Psychological Self-Help

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An optimist sees opportunity in every calamity; a pessimist sees calamity in every
I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.
-William Henley
Are optimists born? Maybe (watch a 1-year-old trying to walk).
Certainly optimistic parents are a fortunate beginning, but even with
pessimistic parents there is hope...(an optimist sees how change is
possible). Until we are about 8 years old, we tend to be optimists. By
mid-adolescence our thinking style is either optimistic or pessimistic
and it tends to stay that way for the rest of our lives, unless we are
persuaded or choose to change. Hope and self-direction are critically
important factors in the outcome of human lives. Please pay attention
if you are a pessimist. It's hard to become an optimist, requiring
careful attention to every thought. The keys seem to be learning that
(1) every failure is an opportunity to learn, (2) we can change, and (3)
success depends on effort.
If you do any of the following: set your goals too low (nurse's aide
instead of MD), expect to fail or to be disliked, feel things aren't ever
going to go well for you, believe you just don't have the ability or the
personality needed to succeed, or have other pessimistic thoughts,
then you need "learned optimism." How can you get rid of the
negative, defeatist ideas? Well, you might be able to just ignore the
pessimism. But if you have brainwashed yourself well, then you will
have to question the validity of your pessimistic ideas. Most self-
putdowns are wrong, especially in the sense that most people could
accomplish a lot more than they do--they sell themselves short. So,
attack those self-destructive thoughts by deciding to think clearly and
objectively, like a wise adult, about your feelings. 
Look carefully at the typical pessimistic message: everything is
terrible, always will be, and I'm to blame. This is close to Murphy's
Law: Whatever can go wrong will. This is harmful, depressing crap you
are feeding yourself! Recognize that these thoughts are a "left over"
from an earlier time when things were going badly or someone was
stuffing you with pessimistic thinking. Times have changed; the
situation is different; you can be different. Rather than "nothing works
out for me," how about "I'll try something new today." Rather than "he
didn't want to play tennis with me--no one really likes me," how about
"maybe he was busy," “maybe he isn't very good at tennis," or “I’ll bet
he'd like to do a lot of other things with me." For optimism it is
important to have self-esteem and self-efficacy--faith in your ability to
change things based on past experience (methods #1, #4 & #9 in
chapter 14). 
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