Learned Optimism

Learned Optimism

How to become an optimist? Change your thoughts!
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Martin Seligman was the president of the American Psychological Association and is one of the eminent leaders of the “positive psychology” movement, which focuses not just on making ill/depressed people feel better, but make OK people feel even greater! His book, Learned Optimism, was recommended to all by Karl Bunday of Hacker News. So I read it.

Seligman anchors his argument in the context of Learned Helplessness, a concept he helped pioneer. From Wikipedia:

learned helplessness refers to a condition of a human being or an animal in which it has learned to behave helplessly, even when the opportunity is restored for it to help itself by avoiding an unpleasant or harmful circumstance to which it has been subjected.

Seligman says that depressed behavior is often a symptom of learned helplessness.

It turns out that not everyone reacts the same way to negative external events. Some people bounce back after a bout of depression (which almost everyone experiences in the face of adversity), others wade, marooned in their sadness, fits of despondency. People who are resilient are more emotionally intelligent – and they tend to be optimists. People who wade are pessimists.

Seligman attributes these categorical differences to what he calls “explanatory style”. If you have an optimistic explanatory style, you “explain” away negative events with positivity; if you have negative explanatory style, you explain them with negativity. There are three dimensions to your explanatory style: permanence, pervasiveness, and personalization.

Permanence means saying things like “You always nag” instead of “You nag when I don’t clean my room”, or “I’m all washed up” instead of “I’m tired.” To think about bad things in always’s and never’s is pessimistic; to think with sometimes and lately’s, and blaming bad events on transient conditions, you have an optimistic style. The converse, however, is that optimists explain GOOD events with permanence, whereas pessimists attribute good events to temporary conditions. A pessimist might say “It’s my lucky day”, or “I try hard”, or “My rival got tired” instead of “I’m always lucky”, “I’m talented”, or “My rival is no good.”

Pervasiveness is about universal vs specific. For example, in bad events, a pessimist might say “All teachers are unfair”, “I’m repulsive”, or “Books are useless”, whereas an optimist might say “Professor Seligman is unfair”, “I’m repulsive to him”, or “This book is useless”. The converse holds as well: optimists explain good events with universal style whereas pessimistic use specifics. For example, a pessimist says “I’m smart at math”, “My broker knows oil stocks”, or “I was charming to her” instead of “I’m smart”, “My broker knows wall street”, or “I was charming”.

Aside: Seligman claims that people who make permanent AND universal explanations for their troubles tend to collapse under pressure. He calls this dimension “hope” and he says no other “score” is as important as your hope score, and he operationally defines hope as a combination of your negative-permanence and negative-pervasiveness.

Personalization is about how much you attribute negative events to your own causality versus bad external events. When bad things happen, we can blame ourselves (internalize) or we can blame other people or circumstances (externalize). Low self-esteem usually comes from an internal style for bad events. A pessimist might say “I’m stupid,”, “I have no talent at poker”, or “I’m insecure”, whereas an optimist might say “You’re stupid”, “I have no luck at poker”, and “I grew up in poverty”. Similarly, a pessimist might explain good events with “A stroke of luck” or “my teammates’ skill” as opposed to “i can take advantage of luck” or “my skill”.

What about responsibility? You don’t want people to turn into self-aggrandizing blowhards, but if they are depressed then they can’t change their negative behavior. Better to be happy than to be miserable. There is a time and place for pessimism which I will describe later in the essay.

Seligman provides what in my opinion is way too much evidence for the benefits of optimism. Optimists live longer; they’re happier; they have better survival rates for cancer; they perform better in sports; they make more money. If you want to see all the specifics, buy the book. I understand that as a scientist (especially in something like psychology, which a lot of ignorant people dismiss as “not a real science”) he has to back up his claims with evidence, but whatever, you.

Speaking of studies, one cool scientific technique he employed was CAVEing. Seligman and his research cohorts invented a technique called CAVE: Content Analysis of Verbatim Explanations. They could determine how optimistic or pessimistic someone was based on their quotes, even if they were uttered half a century ago. The team would analyze them on the dimensions of permanence, pervasiveness, and personalization. Then they could go on to CAVE their public-record commentary (e.g. newspapers) in order to study the long-term effects of optimism or pessimism.

