional. You miss out on the thrill of chasing your dreams.

Decision-making that has a good probability of having a positive outcome is cognisant of the evidence that informs that decision-making. Research suggests incorporating some Realism into the conversation is the best way to the try line.

Both optimism and pessimism are judgemental biases that on their own don’t make for effective decision-making. Realism seeks the evidence that short-circuits the psychologically painful consequence and encourages the outcome that is most helpful. In the well-being stakes, realists come out trumps. Talking of Trump – he was not a realist!

We currently are endeavouring to deal with the hot topic of the COVID 19 pandemic. As I’ve already said, both optimism and pessimism are judgemental biases and, therefore, shifting sands upon which to base decisions. Either approach can lead to a failure to take appropriate precautions to a potential threat – “Oh, I don’t need to have the vaccine as I never get the flu!” OR “Having that vaccine is a sure way to make you sick!” A Realist will take measured risks and look at the available evidence before making a decision in relation to treatment. The available evidence suggests that observing suggested protocols such as social distancing and taking advantage of the vaccine is currently the most sensible approach to adopt.

Realistic Optimism has been the key to my well-being.

Through not allowing optimism – nor pessimism for that matter – to escape the realms of realism I have minimised the risk of my hopes being dashed upon the rocks of disappointment. As a result, I have enhanced my level of contented living.

Can my child learn to be realistically optimistic?

Absolutely! As you may know, children see the world quite strictly – it’s either black or white, little or big, fast or slow, good or bad, etc. As they grow older and learn the skills of contrasting and comparing, their perception of the world allows for the integration of degrees in their rules. The black becomes grey. So, a child may be likely to be optimistic or pessimistic. The result of an event will be either good or bad. At this time they are also sponges rabidly attempting to soak up the way the world works so that it makes sense to them. Parents are the greatest authorities and what mum or dad sees is indubitably what will occur.

This, therefore, provides you as a parent with an ideal time to temper their hopes by inculcating their perceptions of event outcomes with Realism.

And in my case, as a grandfather to this youngster way back, where I imagined this conversation.

So, Papa…..

“Papa, I’m ‘cited ‘cos the toof fairy is coming and she will leave me free fousand and firty dollars, won’t she Papa?”

“Well, sweetheart, I’m sure the toof fairy will come but I don’t fink she will leave you wif quite that much. That’s a lot of money! Perhaps, $2 is more like what she will leave.”

 

Recommended Reading

Martin Seligman has spent a great deal of time studying optimism and related topics and has written a number of books that you may be interested in. They include,

  • Flourish
  • The Hope Circuit
  • Learned Optimism
  • The Optimistic Child

Thanks so much Bernard, I have learned more about the ways in which we can develop and change our negative biases as a result of incorporating knowledge rather than accept the ‘Oh I am a pessimist’ self-judgement.

Denyse.

Link Up #246.

Life This Week. Link Up #246.

You can link up something old or new, just come on in.

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Knowing.19/51. #LifeThisWeek. 58/2021.

Knowing.19/51. #LifeThisWeek. 58/2021.

From time to time, bloggers will invite a guest to write a post for their blog. I have done just that. I asked the man I married if he would  like to be the one who wrote on this optional prompt of ‘knowing’…his response was a resounding yes and so I emailed him (we do that, do you?) the questions.

Now, he is a considered and very well-read person with impeccable manners. He took his time to write this post and I said, the only thing I will do is ‘spell-check’. And that is exactly what happened.

Oh and he got to OK the photos I chose to use.

One thing before I hand over, living with and loving the man for over 50 years is a comfort and a challenge. And between us, we continue to learn about ourselves too. Not bored. Ever.

Thank you B.

 

Knowing. A blog post with Bernard responding to questions about his work, life and counselling.

 

What would you like the readers to know about you?

