We are all born with a tendency to explore our surroundings and optimism that our curiosity will be rewarded! Even a newborn child is curious and eager to learn, and it begins to explore regardless of its experience. Most parents cherish this tendency to explore and encourage their child to explore and eventually talk about it. This is usually a delightful experience for both the parent and the child.
I believe that my mother was always glad to see me explore. Like Hansel and Gretel’s wicked stepmother; I had a wicked stepfather. I would naively voice my ideas about dealing with work around our home such as bringing in firewood on weekends to heat the house, but my stepfather would usually throw cold water on my ideas. Fortunately for my self-image, after many years I learned that my childhood contained many useful and creative ideas. With encouragement from tourists, I was not willing to let my thoughts pass without due consideration. Thus my early life experiences taught many of me that we could act to control outcomes.
Eventually, I learned that we all pick up habits of explaining our experience to ourselves in more or less hopeful or optimistic terms. However, if we develop doubtful or pessimistic explanations, this can lead to depression. Thus, with a hopeful habit of looking on the bright side, we achieve more and are healthier.
Let’s get clear on our understanding. Optimism is a mood resulting from the habitual way we explain past fortunate experiences and, it turns out that optimism is responsible for preventing 90% of depression. Pessimists also explain unfortunate events as internal, lasting and global. People who can accept errors while chopping wood, for example, learn they can see errors as learning opportunities. Thus, they learn that ‘errors’ are part of the learning process and these don’t erode their self-image.
Thus, optimists explain fortunate events as lasting and global, while they explain unfortunate events as external, temporary and specific. The pessimistic view can be disputed in our minds when we catch ourselves in a pessimistic mood. Our dispute seeks out evidence and implications, while we examine alternatives and usefulness of arguments. We can also energize our new insights. New habits need deliberate practice, and are worth the effort! We can play with debating between the two viewpoints and allow ourselves to get in the habit of going between the two sentiment habits to become facile with our changing moods. If we catch ourselves choosing the pessimistic view, we can see it as a danger signal, but we can choose to take the optimistic view.