Optimism is especially valid in sports. It seems that optimists and pessimists don’t fare the same – pessimists tend to perform poorly after negative performances, whereas optimists don’t let past performance affect future performance.

How to become an optimist? Change your thoughts!

But pessimism has a place! If there are long-term consequences involved (e.g. money, health), then it pays to be pessimistic. Otherwise, one should be optimistic!

Cover Image Credit: pixabay

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65 Truths College Students Need to Hear Right Now

Truth every college student needs to hear.
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1. The best memories are ones you actually can remember.

2. God isn’t going to ask you if you were in a top-tier sorority or fraternity at the gates.

3. You failed a test, not your life.

4. Numbers don’t define you.

5. That includes the number you see that is your grade.

6. Also, how much you weigh.

7. As well as if you are a “7/10” on a so-called “hot scale.”

8. Or if you can bench press 200 lbs. (@ all the guys at the gym, please chill.)

SEE ALSO: 7 Reminders Every College Student Needs To Hear Before The Semester Ends

9. Innocence is nothing to be ashamed of.

10. Neither are mistakes.

11. But learn from your mistakes. Mistakes can be lessons, which can be the biggest blessing.

12. Your metabolism isn’t what it used to be and that is okay.

13. You may not always understand what God is doing, but I promise He has a plan.

14. Every person you meet is battling their own struggles.

15. Life isn’t always great moments.

16. But you have to walk through the forest to get to the mountain top.

17. Your heart isn’t damaged. It is temporarily broken but it will be fixed.

18. However, the only one who can fix a broken heart is the one who created it.

19. So a cute boy or hot girl can’t put the pieces back together.

20. Neither can ice cream.

21. But ice cream can totally help.

22. Stop texting your ex. He/She is your ex for a reason.

23. Loving Jesus means loving people.

24. Loving Jesus also means loving the image of Him in the mirror you see.

25. Stop hiding your emotions. Stop crying in the bathroom or behind a locked door. You have people in your life who care about you.

26. Suicide is never the answer.

27. Breathe in, breathe out.

28. Do you feel your heart pump? Do you feel the air exiting your body? That is a sign you are here for a purpose. Your life is no mistake.

29. Just because you doubt, doesn’t mean you don’t believe in Jesus.

30. However, when walking on the water scares you, look to Jesus and keep your eyes on Him.

31. If you have the opportunity to go to school go. There are young girls around the world who would do anything to sit at the desk you are complaining about.

32. Don’t pick a career based on money.

33. However, I promise you can use any passion or gift to serve a purpose bigger than yourself if you allow yourself to give it to the One who gave it to you.

34. You don’t need pretty prayers to please God.

35. Talk to Him like you are talking to a friend.

36. Look for the good in everyone.

37. That includes the mean girl who no one likes. Chances are she is mean for a reason. Someone was once mean to her. Kill her with kindness.

38. Pray to have the Lord’s eyes. See people with love.

39. Try to have the Lord’s hands, always be reaching out to others.

40. Each morning, pray to have the Lord’s feet and go where He calls you.

41. It is a bad day, not a bad life.

SEE ALSO: What It's Like To Be A College Student In April

42. You don’t need a six-pack to find a man who loves you.

43. You need a spouse who will be able to look at you when you are 80, and wrinkly and maybe a little chunky, and you need him to love you then. If he loves you for your body and your hair, I promise he doesn’t actually love you. Looks fade, but love is eternal. Find someone who loves you like Jesus.

44. Do some squats.

45. But squat so you feel good about yourself, not to attract the opposite sex.

46. You are never too old to find a new hobby.

47. You were beautiful before someone told you.

48. If you don’t know if you are in relationship or not, leave. You deserve clarity, not insecurity.

49. You deserve friendships that are mutual.

50. The best Friday nights are spent with a puppy and food. It is okay to not always be social.

51. Stop worrying about whether your crush will text you back.

52. Stop over analyzing everything in general.

53. Pray for your future spouse.

54. However, also pray for your future bridesmaids/groomsmen. Some of the most influential people you may have in your life you may not have even met yet.