  • I am white, male, middle-class and therefore, harbour biases that I need to be alert to when interacting with others.
  • I am a contemporary phenomenon coming from a rare and unique background as the fifth child in a family of 13 children! Yes, that’s correct, THIRTEEN kids all sired by the same good Catholic parents! I have no doubt there are many other males who could lay claim to having fathered more than thirteen children. They probably are just not aware of many of them!
  • I have been married to the same super woman for more than fifty years and have never felt any desire to change that status; nor have I ever done anything that may threaten it.
  • The accomplishment that swells my soul with the greatest pride and joy has been to contribute to the reproduction of two excellent children and eight glorious grandchildren. These ten human beings, I am very proud to boast, are all examples of mum nature’s finest achievements. While they sometimes bring tears of despair to their humble parents/grandparents, the joy they return is incalculable!

 

How did you know that you would like to help others?

 Given my DNA, I think it may have been a pre-determined role that I was locked into from the moment I crashed to earth. Growing up with so many siblings provided very limited opportunity for putting self first. So, it was incumbent on each member to be a good listener and ‘helper’ or suffer the consequences! So, I acquired the answer to that question at a very early age.

 

What specific knowledge was required for your training?

  • Teaching: Combined College and University training. The prime value of this “time to join the real world” came from the exciting discoveries that socialising brings to the young and naïve adult. The ‘how to effectively teach and manage a school’ began the moment I first set foot in the playground of my first appointment. At the ripe old age of 18 I found myself as Teacher- in-Charge of a one-teacher school out of Narrabri. The school had an enrolment of 41, 10 of whom were secondary students. Fortunately, the kids loved music almost as much as I did!

Wow! What a steep – almost perpendicular – learning curve!!

But, I loved the challenge and managed to survive!!!

  • Cabinet-making: On-the-job training. Cabinet-making was the outcome of medical retirement from teaching as a result of chronic pain from spinal disease. It was good therapy!
  • Counselling: Combined university and Lifeline training. I found working with clients to help them become unstuck and return to greater contentment in their lives, greatly rewarding, it was marred by incompetent supervision. What a shame!

 

 Were there skills that you needed to learn?

 There was a myriad of skills that needed to be learned in all three of these pursuits.

  • Firstly, it should be said, there must be a willingness and openness to learning whatever skills are needed to fully enhance delivery of the service. Some of these already existed as a result of previous life experience and some were mutually beneficial between services. I refer to basic social skills built out of desirable human values such as kindness and compassion, empathy, tolerance, understanding, generosity of spirit, etc. Many more needed to be learned, especially manual skills relevant to building.

 

  • So, all three services rely heavily on the development of effective oracy (especially active listening) and literacy skills. Obviously, the ability to communicate effectively is a skill that is of paramount relevance to all, especially counselling and teaching. Contemporary society would also demand a desirable level of knowledge and skill in the new world of Information Technology. Fortunately, I was largely untouched by this beast!

 

  • Then, there are the many skills that are of specific relevance. For example, apart from being able to communicate well, running a cabinet-making business requires a broad range of business and management skills, to say nothing of the manual skills, that underpin the effective delivery of such a service.

 

  • All these skills I am very grateful for, as they have contributed greatly to the quality of life that I now enjoy.

 

 How has being a counsellor impacted your life?

 

Of all the above career pursuits, counselling has had the greatest impact on my life – a strange outcome when it was the pursuit that I spent least time pursuing.

  • However, counselling, through its skills, provided the opportunity to offer other human beings the love of listening and of taking them seriously – a rarity for some, especially women. It was a real honour to be permitted to engage in an intimate experience in which I was given open access to the secrets of clients’ tortured souls as we worked together to free them from the manacles that had them chained to an unpleasant time in their lives.

 

  • Relationship dysfunction demands the most attention. This might include a cry for help to improve emotional regulation that may have expressed itself as an inability to manage anger that is violently disrupting domestic equanimity or dysfunction resulting from the loss of loved ones. Complex trauma emanating from abuse or exposure to traumatic experience needs help to resolve as does the very broad problems associated with depression and anxiety.

 

  • The needs range is extensive but rarely does the dysfunction not affect relationships, especially the relationship we have with ourselves. Whatever the reason for seeking help, the initial offering of a loving ear and non-judgmental acceptance coupled with empathetic treatment are critical to effective outcomes.

 

  • I’m happy to award counselling the prize for greatest impact as the purpose and meaning it offered has contributed most to my feeling of inner peace and contentment.

