Thursday, October 1, 2009

Lemons or not?

Somewhere in my life, someone told me that I could learn much from reading the book Learned Optimism. I didn't have to read between the lines to know what he meant... that I needed to learn to be more optimistic.

So I read Learned Optimism by Martin E. P. Seligman, Ph.D.

The author tore my heart out when he described lab experiments where dogs were taught 'helplessness'. I couldn't bear the thought, and when I realized (as Seligman wanted) that 'helpless' was as much an attitude as 'optimism' is, I vowed to change.

I don't remember much else about the book, but the title came back to me after reading a review of Barbara Ehrenreich's book Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking has Undermined America. I am not sure I want to delve into my darkness to find out that being 'optimistic' has been a bad idea. Ehrenreich says that while being treated for breast cancer, she was told to change her attitude and everything would be okay... She notes that this 'promotion of positive thinking' has slowed us from making social change. We shouldn't always agree to make lemonade out of the lemons in our life.

So now what? I don't want to develop negative thoughts about optimism...

I am stuck.

... yes is a world
& in this world of
yes live
(skillfully curled)
all worlds
-e.e. cummings
"love is a place"


Christy Pinheiro, EA ABA said...

I think this is total B.S.-- pardon my French. I think you have to be aware of bad things-- because they happen to everyone, but that every day is a gift and you should see all of your life that way. My life is pretty mundane-- house, husband, kids... but I'm very aware of how lucky I am. My husband is originally from Mexico and one trip down there shows me just how lucky I am. And I think positive thinking is wonderful. I'll plenty of time to think negative thoughts when I'm in the coffin. So right now I'll just be happy. :)

altadenahiker said...

I'd far sooner believe ee than scientists who torture animals.

Brenda's Arizona said...

I'll stick with optimism. It takes too much energy to be a 'good pessimist' - like you said, Christy, I/we are too lucky!

I am happier believing in poets, too!

thanks for your comments!

FA said...

If I were a cursing man I would reiterate what Christy said. Yesterday is, of course, part of who we are - but it doesn't have to define who we can be or want to be.

I also agree with altadenahiker about torturing animals!