55. Storms bring strength.

56. And storms bring rainbows if you are patient and observant.

57. Stop Pinteresting your dream life and start living it.

58. The Bible is actually extremely relatable. Open it up. Read it.

59. Romans 8:28 “and we know God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” God is on your team. He wants you to have moments of celebration. He has a purpose for you greater than your bad day.

60. Never forget what Jesus did for you on that cross. When he died for you, it was painful and brutal. It was ugly. It was love. Don’t let that truth ever become numb to you no matter how many times you have heard the story.

61. There is nothing wrong with carbs.

62. Study. And don’t wait for the night before.

63. Find someone who you can look up to.

64. Also, never forget that there is always someone looking up to you. Act like someone you would want your future children to be. Act in a way that reflects wisdom.

65. Smile more, you are loved by the one who hung the stars and painted the sea. He created puppies and carbs–yet still loves you more. That is something to celebrate.

College is tough and life is hard. You are going to have moments where all you want to do is celebrate life with your best friends, but you will also have moments where you just want to lock the door, ignore everyone, and have a good cry. Never forget that your worth comes from something greater than your Biology grade, and from Someone greater that the one who broke your heart.

You aren’t too cool for Christ in college. Christ is a necessity for you in your life. He can hold your hand during your heartbreaks and failures and celebrate with you when you get the text back or a passing grade in foreign language. He loves for you and cares for you more than your sorority or fraternity ever will.

So buy your books, do your homework, but never forget when you are walking to you 8:00 a.m. you regretfully signed up for, to look up. Look at the clouds and the sky and thank your creator that in a big big world with many beautiful things, He still loves our messy hearts even more. So this one is for the boys for the King. This life is for the One who laid down His life.

I promise college is more fun when you dance with your Savior. Follow His lead and let him take you on a journey where you can find your purpose. You may not know where you are going, but you do know who you are following.

So never forget that although classes may be hard, and your metabolism may be slowing down–God is still good. He turns our ashes into beauty and our trials into our testimony. Do life with your creator and I promise you that you will have more than you need.

Romans 8:28 “And we know God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

Check out my website for more articles on self-worth <3

Twitter: gracev96

Instagram: lemmebeyourvalentine

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Hookup Culture Has Ruined Relationships

"Netflix and chill" has destroyed old-fashioned love and it sucks.

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What happened to going on dates to get to know someone? Going steady? Talking on the phone instead of texting? What happened to real, meaningful relationships?

Let me start off by saying that I am not writing this to bash hookups or anyone who does it. I simply just want to state my opinion on the matter.

Personally, hookups are useless. What is the appeal of going to a stranger's house, sleeping with them, and then leaving without any further communication? Is it the fact that you get a moment of pleasure with no strings attached? Is it to brag to your friends about the number of "bodies" you have?

If you do plan to talk afterward or become each other's regular hookups, doesn't it get awkward at some point? Is someone inevitably doomed to start having feelings?

One of the reasons why hookup culture has ruined relationships is dating. People have stopped going on dates or even dating altogether. It is so easy to go online, match with some, and just have casual, meaningless sex. It is like nobody actually wants to go on dates and get to know one another anymore because it is so easy to get sex from anyone anywhere.

What happened to bringing your significant other flowers or writing letters? Nowadays people just text "wanna chill?" and bring each other a condom. In my own opinion, it's ridiculous. This generation has taken love out of sex. There isn't such thing as "making love" anymore, because no one knows each other well enough to even say the word love. Nowadays, people hop onto apps like Tinder, Bumble, etc. and plan their next sex appointment.

Again, this isn't to criticize anyone who does hookup with others; it is to criticize hookups in general. I truly believe that the decrease in relationships these days is caused by casual sex and that we should fix it.

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