Sunday, December 27, 2015

Can you train yourself (or someone else) to become an optimist?

Sarita and I were talking about built-in predilections concerning how we think, how we perceive the world, how we feel about things.

Our eldest daughter, Amy, has been an advocate of the Enneagram as a tool for understanding personalities and, Sarita says, Amy and I are both obvious "gut" people. We respond from the gut. Viscerallly.

(I wrote to a co-worker this past week concerning something I had read: "It makes me want to throw up." And concerning a certain set of ideas in the article: "I hate that thought." --Visceral responses, said Sarita. And I think she is right.)


So then I ran across this story from Randy Cassingham's The Optimist and the Pessimist on Christmas Morning:
A family had twin boys whose only resemblance to each other was their looks. If one felt it was too hot, the other thought it was too cold. If one said the TV was too loud, the other claimed the volume needed to be turned up.

But worst of all, one was an eternal optimist, and the other a doom and gloom pessimist, so their father decided to play a trick on them both.

On Christmas morning they found two huge boxes under the tree. The pessimist's box had the greatest, most expensive toy ever. The optimist's box was loaded with horse manure.

When the pessimist opened his box, he burst into tears.

"Why are you crying?" the father asked.

"Because my friends will be jealous, I'll have to read the manual before I can play with this, I'll constantly need batteries, and eventually it will get broken," sobbed the pessimist.

Then the optimist opened his box, and he whooped with joy.

"What are you so happy about?" the father asked.

"Well, daddy," the optimist twin replied, "there's got to be a pony around here somewhere!"
I shared this story with Sarita, and then, an hour or so later, in a totally different context, I commented, "Boy! I sure wish we could help ____ overcome his pessimism!"

"I don't think that's possible," she replied. "Remember the story of the optimist and pessimist twins?" . . .

What do you think? Can one train someone to become optimistic, to become--as some say--a "possibility thinker"? Or are these things totally innate?