Pessimist To Optimist – Change The Wiring
If you are a pessimist, you see the world to be as bad as it can possibly be. It is a negative view of life, which is harmful to your health. So, develop a new “explanatory style” to change your gloomy view into a vision of a bright and cheerful world.
That view needs an understanding that your happiness comes from within you and that events follow a universal pattern with a stable order. Pessimism is based on an internal conviction that you have no control over events, which occur erratically, without any universally applicable pattern.
A change in your convictions will rewire the neural circuits, which support that view. Your mind and its responses will improve. Your habitual patterns of thought will become brighter.
To Optimist – Optimism Is Healthy
Both optimism and pessimism originate from subconscious pattern recognition. Those attitudes may partially be inherited, but are acquired largely through experiences in life. Extensive research on groups of optimists and pessimists show mixed results. Among those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, or asthma, optimists were not more likely than pessimists to report pain alleviation, or to be psychologically better adjusted. But, optimists emerge from difficult circumstances with less distress than do pessimists.
Optimism has links to good health, including preventative health. An optimist is less likely to experience illness. Optimism reduces the severity and duration of an illness and reduces the possibilities of relapses. Sadly, while it is nice to be an optimist, the attitude is subconscious and a pessimist cannot just “will” himself to be an optimist. A change requires your inner wisdom to absorb a few important insights.
To Optimist – Pessimism Is Not Your Choice
A pessimistic interpretation of an event is not your conscious choice. Your mind senses patterns and acts, before you know it. The famous experiments of Benjamin Libet demonstrated your essential helplessness. He showed that, even when you voluntarily press a button, your motor systems begin to act 350 milliseconds BEFORE you think you have pressed it. Subconscious processes make your decisions, way ahead of your conscious awareness.
Within the instant in which your eyes perceive a group of black and white pixels on this page, your mind interprets them as a set of characters forming a word and locates its meaning. As you read, myriad entities evaluate vast memories, compare your experiences, recall childhood images, and pass judgment on the validity of this paragraph. You merely become aware of the final conclusion. If you wish to change from pessimism to optimism, your vast subconscious mind has to become convinced that optimism is both justified and desirable.
Pessimist To Optimist – The Logic Of The Pessimist
Pessimists challenge a belief in the potential for endless progress as well as the general religious view that “this is the best of all possible worlds.” Arthur Schopenhauer speaks for pessimism. According to him, human beings are motivated by hunger, sexuality, the need to care for children and the need for personal security and shelter. Driven by these needs, the selfish instincts of mankind generally overcome its rationality. This creates endless and pointless conflicts for earth's limited resources, which will continue till the extinction of the human race. For Schopenhauer, life presently exists with great difficulty. If things had been worse, the human race would not have existed. He reasons that, since a worse world could not exist, we live in the worst of all possible worlds.
Pessimist To Optimist – If Anything Can Go Wrong, It Will
Murphy's Law “If anything can go wrong, it will” is the refrain of the pessimists. Pessimists focus on the things that can go wrong. But, billions of things do not go wrong. Myriad neurons in your nervous system, the complex circuits of your monitor and computer, the worldwide circuits of the internet, power stations, distribution systems, all do not go wrong for you to be able to read these lines. The baser instincts of humanity did not prevent the progress of human civilization from famine and disease to the world of science and medicine. But, then, Hitler's gas chambers are also recent history. So, regardless of whether many, or a few things do go wrong, the world goes on. Optimism and pessimism are merely viewpoints. An optimist feels gratitude for the trillions of things that do not go wrong, while a pessimist moans over the things, which can and do go wrong. Optimism (and happiness) come from the convictions of your inner wisdom.
Pessimist To Optimist – LTP and The Amygdala
Pessimism is merely a habitual thought pattern. It appears to be reasonable as the world encounters Alvin Toffler's Future Shock – the shattering stress and disorientation triggered by “too much change happening in too short a time.” Civilization seems to be sinking into moral decay, where the cherished values of Christian/Greek/Hindu philosophy appear abandoned. Government encroachments into private lives appear to head into the “thought police” and “doublethink” narrated by George Orwell in his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. But, even for a pessimist, these are extreme views. But they are considered judgments.
Your judgments of the outcome of events is made by the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). The organ evaluates the history of your successes and failures to make its decisions. ACC has strong links to the amygdala, the organ, which triggers fear and anger in the nervous system. Their oversensitive circuits trigger negative emotions, which influence ACC judgments.
