THE ART OF FAILING AS A PESSIMIST

Did you know that every silver lining contains a dark cloud? That it’s possible to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory; or that there's a fly in every ointment screaming out to be found?
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There are many people in this world who have perfected the art of failing and being miserable--it's a remarkable achievement! Given the opportunity, these people will drink from half-empty glasses; select the wrong shirt, received as a gift, to wear to their mother's, cause thunderstorms by washing their cars, and a myriad of other feats. A masterpiece of such pessimism was illustrated by a birthday card, in which a man wearing a raincoat was holding an umbrella...while the sun shone brightly. The caption read, "May your birthday be not half as bad as it probably will be." I sent it to someone who had recently cancelled a flight from <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Miami to New York because of the possibility of it being hijacked to the Middle East.
 
Being a fine art, pessimism requires practice. If you have difficulty mastering the necessary skills at first, don't be dismayed. Tell yourself you will never be a good pessimist... and watch what happens!  How can you learn to be more pessimistic?


  • 1- Select a recent memory about which you had pleasant feelings. Review it as a movie-- a sequence of events in your mind's eye (what came first, next, how did it end?). Pay close attention to the sights, sounds, and feelings you had back then. Now, take the most insignificant part of the memory that could have resulted in disaster, but didn't, and make it the most important part-- blow it up! Think of how disastrous the experience could have been had "that thing" happened. Review the memory once more...

 

  • 2- Apply this same process to things going on in the present state. This is called, complaining. It's not easy, so make sure you find someone who has mastered this skill in order to get uncomplimentary feedback. Comment on the worst aspects of every situation you encounter, using a slightly nasal voice (whining is sort of the icing on the cake-- but that often requires advanced training in "tonal shift", so don't expect to master that right away...this isn't a course on optimism you know). Make sure you sigh a lot as you relate life's drudgeries; it will make it seem more believable to your more optimistic audience.

 

  • 3- Where performing tasks or making choices are concerned (e.g., food, entertainment, career, home improvements, where to go on vacation, whether to buy or rent, if a house, what type of septic system to buy, etc.), insist that it's just too much trouble for an ardent pessimist; not worth the effort, and it probably will result in disastrous consequences.

 
Work at it! Soon those who come in contact with you will sound disappointed and pessimistic, too. That's when you know you have really succeeded at failing. Or you can do something else!
 
Some noted scientists believe there is a considerable relation- ship between good health and good thoughts. Some think that optimism may be a potent treatment for a variety of ailments including, easing of physical pain, colds and flu. Martin Seligman, Ph.D., a noted psychologist and professor at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, has been encouraging people to combat their own catastrophic thoughts as a way of enhancing their health. He elucidates these points in his book, Learned Optimism (Alfred A. Knopf). He further indicates that pessimistic people have weaker immune systems, and are more prone to health problems.
 
There is burgeoning evidence that "failing as a pessimist” and maintaining a positive outlook on life may have a healthy effect on the body. An optimist, or someone who attends more to positive events and explanations, experiences less stress, a threat to one's health. So the next time you feel like you are holding a half-empty glass, try turning it upside down...and smile!