Thursday 2nd December 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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My Head & Neck Cancer Patient Update. Been A While! 51.1/2021.

My Head & Neck Cancer Patient Update. Been A While! 51.1/2021.

I am coming up to four years since my head and neck cancer diagnosis on 17.5.2017.

I wrote a great deal over the years about my head and neck cancer to both help myself process it all, over the many times I faced challenges including surgeries and long recovery times and I wrote for others. This is why my blog has a head and neck page to be found here.

Then in late November I wrote this.…and was very pleased to put my head and neck cancer posts away. Even though, I have included parts of this in various posts such as Life This Week and Telling My Story since, today is the first time I am writing an update.

What Happened When I Was Issued With My Upper Prosthesis.

  • I smiled A LOT.
  • I had an expectation to be able to eat foods I had missed.
  • I was told, I now know was a feeble attempt at a joke, by one of the prosthodontists, that I had to bite into an apple before I could leave the day I got those teeth.
  • I am so annoyed  disappointed, even over two years later, that I was misled with some kind of joke because life WITH an upper prosthesis is nothing like having my own teeth or even an upper denture.
  • I have no feeling in my upper lip as it too had cancer and was partially reconstructed.
  • I could eat some foods I had missed initially: missing crunchy foods….but I have to guide whatever I am eating towards my mouth and use my tongue to sense what is coming, and then the food is put in my mouth by me
  • I still have challenges.
  • I still, after all this time, cannot always guess the right amounts of a food and suffer with mouth spillage at the sides.
  • I often put too much on a fork or spoon…because I am hungry…because the food is warm…because that is life time habit

These are lessons I am continuing to learn each day…and it’s my third year of living with the reconstruction in my mouth.

My inner mouth – gums at the front and behind the upper prosthesis are skin that was harvested from my thigh. My palate is the same. My wonderfully kind and knowledgable prosthodontist (not the ‘joker’) tells me skin from the leg was never meant to be in our mouths so it will always be a challenge in terms of my management to keep it healthy as I can and for me to put up with the level of daily discomfort.

What Life Is Like For Me Now As a Recovered and Well Head & Neck Cancer Patient.

  • There is no sign of cancer within me. My head and neck surgeon does not need to see me until September 2021 – a full year since last visit
  • I am seeing my prosthodontist in mid May to have a 6 month check and CT scan for bone changes.
  • I am self-caring well for the upkeep of cleanliness inside my mouth using a water pik daily, a micro brush around the abutments I can reach and cleaning my upper prosthesis, partial denture and remaining 8 teeth with care.
  • There has been no addition gum overgrowth and for that I am incredibly grateful.
  • I keep smiling.
  • I love to share my story.
  • I continue to be an Ambassador for Head and Neck Cancer Australia
  • I will reduce my local head and neck cancer group attendance
  • I will help raise funds in the Soup for the Soul event locally where I have sourced some great help from a cafe.
  • I will share the stories of others along with my updates on social media.

BUT…here is some more:

  • I continue to learn that I have to live with restrictions.
  • I can no longer eat anywhere other than home unless it’s a manageable ‘cake’ and ‘coffee’ somewhere.
  • It makes travelling overnight anywhere a bit challenging. Mostly I can take my own foods and utensils.
  • I cannot go to someone’s place for a meal and I think…even though I do not make any fuss of it…most people really do not even think to perhaps ask what may be suitable. To offend no-one, I have to say, it’s a morning tea or afternoon tea or very light lunch that I can probably eat.
  • I feel, even though I look normal, that to understand what is happening for me inside my mouth it is better that I admit to what are my limits and stick to them as I do not want to offend….
  • It is messy when I eat.
  • I often have food spill from the sides of my mouth (particularly if I have put a bit much in) and I constantly wipe the sides of my mouth needing paper towels and tissues nearby.
  • I always have water close to me.
  • I often eat alone…not because I want to but because I take so long and I can no longer really eat and talk…my husband has kindly told me, of the ‘look’ of food at the front of my mouth.

Why Update Now?

  • I was sore eating yesterday. Stinging sore inside my mouth.
  • I know I have to expect a certain level of this.
  • My mouth is much smaller inside than I remember …because of the hardware that’s been placed inside.
  • I knew I had to change somethings about my eating habits to help.
  • I did this initially by using a large teaspoon for cereal instead of a dessert spoon. It was better.
  • I have now cut up foods into small pieces and resist putting larger (as I was) amounts inside.

I am admitting my self-care and knowledge of how to help myself needed to be written and spoken about. For too long, I have looked and sounded right…and that is good…but for many of us (and now I include me) we are never the same post- head and neck cancer.

I am forever grateful for my professional team who have ensured my wellness to this day!

I used to think I couldn’t admit to having some issues because I have had such an awesome and great recovery. I now know that in being human…and a vulnerable one at that, I had to ‘out myself’.

This is why I posted today.

Update: got some largeish teaspoons. And, have cut up food into smaller pieces. Winning at changing habits!

Take care everyone,

Denyse.

 

 

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