The pain of a a failure, or a loss triggers persistent LTP circuits in the amygdala, causing it to become sensitive over a lifetime to threatening signals. Impulses from the organ to the brainstem trigger (typically jumpy) avoidance behaviors. They activate the sympathetic nervous system, raising blood pressure and heart beats. These impulses sent to the facial nerves generate expressions of anger, fear, or disgust. Those impulses release neurochemicals, which increase the intensity of fight, flight or freeze responses. Normally, the sensory inputs, which imply threats would only generate a momentary response from the system. But, LTP builds up during a crisis in life. Later, it generates persisting control impulses, which converts a momentary response into persisting distress.
LTP circuits in the amygdala influence ACC causing the negative thought patterns of the pessimist. ACC normally builds on current experience of successes and failures to frame its decisions. It decides whether a person will be optimistic or pessimistic about the outcomes of his efforts in life. Those judgments are dictated by the emotional LTP inputs from the amygdala of past failures. If ACC is dominated by memories of failure, you will be a pessimist. But, if you can build up memories of successes in the amygdala by changing its viewpoint and recalling past successes, ACC can decide to make you an optimist.
Pessimist To Optimist – The Wrong Goals
Pessimists should reexamine their expectations from life. A person's goals decide whether good, or bad things happen. Optimists expect to meet their goals and pessimists expect to fail. The pessimist cannot meet his goals, because his goals have unreasonable expectations. Pessimists expect to discover a larger meaning for their life. They expect a benevolent outcome for life in the long march of history. They expect human beings to behave with nobility and altruism. They expect that fate will not deliver nasty surprises. The gloom of the pessimists rests on their inner conviction that such expectations will not be met. Pessimists need to understand that finding cosmic meaning, the arrival of utopia, the operation of an altruistic world, or the expectation of a benign fate are all irrational goals in life.
Pessimist To Optimist – A Meaningful Contribution?
Do you worry about the meaning of your life? The deeply religious believe that their lives meet a divine purpose. But, the pessimistic skeptic will never discover a cosmic meaning for his life. Individual contributions to history have always been irrelevant. The vast empires, grand civilizations and the struggles of untold generations have vanished into the misty past without a trace. Like a grain of sand in the desert, earth circles one among billions of stars in the Milky Way Galaxy - one lone galaxy, among billions of such galaxies. In the vastness of cosmos, the pessimist vainly searches for the meaning of his life. Without such worries, the optimist discovers satisfactions within the boundless spaces of his own mind. His joy comes from his awesome capacity to grasp the immensity of space and the vast depths of history. The true optimist is self sufficient.
Pessimist To Optimist – Self Awareness
Like a glass, which can be both half full and half empty, both pessimism and optimism are justifiable. It is only that the optimist lives in a happier world. If the pessimist wishes to relocate, he has to see his one sided reasoning. The meaning of his life is irrelevant. Only self awareness can educate the pessimist of his habitual focus on gloom and doom. He has to become aware of the rise of negative thoughts. The immense capacity of his mind should focus on discovering the brighter side of his world.
Improved education, health and prosperity are spreading to billions of people. Each day brings amazing products and services to improve the quality of human lives. The pessimist should consciously search for hopeful events and headlines. Actively discover silver linings around dark clouds. While initially difficult, the pessimist will become skilled with practice. New LTP “speed dial circuits” will grow in his mind. Soon, he will begin to see real change within. His creativity will grow and the world will look brighter. Actually, the world will not have changed. But the vast internal worlds within the pessimist will have taken a brighter hue.
Pessimist To Optimist – The Fear Of Disappointment
Pessimism often follows a serious disappointment in life, like the loss of a loved one, or a career setback. Since such events occur unexpectedly, usually just following a happy view of the world, pessimists fear that optimism could be a harbinger of disaster. Imagining an optimistic solution to their problems fills them with disquiet. But, optimism does not presage trouble. It favors a happier outcome. An expectation of victory triggers more successful strategies than a fear of defeat. An optimistic leader transmits enthusiasm. Alert optimism is the best approach to life. But, the pessimist must deal with his fear.
Self awareness can make a person familiar with the fears, which rise up in his mind. This website suggests that emotions disappear, when you sense their physical symptoms. Identify the negative thoughts, which rise in your mind, when you visualize the future of your venture. Sense the symptoms of the fear, which accompany such thoughts. The emotion will be stilled. Even the fear that optimism will bring disappointment will disappear. It is a process, which takes a little practice. Freed from fear, the pessimist should focus on visualizing successful options in life. Such an approach too will soon become a “speed dial circuit” - a matter of habit.
