Observing pessimists optimistically

"And he grinned almost from ear to ear&qu...
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I’m surprised that; humans (supposedly) have an inbuilt tendency to ♫ always look on the bright side of life ♫, according to recent scientific research. However, even if the researchers have identified an optimism bias’ in the brain, that naturally rejects negative thoughts and resists accurate but unpleasant information about the world, why the hell are there so  many pessimistic moaning gits about?

I’ve always had great difficulty understanding those who constantly live their life with half-empty glasses. They shuffle around with a furrowed brow and grey downtrodden looks across their faces. The weight of world problems fight for limited space, on their already overburdened shoulders attempting to support a myriad of personal issues. Put simply, they’re mostly unhappy being happy!

I believe the prominence for eternal pessimism in so many does little more than make us ill… According to the Institute of Mental Health… One in four people will develop a mental health problem at some point during their lives.  Mental distress can range from mild depression or anxiety to conditions such as bipolar disorder (manic depression) or schizophrenia where individuals may experience psychosis.

Note to self: As Mental Health Awareness Week begins, and campaigners are targeting those who increasingly use clinical diagnosis terms to describe everyday personality traits (see here) – try to be guarded against cynicism or flippant metaphors and analogies.

Back to the topic at hand; science continues to back up the futility of our inherent pessimism in society. In 2006 the Delfland Institute of Mental Health, in the Netherlands, published the results of a study which showed; optimistic men were around 50% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease (see here). And, in 2009 an American study showed; women who are optimistic have a lower risk of heart disease and death (see here). What makes our pessimism even harder to comprehend is; Scientists at University College London have said that about 80% of people are actually natural optimists, even if they wouldn’t consciously label themselves as such (see here).

Science aside, and based upon my numerous years of social observation, I remain (mostly) sceptical of our propensity for the increasing mental health issues we (apparently) face in our society today. I would humbly suggest a route cause of our profound pessimism is actually fairly simplistic. It revolves around those nasty but unfortunately often inherent traits of greed and jealousy. All ably assisted by the constant media fuelled hype giving us unrealistic life expectations, along with those personal aspirations often inherited via peer pressure. This is all compounded by our usual failure to have any cognisance or real understanding of historical facts, ones that continually repeat themselves. With these impacting factors in place, is it really any wonder we are turning into even more of a manic depressive society?

Many would ask; how can I realistically look at things in a positive manner, especially given the crap sate of affairs we currently face? You can and should… During the recession of the 1980’s, the entrepreneur Sir David Tang suggested that Pessimism is the most serious cause for the global economic tsunami. A factor that is as true today as it was then…

It is only with a sense of optimism, preferably accompanied by a sense of energy and laughter, that we will ever be able to pick ourselves up from a broken Humpty Dumpty (Sir David Tang)

That said, the pessimism of one can be the optimism of another and, as the educated amongst you will know, Humpty appeared in Lewis Carroll‘s Through the Looking-Glass, where he discussed semantics and pragmatics with Alice. The word “semantics” itself denotes a range of ideas, from the popular to the highly technical. It is often used in ordinary language to denote a problem of understanding that comes down to word selection or connotation. The above happens to be my pragmatic idea about some of the problems we face.

Far too much of that which people are despondent about actually pales into insignificance in the bigger scheme of things. Make the most of what you have because you’re a long time dead and, irrespective of how pessimistically you view your life, I’ll continue observing mine optimistically!

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About Dave Hasney

National Coordinator for UK SMART Recovery - Previously a Recovery Worker and prior to that a Management Consultant and H&S Practitioner - Kept sane by Angling, Good Food, Real Ale & Wine - Cynical thoughts sometimes developed from others.

Posted on 10-10-2011, in Business Babble, Society Babble and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. My view is confirmed by the content of my inbox today… The ILM published a similar article – How to be optimistic which says; “Having an optimistic outlook can improve your productivity and even your quality of life” – I rest my case!

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  2. The voices made me reply to this one. No I am not taking the piss by the way, rather using that hard and fast yet little researched coping strategy “Black or ambulance Humour”. I am sure you blogged about this before but I will give my slant anyway. To all those that read this that have served their countries in any of the services. The Military, Police, Fire or as the title above suggests Ambulance services you will (hopefully) be nodding sagely with an odd “know where he’s coming from” thrown in. We as a nation have lost the ability to laugh at adversity (unless it is on the TV in the form of comedy) (see Daves last blog) and with fewer and fewer serving their country in the ways descibed, less and less will pick up this coping strategy. Optimist, pesimist, label me what you like, realist I would pick if I had the choice but whatever you choose I care not a jot. My pint is half full, (and if you turn your back on yours, mine will then be full. Oops it’s that Rab C. influence again). I have to agree with the sentiment uttered by my host “your a long time dead” or as I prefer to say “life is not a dress rehersal”. Get up, Get on and don’t let them grind you down. Slainte.
    PS. This in no way means that I am denegrating those out there with mental health illness, I recognise that there are many in this category including lots that have “served their country”. No this is aimed at those who cry into their pints for reasons that are trivial when compared to some of the misery that I have to help children and young people deal with on a daily basis. It makes me want to………. well lets just leave that there. Slainte.

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