“It’s snowing still,” said Eeyore gloomily.
“So it is.”
“Yes,” said Eeyore. “However,” he said, brightening up a little, “we haven’t had an earthquake lately.” – A. A. Milne
Tonight on BBC2 Michael Mosley is looking at what makes us happy – are we programmed to be optimistic or pessimistic and are we stuck that way? BBC2 at 9pm.
I think that I’m naturally pessimistic; I look for the problems in life, sweat the small stuff and think the worst of people. But I have optimism in me that wants good things to happen – which begs the question is it as simple as being one or the other? I’ve always looked at it from the perspective that if you expect the worst then you are never disappointed in life, it’s an expectation that more often than not is true. This also means that when things go right in life then it’s a great thing and something to celebrate. In a topsy-turvy way by expecting bad things to happen makes me happier when they don’t. The opposite must be true for the positive people that they expect good things but are often disappointed which must bring them down more.
My head lives in “Worst case scenario” land a place of darkness that the occasional light is switched on. It’s like the line in Baz Luhrmann’s song Sunscreen – “Accept certain inalienable truths, prices will rise, politicians will philander, you too will get old, and when you do you’ll fantasize that when you were young prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.” And it’s the phrase “inalienable truths” that anchors everything in my head – I know that things are going to happen a certain way, that bad things will happen and ultimately I’ll be disappointed – but is that really such a bad thing? Pessimism is more about expecting the worst – not wanting it. Very few people really want horrible things to happen; I don’t want the worst to happen but I view the world through shite tinted glasses and can’t really understand the rose-tinted brigade.
As with many issues concerning the brain we are only at the very tip of understanding currently of what it does, how it works and how to train/develop/manipulate it. This programme tonight is looking at the possibilities of changing our outlook on life and whether it can be done. I genuinely wouldn’t change the way I view the world and convert to optimism as an observation point because through my negative views I have become the person I am today, however if it were to help the depression and anxiety, as tonight’s show investigates then perhaps it can’t be ruled out altogether. Things like Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) developed in the 1970s claims to re-program the brain to work differently and meditation which has been around for centuries already for individuals to become more self-aware and able to control self, are already out there so it will be interesting to see what Dr Mosley has to say on the subject.
Being a pessimist I’m expecting the programme to be digging up old theories and not actually offering anything new or revolutionary – but then I might be pleasantly surprised
I’ll leave you with this. Contains both the pessimistic fatality of life but offers optimistic advice to get you through it.