I’m going to a workshop on Positive Psychology and have been reading the books they suggested. I’m learning a lot which I love! In Authentic Happiness by Martin Seligman, PhD, I learned that the trait of pessimism is changeable. I think it’s a good idea to define terms so every one is on the same page. Seligman defines optimism and pessimism like this: Pessimistic people believe trouble: lasts forever, Undermines everything they do, and is uncontrollable. Optimistic people believe trouble: is transient (last only a short time), controllable, specific to one situation.
If you are like me and higher on the optimism scale (but still lower than I would like) I think his ABCDE model is helpful. Seligman calls it “Learning to argue with yourself.” (p.95) I figure consider how much talking I do with myself I might as well learn a tried and true process to become more optimistic.
The ABCDE model: A: adversity/situation B: beliefs you automatically have when it occurs C: usual consequences of the belief like the negative emotions and thoughts that occur with the thoughts (beliefs). D: disputation of your routine belief or the argument against your held belief E: Energization that occurs when you dispute successfully.
A. Your car breaks down or in my case my daughter’s car broke down. B. This is happening at the worst time and beyond annoying. Also, now what are we going to do? We weren’t planning on buying another car. C. I’m annoyed. I also allowed my negative emotions to flood me so I couldn’t problem solve well. D. The fact of the matter was we were on borrowed time with the car which we knew. Also, I was on leave from work so I could transport her to and from work and car shop so the timing was actually pretty good. E. Problem solved by shopping around til we found a great deal and a car that both fit our budget and our needs.
Back in the old days, I would have stomped around, muttered a bunch of pessimistic things like “This has just ruined everything.” “This is the worst thing ever.” “I don’t know what to do.” (lasts forever, uncontrollable, and undermines everything). I have worked on: seeing problems as relevant to that situation only and looking for ways to solve the problem because I know it won’t last forever. Try seeing if looking at adversity as controllable and specific to it’s own situation can help you be more optimistic and improve your emotional well being.