Cheer Up Pal

2005-11-27 01:20 - Opinion

I am a pessimist. This is a more complicated statement than it may seem, so let's explore it. Nothing is absolute (and yes, that statement applies to itself), but a pessimist naturally sees or emphasizes the negative side of the things he experiences. This is a concept that I have had trouble explaining to others in the past, but I believe that I have a slightly new angle to approach it from. It is important though to keep in mind the statement above, nothing is absolute, for it can be especially important here, and I do not want to keep repeating it for specifics.

I am a naturally pattern based person. My mind makes and finds patterns without any special effort on my part. It's probably why I am a computer programmer, which is largely about patterns. It's why I was good at my high school job at McDonalds. I would find and evaluate (which is a wholly separate part of my personality) patterns in how I did my job. It was generally mindless, but I gravitated towards the particular ways of doing things that worked best for me. And in school, I was generally good at the pattern-like subjects, math, science, and others to a lesser degree, without effort, while the rote memorization fact based subjects like history and languages were always difficult.

My pattern based nature is only one inborn part of me, as is my pessimism. I used to draw comparisons to physical processes like digestion or the beating of the heart. Both things that happen, whether you decide to or not, and which you have no control over (besides being able to stop them permanently, hehe). But they're physical things, which are different from mental ones. Mental natures can very easily be formed by your experiences so they seem more mutable, but can be just as fixed as the physical processes once they are established.

Furthermore, with the non-absolute state of things I alluded to earlier, even pessimism has exceptions. Even the biggest pessimist smiles, and sometimes things just look good. When pessimism isn't really absolute, though, it becomes much more difficult to explain as a concept. I finally came up with a decent parallel to real life that anyone should be able to understand, and it embarasses me how simple it is: emotions. Everyone has emotions. Almost everyone knows a stereotypical over-emotional woman. And we all know that emotions just happen. When another person says or does something, you have an emotional response and it's beyond your control. Your actions based on it are certainly voluntary, but emotion is a strong stimulus. It guides you strongly enough to define you.

This may be a strained simile, because pessimism is not just like emotion, but rather it is really just an emotional outlook, at its core. But it is a way to understand the situation, for those who don't. Though it's obvious that each person is an emotionally unique individual, and generally accepted that your environment especially during your formative years helps determine how emotional you are and how your emotions effect you, your emotions are not under your voluntary control. And I think it's safe to say that you can't choose to change your general emotional profile, either. Once it's set, it's set.

The same with pessimism. If you are, you are. You don't get to choose to change it. Which makes it especially frustrating for pessimist types to always be told, "Hey cheer up pal!" It comes in many different phrases of course, but it's a common theme. Trust me, in my case at least, I've tried. Pessimism sucks. It's not something I have chosen, or desire, but there it is. It effects my perception and outlook on a base level, and only distinct effort or trivial circumstances can get me around it.

Which is the long-winded lead-in to a general statement about my life. I seek to maintain the status quo. As a pessimist, I generally find that the truly unpleasant things are truly unpleasant, while the happy things simply do not make up for the discomfort of other times. I try to maintain a "happy" medium in my life. Nothing too exciting, nothing too disappointing. It's too easy, as a pessimist, to fixate on the negative things, and really go through life hating it.

P.S. Yes, the pessimist in me readily finds serious problems with that conclusion. It's my nature. But the more conscious, rational part of me has come to realize that it's about the best I can hope for, so I settle for what I can get.

Comments:

But is it Physical?
2005-11-29 14:37 - kathaclysm
Being physically flexible, being strong, being tall, and other physical attributes of one's self are obviously inborn in nature. But often, one can enhance or exaggerate these physical traits, by stretching more or by lifting weights, or one can take advantage of these physical traits, like playing basketball if one is tall, or being a jockey if one is shorter. But that doesn't mean that short people can't play basketball if they desire or practice enough at it.

I don't find that "mental" tendencies are that different. For one, there are chemical balances in the brain that affect our moods that are still mostly not understood. These chemicals are physical and real and are often just as hard to change as one's height. And one can often manipulate one's own mood or attitude in much the same way as any physical trait. I've heard that smiling first thing in the morning will often improve one's outlook on the whole day (thou I cannot locate the study that backs that up).

Your use of your mental ability to recognize and manipulate patterns has good use in the field you have chosen. Of course, pessimism has less application in the working world, but that's not to say there's anything wrong with it. While you probably can't change your pessimistic nature without pills or chemicals, you probably shouldn't and don't want to change. It takes all kinds to make the world go round, and if it's part of who you are, there's no reason to change unless you feel that changing yourself would truly make you happy. And even then, often times people find that change doesn't necessarily bring happiness.
Optimism
2005-12-01 08:44 - tegs
You know I love the opposing view ;)

Hope

People who remain focused on the positive are often accused of being unrealistic. This is a shallow logic.

Where there is hope, there is hope. That is to say that hope does not just occur, it is created by the hopeful. It is never unrealistic to be positive, because a positive outlook is ultimately self-fulfilling.

A hopeless situation changes, as soon as someone cares. As soon as someone believes they can make things better, there is hope.

Being positively focused is not unrealistic. It is, rather, a proactive approach to life. The pessimist looks for proof and justification of his pessimism. The optimist has no such requirement, because the optimist is not content to settle for things the way they are. Positive thinking acknowledges circumstance and reality without surrendering power to it. The optimist knows that reality can be changed for the better, and looks for possibilities to do so.

Able to see the positive aspect in any circumstance, the optimist begins the process of actually bringing it about.

Things are not always OK. In fact, they rarely are. Acknowledge the negative, then focus on the positive, and you'll begin to make things better.

-- Ralph Marston
Whoooosh!
2005-12-01 14:05 - arantius

Thanks you two, but you both missed the point =)

=D
2005-12-09 15:48 - tegs
. . . and?

~T

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