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To: K-list
Recieved: 2000/06/23 12:01
Subject: Re: [K-list] Learned Optimism.
From: Ckress

On 2000/06/23 12:01, Ckress posted thus to the K-list:

In a message dated 06/23/2000 10:24:56 AM Pacific Daylight Time,
serpentATnospamdomin8rex.com writes:

<< Learned Optimism More Useful Than Truth
 USA - Philadelphia, Penn. - According to a recent study with students by
 Martin Seligman, director of clinical training at the University of
 Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, high scores for optimism are predictive of
 excellence in everything from sports to sales. Analyzing campaign speeches
 for the prevalence of optimism, Seligman predicted the winners of the 1988
 presidential and Senate elections more accurately than veteran political
 forecasters. "I used to be an agent of both truth and happiness," says
 Seligman. "That's still a central premise of most therapists. But research
 our lab and others is increasingly challenging that view. Optimists have a
 set of self-serving illusions that enable them to maintain good cheer and
 health in a universe essentially indifferent to their welfare. Optimists
 more resistant to infectious illness and are better at fending off the
 chronic diseases of middle age." According to Seligman, depressed people
 would do well to adopt the same self-serving illusions that optimistic
 hold. "We can choose how we think. Styles of thinking can become habits. We
 can control our thoughts as we can our muscles," says Seligman. Studies
 show, if you think about problems in a negative frame of mind, you come up
 with fewer solutions. And you're likely to spiral into deeper depression. By
 boosting mood and self-esteem, people with pessimistic tendencies can break
 that cycle and free themselves to think more creatively. This is consistent
 with other studies which show that, while pessimists may be more realistic,
 optimists live longer and happier lives. Seligman is author of a new book
 entitled "Learned Optimism.">>
 Extreme pessimism is self-destructive. Yet as the piece above mentions,
previous psychological studies have shown that people who are prone to
depression tend to be more acutely perceptive of what's going on around them
than those who are perpetually upbeat. Optimism and truth-seeking are both
"useful." Some of the world's greatest artists, musicians, writers, poets
and philosophers drew heavily on their perceptive and often emotionally
volatile truth-seeking natures to produce their most brilliant work. I've
never been an optimist, but I have confidence and faith in the value of being
on a truth-seeking path. It has given me a very internally rich and
meaningful (to me, at least) life.

Optimists tend to celebrate life while truth seekers (who aren't necessarily
pessimists, but are aware of the tragic and fierce side of life) are more
intent on exploring life's fertile depths. Neither is ultimately a better
modus operandi, just different internal orientations. I seriously question
how much optimism -- or truth-seeking perceptiveness -- can be taught. I
think we each have an inherent inclination toward one or the other. This is
reflected in astrology, where certain signs are naturally more introspective
and serious-minded while others are more buoyant, extroverted, and
fun-loving. And there can be combinations of both in the personality; it
isn't necessarily a totally black or white thing.




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