Optimist or Pessimist?

Just call me a “wide-eyed POPTIMIST.”

Bird Houses / 20071230.10D.46705 / SML

I think the word to describe me would have to be “Poptimist.” Let me explain. On the outside I am, without a doubt, a pessimist. I worry, I feel stressed, I imagine the worse. I annoyed my college friends when I thought for sure I had failed a test and then got a 98. I used to be so nervous every time I took a test that I thought for sure I had failed miserably. I held my breath when the professor handed the tests back. I sweated and trembled and thought I would vomit with anxiety. I always expected a 54, circled in bright red marker to further call me out as a loser. Honestly, that is what I really believed. I’m a horrible test taker and I never knew how I did. I just assumed I had failed even though I studied for hours on end. It was always such a welcome relief to get, not only a passing grade, but a really good grade. Self-protection? Of course. Defense mechanism? ABSOLUTELY! As I got older I became more of a pessimist; my mother is a die- hard pessimist and I know I got a lot of that from her. Nature and nurture. My father was an optimist for most of his life. Perhaps I have a tiny, hidden bit of my optimistic father deep inside me. I worry BEFORE I know the outcomes of things, call it anticipatory anxiety if you will. Yes, I do meet worry half way. I actually go up and greet worry and practically invite it home for lunch. But, way deep down, once in a while, there is a small voice, like a tiny, quietly chirping bird, hidden by a brightly colored bird house, that makes me feel if I make it through the stressful process, it just might turn out to be alright in the very end.

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1 thought on “Optimist or Pessimist?

  1. I’ve been in therapy long enough to know that with each experience we face, we have the power to choose either an optimistic or pessimistic stance. Going to that negative place is a reflex for us, and we don’t feel like it’s a choice.

    Conversely, being optimistic is also a choice. For example, we can choose to accept a compliment or be offended by one. Most of us choose to accept a compliment. But when someone insults us, we opt to be offended–even though we could step back and just say, “That’s their shit, not mine.”

    The power of the mind and the power of the emotions are so intertwined that it’s hard to separate the two. I saw an incredible show on PBS about the brain and how it works. When it comes to OCDs, they’re finding that any type of obsessive thinking we do over and over again can be considered an OCD.

    When we practice negative thinking, that specific area of the brain grooves out a path and gets deeper and deeper. They gave the example of skiing down a mountain. If skiers discover a path and it becomes popular, the more the path gets beaten down, and it’s easier to ski down. It’s the path of least resistance theory. The same with our thoughts.

    The good news from this study is that the more we practice positive thinking and/or positive behavior, it can reverse our thinking or doing. They discovered that even people with the most severe OCDs, like washing hands repeatedly, can be reversed by practicing cognitive exercises. It’s just as effective as medication.

    Now, the difficult task is in the exercise. That’s where most of us fall short. There will be some who read this post and will CHOOSE to love or hate my post. But that’s their choice.

    So, cheers to the poptimist in all of us! May it shine through more often.

    Like

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