If readers wanted to know more about how to help themselves to learn more about ‘life, living and all that’ what would you suggest?

 

Well, my immediate question to that question is, “how long have you got”?

But, as I think you would like something a little more practical and hopefully helpful, here are a few suggestions.

 

  • Give yourself a break! Our most severe judgy-judgy (my wife assures me that this is the contemporary version of judgmental) critics are ourselves. We’ve got that voice or voices in our heads telling us what not to do, how not to do it, what we should be doing, etc. Whatever the thought bubble, try not to empower it by reacting emotionally. Don’t resist it for whatever we resist, persists, remembering that it is very temporary and will pass. Allow it in let your mind move from inside the thought bubble to an observer position. Then thank it but suggest you’d like to proceed the way you want to. Remember, this voice is only trying to protect us. Practise offering yourself kindness and compassion rather than harsh criticism!

 

  • Be grateful and feel it. When we genuinely feel gratitude our bodies experience a chemical release that enhances feelings of well-being. Each day practise asking, “What am I grateful for?”

 

  • Live mindfully in the present. Give the right hemisphere of the brain the opportunity to be as active as the left. We human beings, especially in Western Society where we are constantly striving for materialistic gain, are very left brain oriented. This has us flat out DOING and solving related problems. We really need to give the more reserved, quietly-spoken right hemisphere a chance to become more active and JUST BE. Right brain loves us when we live in the present with curiosity and creativity. Music that we get lost in is a great BEING activity. It’s like slumping into your favourite chair after a hard day on your feet! Practise eating your next meal mindfully, i.e. with the curiosity of a scientist allowing your sense to actively engage with the process. Observe what you smell, taste, touch, hear, etc. No digital devices permitted at the dining table!

 

  • As difficult as it is, times of hardship and pain such as illness, relationship dysfunction, etc. need to be thought about as wonderful opportunities to learn about life and enhance one’s quality of it. The more difficult and/or painful the experience the more opportunity for learning about ourselves. Practise writing about these times.

 

  • Be a good listener. How many times have you heard, “you’re not listening to me!”? If you’re like most of us when having a conversation with your partner or a friend or involved in a group talk interaction, you’re probably mentally preparing what you want to say rather than listening intently. Practise being an active listener.

 

  • Be careful not to become a digital addict. This is a very real problem for some people. It impacts our sociability as we retreat further and further into the world of social media coming to see this world as the real world. While social media is a valuable asset giving people a sense of connection that they may not have otherwise had, that connection lacks a personal dimension that nourishes our souls. It’s like the unique value breast milk has for an infant. Certainly, use your device/s as tool/s or learning aids only. Practise going out without your phone – like we used to do only a few years back!

These provide just a snapshot of possibilities

 

How did you find writing these responses?

 Refreshing, heartening and stimulating. I miss all three of my life’s career choices, especially the last!

 

Thank you Bernard. I appreciate your skills,  talents and considerably well-used active listening skills… Always! Going out without your phone? Sorry, probably can’t do that. But I hear you!! My tribute in images here.

Thank you B, for your thoughtful words in response.

I know I have benefitted from your wisdom over the years and maybe there are some pieces of information shared here for readers and bloggers to find helpful.

Denyse.

Link Up #239

Life This Week. Link Up #239

You can link up something old or new, just come on in.

* Please add just ONE post each week! NOT a link-up series of posts, thank you.

* Feel free to go with the prompt for the week to add your ‘take’ on the prompt. Or not.

* Please do stay to comment on my post as I always reply and it’s a bloggy thing to do!

* Check out what others are up to: Leave a comment on a few posts, because we all love our comments, right!

* Add a link back to this blog in your post somewhere, or on your sidebar or let others know somewhere you are linking up to this blog’s Life This Week.

*Posts deemed by me, the owner of the blog & the link-up, to be unsuitable for my audience will be deleted without notice. These may include promotions, advertorials and any that are overly religious or political or in any way offensive  in nature.

* THANK you for linking up today! Next Week’s Optional Prompt: Share Your Snaps #4. 17 May 2021

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Click here to enter


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