Learned optimism

Maybe this would help someone. There is a nice book on depression and how to get out of it - Learned Optimism by M. Seligman, here is a book review by Reg Braithwaite.

Nice review* and also a nice reminder of some key points of the book.
If read most of the book but I struggle at implementing the changes to my thought patterns. It’s like with knowing but not believing something… I know I’m not completetly useless but it’s pretty difficult to stop myself from believing I am.
I guess it’s like exercise: The motivation get’s you started and the routine keeps you going (paraphrasing some quote if seen somewhere ^^"). Only in a mental/behavioural way.
So my tip: Find someone you trust to exercise with you so you can get used to thinking in a more optimistic way :wink:
Might be easier when you get a translation of this book for your exercise partner if reading english isn’t a strong trait of your close friends (I guess I should try this myself… ^^).

*) I really like his “Bipolar Lisp Programmer”. While not brilliant I’ve gone through similar experiences.

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Thanks; that was a great read! (Lovely enough I opted to recast it at medium.com for better typography.)

started reading the book, Part 3 is where the author talks about methods for changing from a pessimist to optimist viewpoint.

I posted in another thread asking about how to keep my lows from being too low and I think this book will help.

Learned Optimism, though it was reprinted in 2011, was originally published 25 years ago in 1990. Since that time Seligman has revised his viewpoint.

His more recent book from a few years ago is titled “Flourish”. Here is one critical review of that work:

Here are a couple of notable quotes that I saved from one of his earlier books (his quote on depression is also found in Learned Optimism on page 108.) These quotes both reflect the doubt that his later work would seek to clarify:

“It is a disturbing idea that depressed people see reality correctly while nondepressed people distort reality in a self-serving way. As a therapist I was trained to believe that it is my job to help a depressed patient to feel both happier and see the world more clearly. I am supposed to be the agent of happiness as well as the agent of truth. But maybe truth and happiness antagonize each other. Perhaps what we have considered good therapy for a depressed patient merely nurtures benign illusions, making the patient think that her world is better than it actually is.” (p. 199)

“To put it exactly, I believe that low self-esteem is an epiphenomenon, a mere reflection that your commerce with the world is going badly.” (p. 241)

Seligman, MEP. What You Can Change and What You Can’t: The Complete Guide to Successful Self-Improvement

I know this topic is a little old but this is a topic I think about somewhat often. I’m tired of being under so much pressure to be positive.

Some people have labeled me as ‘negative’ but most of the time it comes from a motivation to improve a situation. Usually, when I point out a flaw in something I’m totally expecting the other person to respond to the effect of “Omg you’re right, we should so figure out how fix that!”

To me, being positive all the time, not focusing on the weaknesses of things, is much worse. It’s like admitting defeat and acceptance of bad things. I don’t want to just accept these negative things, I want to do something about them. Sometimes I am not capable of fixing certain things (problems with a company or programming language for example) so, to me, discussing them with other people who are more knowledgeable or just to spread the idea, seems constructive.

However, some people don’t share this view point. They feel it’s better to just ‘think positively’ until things are magically better. That’s great that that is how they work. But I do not work that way and there is no reason to try to force everyone to be the same.

I understand it’s not black and white and some ‘pessimists’ aka ‘realists’ have unrealistic negative thoughts influencing their lives too much but not all pessimism/realism is inherently bad.

I’ve faced similar pressures as to what you describe, with similar misinterpretation of motives. What you’ve written, “there is no reason to force everyone to be the same,” is one of the central arguments in psychology professor Julie Norem’s book, The Positive Power of Negative Thinking:

“I should make clear from the outset that I don’t think defensive pessimism is the ultimate solution to the world’s problems, or even to I problems of any particular couple or individual. Defensive pessimists are neither saints nor paragons, and defensive pessimism has both costs and benefits. People are different, and what works well for some people may not work well for others–that’s the point. (And what works well in some situations may not work well in all situations.) The costs and benefits of any strategy depend on who is using the strategy and what the circumstances are.”