Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Beliefs, and Pessimism<----->Optimism

I think that our beliefs about ourselves and our external reality (i.e., the world), whether based in fact or fiction, or rational or irrational processes, go a long way toward determining the course of our lives. These beliefs, if not at the very core of our mind-oriented processes, are embedded deep enough within us as to usually be implicit; that is, these beliefs occupy a domain which usually lies outside our conscious processes, thereby influencing our conscious processes from some deeper, somewhat murky position. (Apologies to Freud and his disciples.)

In general, I'm very interested in the nature of people's beliefs as a point of interest. But beliefs become, to my way of thinking, a potentially very important focal point for consideration if a person is having difficulty in their life. Now, it's important, perhaps, for you to know that I tend to view many aspects of existence and behavior as being on a continuum. (For example, I think "sexual orientation" occupies a continuum: any given person at a given point in their life falls somewhere on it, to my way of thinking.) Let's leave that, in and of itself, alone for the time being. Rather, for now, it should suffice to know that one of the continuum lenses through which I tend to view people's beliefs is that of optimism-pessimism.

Straight up: I'm biased against pervasive pessimism (cynicism). Granted, I do think pessimism makes sense, and has a very logical utility. Plainly, I think that pessimism is essentially a hedge against disappointment: it's a way of guarding oneself from the pain of an unfavorable outcome or development. It's a lot easier to move on from a failure, or from a negative development, if one assumes an attitude of expecting failures or negative developments from the get-go. And if something "good" does happen, it's a pleasant surprise; and even then, of course, the prevailing pessimism will prevent the person from letting their guard down in celebration *too* much.

I get it. I also get that people have very good reasons for developing such pessimism. But I think that, ultimately, pessimism is akin to the local crime syndicate offering a storekeeper "protection" for a price. The price, in this case, is multifaceted, and could probably warrant a separate essay unto itself. In sum, though, the price is an eroded ability to envision and entertain life's possibilities and, therefore, an eroded ability to honor and manifest one's unique gifts. It's really the latter thing there that bothers me. Why? Because I think we're here to learn, grow, and share our gifts with the world as best we can; and it bothers me when people unnecessarily (to my way of thinking) limit themselves.

There's another point I'd like to make about pessimism as a pervasive perspective: I think it's simply easier for people to identify reasons why they (or another) *can't* pursue a goal/dream/desire than it is to seek reasons why they (or another) *can.* Practiced with enough doggedness, such habits of thinking engender the routine use of words like "should" and "ought" with respect to hopes, dreams, wants, needs, and reasonable courses of action. And people often get into trouble when they set up unreasonably restrictive shoulds and oughts to govern their contemplative and action-taking processes.

It is my position that a tendency toward seeking reasons why one *can* pursue what they want or need -- i.e., an opportunity-focused perspective -- better-facilitates one's ability to access the motivation to pursue one's wants and needs. Furthermore, an opportunity-focused perspective does not deny the existence of obstacles, disappointments, and setbacks; rather, it allows for them, it reasonably accommodates them, and it ultimately enables a person to truly move on and reach higher.

Now, none of this is black-and-white, of course, and it is not intended to apply to all things. Taken too far, the perspective I am touting could lead to very destructive and harmful behavior. There are some things people should not do -- and I use the word "should" very intentionally here. I think the principle "do no harm" ought to rule the day, or at least be on one's personal Board of Directors. None of us are islands unto ourselves, and our actions do not exist in a vacuum. No, our actions affect others, and we have a responsibility to others by virtue of living in a society. On another note, I acknowledge that my perspective is biased: I am a White American Man, plain and simple. In theory anyway, I love the ideas of independence, individualism, and self-actualization. I've enjoyed the trappings and benefits of my circumstances, a fact which I happily own; and I acknowledge that my perspective may not be compatible with others'. But you know what? I think that much of what I'm saying is good and true, and my intentions are in service of well-being.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Our Writer-Reader Agreement

While I would have much rather placed this agreement of understanding between you (the reader) and me (the writer) in the blog's description, the current Blogger formatting restrictions only allow for a 500 character maximum in that space. And so I must adjust, and kick off this blog with a rather necessary, if somewhat terse, paragraph. Whether a person is paying for a service or, as is the case here, browsing free content voluntarily, I think it's important that expectations and roles are clearly delineated, and that people know what they're getting into. Here goes:

Be advised, Dear Reader: I have an MSW from an accredited institution, so I do have some formal educational background on aspects of the very broad topic of "mental health." However, this is my personal blog, not an academic or professional publication; i.e., the content herein has not been peer-reviewed, fact-checked, or otherwise edited by anyone other than myself. Moreover, the various content of my posts are not intended to represent the views of any other person, thing, or organization. Be advised of this, then, Dear Reader, and note that the onus is on you to take or leave, so to speak, what I write here. You are reading this blog voluntarily, and in so doing, you are neither implicitly nor explicitly being provided professional mental health services. In other words, I am not your therapist, I am not responsible for how you interpret this material, and you hereby release me from any and all liability by continuing to peruse this blog's content. I am writing this blog because I am interested in the topic, I have some things to say about it, and I enjoy writing. 

Ok, that’s more than enough of that for now: I think we understand our writer-reader arrangement. Thanks for visiting the site, folks – enjoy!