Psychic Choices Optimism vs Pessimism
Those are our choices: optimism or pessimism? What about “realism”? Isn’t that the middle ground between the other two? Actually, I hope to persuade you that what we see as one or the other depends on our thoughts, that our thoughts are subject to choice and that our choices filter our experience of “reality”. Many people, however, conclude that the dominant emotions in their lives define whether they are optimists or pessimists and essentially they have no choice in how they see themselves and the world. People who think this way have a deterministic view of life; they don’t believe they have the power to shape their lives beyond the superficial level of ‘person style’ or simple likes and dislikes. At the extreme end of the spectrum, determinists seem to lack “motivation” or “will” and may live in a more or less permanent state of despair or depression. Next to them on the spectrum are the “cynics”. Their experience seems to point to pessimism as the only logical point of view. Optimism by contrast seems to them naive. In general, Western culture values only the measurable, the objective, the impersonal – notwithstanding the gazillion or so “positive thinking” and “self-help” books that are sold every year. A strictly materialist view of reality – one that excludes or discounts the value of the non-material – is the natural refuge of the cynic and seems justified by science.
Psychic Choices Optimism vs Pessimism
This commitment to the “measurable” definition of reality to the exclusion of all else predisposes us as a culture to pessimism. “No good deed ever goes unpunished”, Murphy’s Law, Sod’s Law – all are expressions of the pessimistic fear that things really never get better. Fear. That is the pivotal reality that tells us it is “safer” to be pessimistic than optimistic so that when things do go badly we will be safe from the ridicule reserved for the Pollyannas who steadfastly refuse to see the downside of anything. But are optimists unrealistic in their outlook? Are they really Pollyannas?A society’s “psychic health” depends on differentiating between optimistic thinking and “positive thinking” and, for the most part, that distinction is absent from debates on the merits of pessimism over optimism or vice versa. ”Positive thinking” in the sense that I am using it here means self-deception. It is a false way of being. In its most extreme form, it becomes a substitute for dealing with the reality of our physical mortality. Physical existence is finite and sooner or later our bodies will die. But in recent years, there have been great advances in research into the existence of a non-local reality that operates at the sub-atomic level of reality. Part of the result of that research is a shift in our thinking that allows for the possibility of the survival of the non-physical aspect of us that we call consciousness. Since we do not as yet understand what consciousness is and can only map a fraction of its function with technologies that allow us to see some of the activity of the brain in real time, we cannot say that consciousness is finite. What we do know is that consciousness in the form of human attention and intention can have effects on physical reality at the sub-atomic level. From the current research into these effects it seems that consciousness interacts with “material reality” in some way. If that is true, it only makes sense to apply our conscious intentions in a more concentrated way to increase this effect. Beginning back in the 1960s, Carl Simonton, noticed a correlation between the attitudes of cancer patients and how long they survived or even made complete recoveries. Those who came through the process of acknowledging the seriousness of their condition and decided to use their inner resources (an optimistic outlook tempered by the reality of the suffering that lay ahead of them) as well as the medical help available tended to live beyond the statistical survival expectation by two to five years. Those who dealt with the diagnosis by denying all possibility of dying and adopted a false positivity, did not do well. And those who reacted with anger, bitterness, and resentment and never got beyond that did least well.
Optimism/Happiness Feedback Loop
Obviously, if there is even a possibility that our habitual way of seeing the world can affect the quality of our experience in it, it makes sense to optimise our chances of a happier life. If genuine optimism, based on a rational approach that acknowledges that “bad” things do happen but that they don’t have to ruin our lives, can be learned and the research suggests strongly that it can, we’d be crazy not find our more about how to attain a more balanced view of ourselves, our potential, and learn how to create a more rewarding life by becoming mindful of how our thoughts are affecting us. Fortunately, there are a number of credible writers whose books can help us to do this. Any of those referenced in this post would make a good start and they are available HERE.
© Delia O’ Riordan 2012