Home Today's Paper Most Popular Video Gallery Photo Gallery
Subscription Blog Signin Register
Tuesday, November 24, 2020 01:04:22 AM
Follow Us On: Facebook Twitter Twitter Twitter Twitter

The Pessimistic Mindset

photo by

  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Save
  • E-mail
  • Print
Share your thought
Post a comment »
Read all () »

Christopher Bergland :
A few days ago, someone posted a gut-wrenching comment in response to a blog post I'd written, "Pessimism May Lower Your Odds of Living a Long, Healthy Life," that sent shock waves through my nervous system and reminded me of something I would have said as a 16-year-old.
Anonymous wrote: "I am a pessimist. I don't want to live long. There is no point and it all is going to hell in a handbasket. Living longer is not my goal."
I didn't want to respond directly to Anonymous in the comment box with a cheerleader-sounding pep talk or with a link to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline without any context. So, I decided to compose a two-part series that shares autobiographical examples of how, over the years, I've tried to master the high-wire act of being less of a pessimist without becoming a phony, fairy-tale-seeking Pollyanna.
In this post, I'm going to explore how a poem by Alice Walker, "Expect Nothing," opened my eyes to a no-nonsense explanatory style that taught me to "live frugally on surprise," "wish for nothing larger than your own small heart," and "tame wild disappointment."
Along this line, yesterday, a study about relaxation-induced anxiety (RIA) was featured in a news release from Penn State. This study offers some fresh clues about why I never allow myself to be too optimistic and prefer to "expect nothing."
Although I tend to be optimistic, I definitely do not view the world as some kind of picture-perfect la-la-land. Taming the "wild disappointment" of realizing that the world is not utopian (as some die-hard optimists might proclaim) every time I read the newspaper or turned on cable TV, would be too much bad news to bounce back from on a continuous basis. Therefore, I consider myself a "realistic optimist," who purposely sprinkles slivers of sarcasm and hard-cold reality into my rose-tinted view of the world.
What is RIA? The new study (Kim & Newman, 2019) on relaxation-induced anxiety investigates the phenomenon of why some people get really stressed out when they do mind-body exercises (e.g., mindfulness or meditation) that are supposed to trigger a relaxation response. Interestingly, the researchers posit that people who are prone to generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) or individuals with major depressive disorder (MDD) may actively resist relaxation training because they'd rather continue worrying than experience a shock to their system if something bad did happen.
"People may be staying anxious to prevent a large shift in anxiety, but it's actually healthier to let yourself experience those shifts," co-author Michelle Newman, who is a Professor of Psychology at Penn State said in a recent news release.
"The [Contrast Avoidance Model] theory revolves around the idea that people may make themselves anxious intentionally as a way to avoid the letdown they might get if something bad were to happen," Newman added. "This isn't actually helpful and just makes you more miserable. But, because most of the things we worry about don't end up happening, what's reinforced in the brain is, 'I worried and it didn't happen; so I should continue worrying.'"
When all you see is darkness and hopelessness, remember: "There will be sunbeams in your soul again."
As a teenager, I suffered from crippling anxiety. In the winter of 1982, when I was sixteen, I also experienced a major depressive episode (MDE) marked by complete hopelessness and suicidal ideation.
At the time, my mom tried to cheer me up by saying, "Don't give up. Everything's going to be OK in the long run. There will be sunbeams in your soul again." Luckily, Mom didn't just regurgitate potentially cheesy refrigerator-magnet "inspirational quotes." She also scheduled appointments with a mental health professional; this therapist was a lifesaver.
That said, in my lifelong battle to keep a hardwired predisposition for clinical depression at bay, reciting the words, "There will be sunbeams in your soul again," never fails to buoy my spirits. This mantra also helps me cultivate some optimism and a sunnier outlook (if only for a millisecond) when I feel negativity and pessimism creeping in, which happens from time to time.
The topical reason I'm sharing these personal examples of how I've learned to reframe my pessimistic mindset here, today, is in response to a growing body of evidence (Rozanksi et al., 2019) suggesting that optimism is strongly associated with longevity. Conversely, a recent meta-analysis found that extremely pessimistic people are statistically more likely to develop cardiovascular disease and die at a younger age. (See Optimism Study Gives Optimists More Reason to Be Optimistic)
There is a caveat to all this talk about the benefits of optimism: I'm well aware that some readers-like the anonymous commenter quoted in the second paragraph, who feels hopeless and pessimistic-might say, "I don't want to live long. Living longer is not my goal." Nevertheless, my goal here is to encourage anyone reading this who self identifies as a "pessimist" to seek out a paradoxical middle ground between pessimism and optimism that allows you to acknowledge that "life sucks" as you simultaneously navigate different explanatory styles that nourish your motivation to find some life-affirming silver linings.
Note: I'm also encouraging anyone who is feeling hopeless or desperate to reach out and ask for help by letting someone know that your will to live is on shaky ground. Anyone in the U.S. can speak to a counselor right now, at the toll-free Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 or by using text-based Lifeline Chat. Both counseling services are available, free of charge, 24/7 in the United States.
As mentioned, reading or reciting certain poems helps boost my pragmatic optimism, too. Even though I'm not much of an academic or literary person, when I was in the 8th grade, I memorized two poems that have stayed etched in my memory banks for decades. Are there any poems relating to pessimism vs. optimism that resonate with you? (If so, please share in the comments.)
In my mind, poetry can offer valuable insights into navigating the thin line between unrealistically "sunny" optimism and hopelessly "dark" pessimism. My first poetry example or Exhibit A is "The Knowledge of Light" by Henry Rago; the second is a poem (discussed earlier) that inspired the title of this post by Alice Walker, "Expect Nothing. Live Frugally on Surprise."
Clearly, there are no easy answers for motivating or teaching oneself to be more optimistic and less pessimistic. In a follow-up post, "Some Road-Tested Ways to Kick the Pessimistic Mindset Habit," I'll share specific examples of how creating personalized playlists of motivational music that inspires me-and blasting these songs at top volume during vigorous workouts-helps me look on the bright side and view everything with more optimism on a daily basis.
(Christopher Bergland is a world-class endurance athlete, coach, author, and political activist).


