Psychological Self-Help

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temporary, passing causes limited in scope, such as an accidental
happening, the reactions of a stranger, a coincidence, or bad luck that
day, you have more hope things will be different next time. A
pessimist would see a good event as just a fluke, won’t happen again,
and "I had nothing to do with it." In contrast, optimistic hope is based
on seeing good life events as caused by personal traits or by lasting,
broad causes which I can perhaps influence. And, an optimist sees
unhappy events as having temporary, specific, possibly controllable or
unlikely-to-happen-again causes. The next task—a daunting one—
might be to reduce your pessimistic thinking and expectations. 
Pessimistic, negative thoughts can be challenged by gathering the
facts—are these thoughts really true? As we have seen, it helps to look
for multiple causes for bad events and ask yourself if changeable,
specific, non-personal causes are responsible. Have you instead
concentrated on the most dire possible cause? Even if your negative
thinking is true and is the outcome truly awful events…is the negative
thought useful or does it just cause more trouble? Can less scary
explanations be found? Maybe the bad events don't have to happen
again. This disputing of one’s own negative or pessimistic thoughts is a
demanding, difficult process. We can change our thinking but it is
seldom easy. This is why therapists are needed in many cases,
especially serious ones. 
This is good advice as far as it goes, but it is flimsy guidance for
making major changes in the infinite thoughts that flit through our
minds minute by minute. Moreover, having hope for the future rests
on more than reducing pessimism and having hopeful fantasies. What
about developing reasonable, doable, testable, exciting plans for the
future, as in further education, interesting and gratifying careers,
fulfilling social-community service, etc., etc.? What about plans for
improving relationships? What about carefully thinking through a set of
values and goals you would love to accomplish during your life—
actions you feel would be morally laudable and spiritually deeply
satisfying? What about testing your ability to analyze problems and
make real changes? Proving to yourself that desired changes can be
made and self-improvements are not pipe dreams should build your
confidence in your self-change skills, your sense of mastery, and
After learning to feel better about the past and more positive about
the future, Seligman turns to increasing happiness in the present.
He distinguishes in a meaningful way between pleasures (eating,
having sex, having fun, relaxing, doing exciting things, having
enjoyable feelings, being mindful, savoring life) and gratifications
(engaging in satisfying activities that absorb our attention and make
us feel proud or like a good person). Gratifications might include
reading/studying hard, doing excellent work, having meaningful
conversations, completing an important even difficult task, helping
someone, doing the right thing, etc., i.e., not highly exciting but
satisfying activities. Both pleasures and gratifications make important
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