Optimism and Pessimism

By | 14/09/2015

It’s interesting to observe the different ways human beings react to the obstacles in their path. When some people get sick, they only think of getting better soon, while others believe they never will. Faced with risk, optimists confront it, because they believe the odds for success are good; pessimists step back, predicting catastrophe. To start a relationship, an optimist gets closer to the person in whom they’re interested; a pessimist will avoid taking the first step, picturing an inevitable rejection.

The differences don’t stop there. If on one side there’s love of life, generosity and lightheartedness, on the other, there’s a tendency to selfishness and sadness, sometimes disguised as fake excitement. Optimists always have several plans and projects, are innovative and their hope is infectious. Pessimists are more restrained in both expenditure and gesture; they are also conservative and only interested in what has been tested and pleases the majority.

Which factors lead a human being to a positive or negative outlook on life? I’ll mention a few of my hypotheses, but before, it’s important to explain that I believe it’s not because of mere conditioning or thought patterns. That means it’s useless to wake up in the morning determined to change and have a positive attitude. This kind of optimism will be fake, superficial and will not lead to the desired results. I think our behavior is somewhat innate. Some people have a strong vital impulse; they have an endless energy which most mortals lack. Their love of life overflows. Nothing can make them sad, and they might even, in some situations, seem frivolous because they don’t give much significance to any kind of suffering. Probably, this kind of behavior is connected to the biochemistry of the brain.

Our proclivity to optimism or pessimism also depends on how we assess our past. For instance, if a 40-year-old does a retrospective of their life and concludes there was undeniable progress, they’ll have good reason to be optimistic about the future. If, on the other hand, they do the math and their balance turns out to be negative, pessimism will prevail. This self-evaluation is not only about material accomplishments. What matters most is success as a human being: being able to control aggressive impulses, having a satisfactory emotional and sexual life, being open to differences of opinion – all are factors that lead to optimism.

There is, at last, a third factor that guides our attitude, undoubtedly the most important of all; it is courage. People unafraid to dare tend to be optimistic, as they do not fear suffering or failure. They know that being strong doesn’t mean always getting it right, but being the one who risks being wrong and survives the harshest falls. Happier human beings withstand pain well, and usually lead a creative and joyful daily life. Optimism leads to success, because optimists see eventual losses as learning experiences that will make them even stronger. The opposite happens to pessimists; they are paralyzed, not by their convictions, but by fear. They are not fearful because they’re pessimists; they’re pessimists because they are fearful. And so they go through life, increasingly insecure and passive – and, what’s worse, increasingly jealous.

Tradução: Amanda Morris