Optimism • “..is a generalised sense of confidence about the future, characterised by a broad expectancy that outcomes are likely to be positive” (Boniwell, 2006) Why is optimism important? • Optimists experience less distress than pessimists when dealing with difficulties in life, they are much less likely to suffer from depression and anxiety • Optimists adapt better to negative events • Optimism predicts psychological and physical well-being among university students • Optimists don‟t use denial when faced with problems e.g. attend to health warnings • Optimists report more health promoting behaviors and enjoy better physical health than pessimists • Optimists exert more continuous effort and tend not to give up • Optimists are capable of learning lessons from negative experiences • Optimists tend to be more productive in the work place (Carver & Scheier, 2000) Coping with life‟s difficulties • Optimism - related coping: Acceptance, positive reframing (reinterpretation/growth) humour • Pessimism related coping: Denial, disengagement • (Scheier & Carver; Seligman) What about relationships? • Optimism linked with better quality relationships over time • Optimism protects from depression development because of a/ better quality relationships b/ more adaptive/flexible coping (reframing) (Brisette) • Optimism predicts better performance at University and predicts it more accurately than SATs ( Peterson & Barett, 1987) • Optimism predicts better performance at individual and team sports (Seligman et al, 1988) • Supposedly being optimistic helped the SNP to win the election • Some football managers are using it too Twin studies • Optimism is 30- 50% inherited • Identical twins are very likely to share the same personality traits such as optimism and pessimism Individual differences Scottish levels of optimism • Optimism levels are comparatively low in Scotland. In some areas it is as low as 45% (Duncan, 2008). This is the lowest figure The Centre has come across. The average score for 4,000 young people across Scotland is 56%. International figures tend to be around 60% to 77%, sometimes higher than this Learned Optimsim • Research shows that people can become more optimistic (Seligman & Reivich; Snyder) Explanatory Style “The basis of optimism does not lie in positive phrases or images of victory, but in the way you think about causes” (Seligman) • Pessimists and optimists will explain the cause, they why, of events in different ways • This applies to both successes and failures More research results • Explanatory style predicts presidential successes 85% of the time over the last century (Seligman) • Sales people who have an optimistic explanatory style do better by 88% Pessimistic explanations for failure/setbacks Me Setbacks are my fault Permanent Will last a long time Pervasive Will undermine everything I do Optimistic explanations for setbacks Not me Other factors were involved Temporary • Bad events don‟t last Specific Specific: isolated to particular circumstances Pessimistic explanations for success Not me • It wasn‟t me. This was coincedence or luck. Fluke Temporary • This won‟t last. I‟ll pay for it. Specific • I am still awful at maths Optimistic explanations for success Me • The success was down to my hard work and effort Persistent • Success can be sustained Pervasive • I believe that success will spill over to other areas of life Challenging Pessimistic explanatory style • Personal, Permanent, Pervasive for failure • Not me, Temporary and Specific for good events • ABCDE technique REBT • The goal is to facilitate psychological health and enable humans to lead more fulfilling and happier lives • „Men are disturbed, not by things, but by the principles and notions which they form concerning things. ‟ Epictetus • A an event occurs • C a reaction occurs • does A cause C? • A something happens • B belief about something • C emotional reaction to the belief Irrational Belief • E.g. I caused the setback, I am useless. Important ingredients for change • Disputation and Energisation • Reduce the frequency and duration and intensity of IR • Adversity what is the challenge? What you are up against and how you are feeling. • Belief What is your underlying fear? What are you really afraid of? what is your belief of what will happen if you can‟t meet the challenge? • Consequences What feelings and behaviors do you experience as a result of holding these beliefs and fears? • Disputation challenge these irrational beliefs. Would you accept someone else saying these things about you? • Energisation How are you feeling now? Exercise 4 • To develop your disputation skills work with a partner. • Take an adverse situation and discuss with your partner the possible pessimistic explanations. • Together, dispute these and examine the evidence for the negative beliefs. • Work together to generate optimistic alternatives. • Examine the real rather than catastrophic implications if the pessimistic viewpoint seems valid, and evaluate the usefulness of the optimistic and pessimistic beliefs (Carr, 2004) Do not encourage optimsim when the cost of failure is high The Titanic1912 Downside of optimism • „It can‟t happen to me‟ • Optimistic thinking is associated with an underestimation of risks, and so optimists get themselves into risky situations (Peterson & Park, 2003) • Optimists see themselves as below average for such occurances as cancer and heart disease (e.g. Peterson & de Avila, 1995; Peterson & Vaidya, 2001) Downside of optimism • In the case of serous traumatic events ( e.g. death, fire, flood) optimists may not be prepared • Unrealistic optimism undermines anxiety - motivated preventative efforts • Optimistic explanatory style predicts depression in the wake of stressful events (Isaacowitz & Seligman) Credit crunch • Some say the economic crisis is a direct result of optimism. (Shefrin, 2008) Power of Pessimism • Pessimism allows us to focus on the detail - hence lawyers tend to be more pessimistic • Defensive pessimism: some people are at their most effective when they fear the worst and plan strategies to minimize the disastrous outcomes they envisage, thus seizing victory from the jaws of defeat. (Norem, 2001) Defensive pessimists • Norem says that always seeking the worst outcomes can help pessimists harness their anxiety, allowing them to perform at their peak. The optimistic news for dyed-in-the-wool pessimists is that they needn‟t struggle to find the silver lining. Balanced Perspective • There are downsides of extreme optimism and extreme pessimism • “optimism is a wonderful motivator but it needs to be wed to reality,” (Reivich) Exercise 5 • Try out the ABCDE technique over the next week. • Notice your explanatory style, or the explanatory style of others e.g. think about the way you explain the causes of events to those around you (appeal to the evidence) • Managers, coaches and parents can effect the explanatory style of staff and children 5 Exercise the challenge • Adversity write down what is. Write down what happened, what you are up against and how you are feeling. • Belief write down your underlying fear. What is it? What are you really afraid of? what is your belief of what will happen if you can‟t meet the challenge? • Consequences write down the state of your feelings and behaviour of holding these beliefs and fears. Exercise 5 • Energisation How are you feeling now? You should notice a difference. If not write down what you are thinking – this may be another thing to work on. • Disputation would you accept someone else saying these things about you? Pretend this is someone outside accusing you of these things and defend yourself e.g. a politician, lawyer.