Tuesday, December 4, 2007

On Optimism

Wonder why anyone would write about optimism when they are feeling a little down. What better way to deal with the dark side?

Sometimes it seems to me that books and articles are like a cork lifesaver, they bob into my life just when I need them. This year I've been going through some medical difficulties one of which is an aggravating irregular heartbeat. I now understand that pretty much all people have an irregular heartbeat, they just do not feel it. When I feel an irregular episode going on it makes me think I am defective. I end up feeling less capable of doing active things. That simply is not true, but it does not prevent the thought from entering my consciousness.

This morning before my daily exercise walk my heart is acting up a little bit. While perusing the library in the bathroom a book was lying on the top of the stack called Hard Optimism, it is a Price Pritchett book. Price Pritchett writes self help booklets on a number of topics. The booklets tend to be well done and remind people of things they can do that help get through difficult times.

As I sat there waiting for events to pass I opened the book to a page. I did not select the page I just opened the book to a convenient point. The chapter heading was "Recognize and dispute negative thoughts." The quote at the start of the chapter was from Henry David Thoreau and read, "We are always paid for our suspicion by finding what we suspect." How true those words are. I learned from my years in AA that we tend to invite events into our lives and we can have a choice of inviting positive or good events or negative or bad events.

The quote at the end of the chapter is equally good. David Landes of Harvard said, "In this world optimists have it, not because they are always right but because they are positive. Even when wrong they are positive, and that is always the way of achievement, correction, improvement and success. Educated eyes-open optimism pays; pessimism can only offer the empty consolation of being right."

Through the years I have listened to members of my family bicker about details of trips, visits, events and such like and I realized that they were really concerned with being right. The rest of the listeners were dragged down by the conversation instead of enlightened or illuminated. I have avoided this trap much of my life. Yet there are times that I feel negative thoughts. I also do what this chapters says and that is chase the negative thoughts away by realizing the temporary nature of such feelings. I have also found that I can talk my way through negative thoughts and feelings and end up on the positive side of the situations.

A person I knew used to say of life that we are all victims. I have always felt we had a choice and I choose to not be a victim. That does not mean I don't have negative thoughts. In my opinion the difference in being a pessimist or an optimist is not allowing the negative thoughts that occur to occupy much of our mind. Worry is like paying interest on a debt you may never have to repay. The other thought I could share is, the day doesn't end just because it gets dark. I'll let the reader, if there ever are any, finish that thought. I would much rather have to deal with failure knowing that I tried than having the consolation that I was right.

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