Pessimist To Optimist – Unpredictable People
Pessimism often follows an inability to understand the intentions and desires of other people. Some people are blessed with a mature “Theory of Mind,” which understands the attitudes and behavior of people during their interactions. That creates an order in their lives by giving surrounding events purpose and meaning. When you know why something is going to happen, you can adjust better to the situation. An effective Theory of Mind is a valuable leadership skill, which grants leaders the empathic ability to imagine being in the shoes of their followers. When this skill is lacking, rude sales clerks and aggressive drivers on the road make the pessimist see a dark world. An awareness and understanding of the underlying issues of such behavior will prevent needless pessimism. Life has to be accepted as it comes, with its inevitable potholes.
Pessimist To Optimist – The Slings And Arrows Of fate
“Explanatory Styles” are decided by emotions. Pessimists wince with each negative turn in life. “It is all my fault.” “These things always happen to me.” “Why did this have to happen to me?” “I knew this would happen to me.” Such explanations of an event are triggered by persisting negative emotions. Over the longer term, such feelings can even trigger depression. If you have been a habitual pessimist, escape such torture by becoming intensely self aware. As thoughts rise, do not focus on the event, but on the nature of thoughts and feelings. Become aware of physical symptoms of the negative feelings as and when they arise. Such awareness will still emotions over time. Stilling such emotions will transfer controls to a rational nature. Your explanatory style will change. Your mind will comfortably accept the usual setbacks in life. “What can I do now?” will then be the simple unemotional response to such events, which will prevent needless stress and illness.
Pessimist To Optimist – On Becoming An Optimist
Optimists emerge from setbacks with less stress than pessimists. They face problems head on and take active steps to solve problems. They are also less likely to abandon their efforts to reach their goals. But, optimism is a frame of mind, an “explanatory style,” outside your conscious control. The deep intelligence within your mind has to develop new optimistic “speed dial circuits.” by dwelling on the memories of your successes in life.
Dig deep into your memories and discover the times, when you succeeded, when others acknowledged your skills, or abilities. Dwell on those events. If possible, take responsibilities for the things you can do well. Deep inside, you need to become convinced of your ability to do well. Expect to discover something new and advantageous, even when you face boring, or depressing situations. A change from optimism to pessimism requires regeneration of new “speed dial circuits,” which create a new explanatory style.
This page was last updated on 24-Feb-2016.
For my peace of mind, I earmarked 20 minutes for meditation on the terrace. With my eyes closed, I sense my hands on the chair and feel the numbness in my feet.
I feel my breath flowing through my nose, my throat, my chest and my stomach. I can hear the chirping of birds, the phut phut of auto rickshaws, the occasional roar of a truck and the insistent hooting of horns.
The wide sky and the treetops come to my attention, when I open my eyes, I see a pale moon over two hundred thousand miles away. I see the nuclear fires, blazing for millions of years in the pale globe of the setting sun. I see a single star millions of miles away in space.
I can see green shoots coming up on a tree, watch the dives and swoops of birds, the great circles of the hawks and flocks of birds flying home for the night.
Diffused light from the sun reflects off a parrot on the tree and enters my eye through a pinhole opening. I sense the bustling mood of the bird, even though it is smaller than a drop of water in my eyes.
All these things are seen and felt by me in a few brief minutes. In the distance, is the head of a man seeming to be no bigger than a pea. Yet, that head too sees and feels such things. Ten million people in this great city see and feel in ten million ways.
My mind wanders to a misty view of postwar London; an exciting glimpse of Disneyland. An awed view of Tiananmen Square. The looming Himalayan ranges. My mind takes me to distant galaxies.
It carries me into the heart of millions of invisible neurons, where electrical charges flash thousands of times a second powering my contemplation. I see the campaigns of Julius Caesar and Alexander. I feel the longings of Jehangir.
Already my mind has taken me to palaces, battlefields and even the stars. If I lost everything, but can just see and feel, in just a few brief minutes, my mind can travel the world, or imagine the cosmos.
While my thoughts wandered far and near, the thought "20 minutes is a long time" also kept floating in. And yet, life has already blessed me with over twenty million waking minutes! I have an infinity of time on my hands. Have I a right to expect more from life?
I really loved the self improvement plan post. Its great food for thought and the steps are actually actionable as compared to many other self help sites out there.
Joe Glen USA.
As a clinical therapist, I have found your site very useful!
I love it. ...
Andrew Montgomery USA.