News Archive

Inside The New Nation

Editorial »

Only change of politics can help investment, not what Investment Board says

THE Revenue Board has dismissed a number of proposals from the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) that the latter feels would help ease doing business in the country. In one proposal, the BIDA has suggested relaxing tax burden, in the form of VAT (value added tax), on financially-vulnerable companies. It ...

International »

New Zealand leader Ardern offers virus know-how to Joe Biden

AP, Wellington:New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday became the latest world leader to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden on his election victory, saying she offered to share her nation's expertise on dealing with the coronavirus.Ardern said the tone of the 20-minute phone call was warm and that Biden spoke ...

Football »

Ibrahimovic scores twice, limps off as AC Milan stay top in Serie A

AFP, Milan :Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored twice to bring his tally to 10 league goals this season before limping off with a muscle strain as AC Milan stayed top in Serie A on Sunday with a 3-1 win at 10-man Napoli.Milan move back two points ahead of Sassuolo - 2-0 winners ...

Entertainment »

Sarika is now regular in TV dramas

Sheikh Arif Bulbon :Earlier popular TV actress and model Sarika Sabrin was seen to act in special days’ dramas. Now she is becoming regular in TV dramas. According to her, now she will be seen in TV dramas regularly. She earlier promised many times to be regular in dramas but ...

Editorial »

Historic archaeological sites need to be preserved

The medieval period heritage buildings and historic sites that are valued for their magnificent and distinct characteristics linked to the Pala, Sultanate, Mughal and the British architectural inheritance already turned into ruins while many others are facing gradual disappearance. A nexus of the politically influential people, businessmen and government officials ...

Business & Economy »

Super Board gets `Super Brand Award` 2020

Business Desk :"Super Board" a brand of Super Formica and Lamination Limited a business unit of T.K. Group recently achieved "Superbrands Award 2020". This prestigious brand award was announced at a virtual event organized by Bangladesh Brand Forum, said a press release.Super Board's long presence in the particle board industry, ...

Business & Economy »

Kevin Green made HSBC’s Country Head

Business Desk :The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) Limited has appointed Kevin Green as new country head of wholesale banking for HSBC Bangladesh.The appointment became effective from November 15, 2020, said a press release of the bank.The release said Kevin will focus on enhancing the client experience and further ...

City »

Health Minister Zahid Maleque distributes Individual Health ID Card at Hotel Sonargaon in the capital on Sunday.

International »

US hits 12 million Covid-19 cases as many Americans defy Thanksgiving travel guidance

Reuters :The United States recorded its 12th million Covid-19 case on Saturday, even as millions of Americans were expected to travel for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, ignoring warnings from health officials about furthering the spread of the infectious disease.More than 12,010,000 cases of the coronavirus were reported, according to a ...

Football »

Bangladesh footballers start practice at Doha

Sports Reporter :Bangladesh Football team started their practice at Doha, the capital city of Qatar on Sunday. After reaching Doha on November 19 for the first time members of Bangladesh team took part in their practice sessions in the outdoor. Bangladesh team arrived in Qatar to play their away match ...

Entertainment »

Man held in Khulna for sending obscene messages to Srabanti

A man has been arrested in Khulna on allegation of sending obscene text messages to Kolkata’s celebrity actress Srabanti Chatterjee. The arrestee is Mahbubur Rahman, 33, son of Atikur Rahman, resident of Bakshipara road area under Sonadanga Model police station of Khulna city. Mamtazul Haque, officer-in-charge of Sonadanga Model Police ...

Editorial »

People of Bangladesh are losers for their weakness

TAX Justice Network (TJN), a London based anti-graft body said Bangladesh loses around $703.40 million which is around Tk 6,000 crore in taxes a year. This is quite a big amount of money that a least developed country like Bangladesh is annually losing.  It includes $674.24 million by corporate tax ...

City »

The Country Coordinator of UNV, Dhaka Md.Akhteruddin visits Bangabandhu Research Center, Northern University Bangladesh (NUB) on Saturday. During the visit, he was accompanied by Professor Dr. Anwarul Karim, Adviser, NUB and Executive Director, Bangabandhu Research Center and the Registrar, NUB Comdre Munirul Islam.

Sports »

Djokovic reaches ATP Finals semis, Nadal showdown still on

Agency :London's farewell edition of the ATP Finals could still have its dream climax after world number one Novak Djokovic beat Alexander Zverev 6-3, 7-6(4) to seal a last-four spot on Friday.Defeat by Russian Daniil Medvedev had left the five-time champion needing to beat Germany's Zverev to avoid a group ...

International »

Covid-19: Hong Kong-Singapore travel corridor postponed

BBC Online :The launch of a travel corridor between Hong Kong and Singapore has been postponed for two weeks amid a surge of Covid-19 cases in Hong Kong.The deal was due to kick in on Sunday, allowing passengers to fly both ways without the need to self-isolate.The decision is a ...

Items that you save may be read at any time on your computer, iPad, iPhone or Android devices.
Are you new to our website? Do you have already an account at our website?
Create An Account Log in here
Email this news to a friend or like someone
Write a comment to this news