Friday, October 24, 2008

Optimism or Self Destruction?

For the past three years I've been a bouncy proponent of optimism and positive thinking, and expect the best from people. I'm fairly sure I was optimistic before that, but perhaps less evangelistic about it. This is apparent in the conversations I have with The Bride, who is a self-proclaimed and much confirmed pessimist about people.

Last week we were having a long chat, and here is what I had to say:
I'm generally an optimistic type. Look how excited I get at each new possibility. Sometimes I think pessimists are just optimists who are terrified of their optimism. Cynics are the real pessimists, because pessimists are incapable of being pleasantly surprised. If things go well they are always looking for the catch.

To which she said that no, as a pessimist, she is capable of being pleasantly surprised, it just protects her when things turn out badly.

Which might be true, only I find the pre-disappointing is as bad as the actual disappointing, so if you are disappointed it happens twice, and if you're not, the joy is reduced. Now my strategy is to ride the wave of optimism and revel in positive expectations, and sob out the hurt when it backfires. That way, at least I have the happy bits, which take the edge off the sad ones, and if there are no sad ones, there are no sad ones!

Well what if you can't bounce back?

The first time was very scary, I really didn't know if I could bounce back. But I did. And each time after has only been easier. And now I always know I'll be fine. I've learnt that people can rip me apart and make me hurt in ways I didn't know were possible. But one day, it doesn't hurt anymore. And there are many people who make me happy, in my life because I'm more willing to let everyone in, because I know I've survived some brutal people, and even ended up loving one of them again. Which is wonderful.


Except, I find I cannot do it anymore. Maybe inherent in that strategy of survival is the assumption that one day people will stop being fuckers. One day, you won't need the strategy anymore. One day, it will stop. Only it doesn't work like that, does it.

At some point it stops being a positive attitude and becomes a learning disability. I mean, if someone slammed their head against the wall, and then proceeded to go and do it again and again and again, you'd be testing them for something. It's not too far removed. It's supposed to be a coping mechanism that makes me less miserable, but mostly it's just a long series of self-flagellatory supposedly exhilarating experiences, and I find I'm miserable either way.


  1. but if you expect good things, you're then creating the energy for that good thing to happen.
    so be an optimist.

  2. i dunno. i'm not quite sure if there's a word for generally behaving and speaking like a pessimist, possibly thinking that you're optimistic because that's the only reason you haven't jumped off a cliff with heightened pessmistic thoughts, which possibly makes you less of a realist, and a potential idealist which (apparantly from experience) doesn't help one in the world either. i'm not sure i have a strategy. i choke a little on calling myself an optimist. maybe i'm an idealistic, optimistic, realistic pessimist. aah, life.

  3. How about optimism tempered with some statistically significant realism?

  4. broom, i wish i cld be sure that worked in practice. though perhaps if, all the time im supposedly being positive, im thinking please dont prove me wrong please dont prove me wrong, im actually being negative?

    dragonfly, you my dear are special. that's it.

    indianabroad, possibly, but who decides whats significant an which statistics? and statistics tell me opsitmism is shite. but then again, as recent book told me, maybe only cos i remember the bad ones more strongly than the one that go according to plan?

  5. I am always pessimistically optimistic. My head is alway saying ah well look what you expected, see not so bad my child and I am able to move on quicker than if I were doodling around waiting for good things. Its actually lil sad..:/