The Pessimist by Emily Blythe
YES Internets! It’s true! It’s taken me a long time to admit this because when I think “pessimist” I envision someone who shits on everything and tries to drag down the people around them. An Eeyore, someone who, when encountering a new idea says, “Oh why bother? It’ll never work anyway.” and I think (I truly hope) that I don’t come across this way. I don’t think I would say that.
However, what I would say is “Why do we need to try something new? The old way is working fine! What if the new way doesn’t work? What if we then go back to the old way and IT doesn’t work either? Then we have nothing!” But this is still pessimism, it’s just pessimism tinged with anxiety.
Guys, I’m Rabbit. I think that sucks even more than being an Eeyore.
Adam on the other hand is pure optimist, a Tigger: bouncy, trouncy, flouncy, pouncy fun, fun, fun, fun, FUN!
What this means is that when we look at our life plans I want something laid out in concrete; contracts and contingency plans. Adam wants to charge ahead, confident that everything will work out.
(BUT WHAT IF IT DOESN’T?)
Obviously I try and fight this natural inclination towards worry and doubt- who wouldn’t? No one wants to be a Rabbit, it’s not a fun existence. Yet I fail almost every time. I end up realizing how difficult it is to swim against your instincts.
A while ago, however, I read an article (which I now can’t locate) about a man who found a really simple way to re-frame his life, thought by thought. He just replaced the words “have to” with “get to”.
It’s the easiest thing in the world:
“I have to go to work” becomes “I get to go to work”
That simple word change re-frames the entire sentence, turning the task from an obligation to a privilege, and I find that your mind naturally follows this pattern of thought.
It IS a privilege to go to work because 1) I have a job to go to when many others aren’t so lucky 2) I am ABLE to go to work and 3) My job is actually kind of awesome.
This works with pretty much everything: I get to write. I get to walk my dog. I get to take care of our home. I get to do my husbands laundry when it becomes readily apparent that he never will and its ridiculous for a 31-year old man to be going to work every day in stained shirts for Christ’s sake! (See! I’m an optimist already!)
I don’t think this is a quick fix, but I’m trying it out, trying to remind myself how lucky I am without resorting to mantras or affirmations or other schemes that make me feel like a complete tool, looking at myself in the mirror and muttering positive things.
Because, what’s the alternative? When I spend whole days inside my own head worrying about starving children in the developing world, my behaviour doesn’t change, I don’t quit my job and move overseas to lend a hand.
Everything stays the same except my own mood and my own guilt about how lucky I am to live where I do. When I spend hours worrying about an unnameable future, I’m not having any affect on its outcome, I’m just squandering the present.
Logically it makes perfect sense. But as we all know, human beings are not rational creatures – if only we were, this little game would be so much easier.
Optimism by Drew Johnson