THE GOOD NEWS ABOUT OPTIMISM

The holidays are here. Time to eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow...it's report card time! The end of another year. Time to evaluate the past and resolve to change the future. But the likelihood that the best planned intentions will come to fruition varies with the attitude of the "intender." Is the glass half empty or half full? Life inflicts the same obstacles and traumas upon optimists as it does on pessimists. The difference lies in the way they are represented. James Cabell, an American novelist once stated, "An optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds; and the pessimist fears this is true." An optimist understands that the information gleaned from his yearly evaluation can be resourceful in his resolve to improve the future. A pessimist uses that same information to confirm failure, then give up. How to invert your glass...
Some people have beliefs and others are held captive by them. There are those who believe "pessimism" is their fate-- an accident of birth as indelible as the ink their mothers used to mark camp clothing. In contrast, an optimist is a master of his (her) fate. He believes he can accomplish anything, then seeks to determine when that is not (yet!) true. Optimism is the fertile soil that nourishes new growth. And sometimes growth can be astonishing! But not in a bed of arid, caustic beliefs. A popular notion has been termed, "cautious" or "guarded optimism." In effect, this is simply pessimism wearing a costume, as it's focus is still upon what one can NOT accomplish. The belief is that in all likelihood, the preferred outcome is expected to NOT occur. And this is often called being "realistic." Realistically speaking, the way in which we organize our beliefs directly affects the probability of the actions which follow. In effect, if you believe you can do something, you probably can, and if you don't, you probably won't.
As the resultant actions further reinforce one's beliefs, optimism and pessimism are in a sense also consequences. And the truth about these consequences is that optimists are generally less stressed or depressed, have stronger immune systems and report more enriched, fulfilling lives than their pessimistic counterparts. How can an ardent pessimist become more optimistic. In order to change, it is helpful to begin with the familiar: Tell yourself you will probably not be able to create more positive beliefs Then if you fail...you win.
1)                          Start small, select a small obstacle-- something that gets in your way such as early morning traffic, a frown from your employer, a spouse's inattentiveness. Recreate the scenario inside as pictures, sounds and feelings, but be certain to have another "you" going through it. This allows you to maintain some distance from aversive events. Dissociation from pain requires practice, so expect to not succeed just yet. But be sure to see another "you" in that expectation! Then move on. Typically, people associate to (that is, step inside of) painful things and dissociate from pleasant ones: The basic training of pessimism. For example, "My girlfriend left me and I can't see myself enjoying the holidays without her." This person is more than likely inside (associated to) the painful experience called, 'The Holidays'. This is the prototype phobic response! You just get inside and scoop up all the painful aspects of an unpleasant experience. In contrast, rather than being experienced, pleasant events just happen. There is a dissociation process that keeps them at bay. "I was invited to a tree-trimming party, a comedy show and Christmas dinner over the next few weeks (sees himself in these events). But I probably won't enjoy it much without Sally there (then steps into his internal image and feels pain)."
2)                          After you have practiced distancing from negative, pessimistic beliefs try-on healthier, optimistic ones...just for the fit. Think of something you would like to have or do (even thought you believe you cannot since you know better). Get close and pull the experience around you so you are inside and not seeing another "you." While inside, watch from your eyes as you feel and hear events unfold! If you are having difficulty associating remember that you really can't-- you're only pretending. In this way, you can allow yourself to look forward to the best without really losing anything.