Learned Optimism Based on the book by Martin SeligmanWali Memon 1 Wali Memon
2 Wali Memon
Take the Test:Attributional Style3 Wali Memon
Biblical Passages on Dealing with Adversity James 1: 2-4; 12: Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. … Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. Philippians 4:11: … I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. Philippians 4:8: Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Philippians 3:13-14: No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead …. Revelation 21:4: He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.4 Wali Memon Story of Job: Job and his friends believe it’s Job’s fault. But what about Satan?
Biblical Passages on Dealing with Adversity Luke 9:5: If people do not welcome you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave their town, as a testimony against them. [i.e., Get over it and move on.] Mark 13:11: Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit. 2 Corr 6:4-6: We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. We have been beaten, been put in prison, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without food. We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love. Romans 8:28: And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18: Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far5 outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is Wali Memon unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Reflection What do these verses teach us about how to deal with adversity? How you think about adversity counts. We need to view setbacks as temporary, and as “trials.” Deal with rejection and move on. “Perseverance under trial” is important. We can choose to look at adversity in different ways, but we are urged to think about it in optimistic, pro-growth ways (e.g., Romans 8:28; James 1:2-4)6 Wali Memon
Why study optimism? There are hundreds of studies about how people with “pessimistic explanatory style” give up more easily and get depressed more often. Optimists do better in school, college and at work (achieve their potential). Optimists have better health and may live longer. God is optimistic about us! God believes we7 can and will change. Wali Memon
An example of pessimism’s effects: The story of Elizabeth (p. 7-8, Learned Helplessness) Instead of defending herself, she collapses inwardly This experience served to reinforce her negative view Pessimistic prophecies are self-fulfilling8 Wali Memon
Depression Severe depression is 10 times more prevalent today than it was 50 years ago. It strikes a full decade earlier in life We are still evolving in our understanding of the causes – and cures for – depression9 Wali Memon
Freud’s theory of Depression This was the prevalent view until very recently (100 years old) Depression = rage toward the mother that is turned inwards Depression due to unresolved childhood conflicts Seligman says, “These are all things that would get you killed if you said it to an armed Sicilian.” ☺ (e.g., You want to sleep with your mother. You hate your father.) NOT evidence-based. (Proven largely wrong.)10 Wali Memon
The biomedical theory Depression is an illness of the body Comes from inherited biochemical defect (perhaps on chromosome #11) Due to “chemical imbalance” Drugs and electro-convulsive therapy are moderately effective remedies But….11 Wali Memon
The problem with these theories / treatments Drugs and ECT have side effects Not everyone has inherited their depression -- and if our bodies have not changed very much, and it’s due to “chemical imbalances”, why would we see a 10X increase?? Mild depression doesn’t always respond to drugs Antidepressants aren’t “addictive”, but depression often returns when not taking them The person credits the drugs, not themselves, for their recovery12 Wali Memon
But…. What if depression is mostly a result of how we interpret life’s events?13 Wali Memon
What if instead of thinking … We thought …I consider it a joy whenever I face Hardships bring nothing but pain.trials… (James 1:2-4)Blessed is the person who perseveres My troubles are going to wear meunder trial (James 1:12) down to nothing.I have learned to be content whatever I never will be happy unless thisthe circumstances (Phil. 4:11) changes.[Think] about things that are excellent …about things that have gone wrongand worthy of praise (Phil. 4:8) and will probably go wrong.I am focusing all my energies on … I am focusing all my energies onforgetting the past and looking forward figuring out why this happened to meto what lies ahead (Phil 3:13-14) … or I’ll never be happy.We know that God causes everything towork together for the good of those I know this current problem willwho love God and are called according probably lead to a lot of other problems.to his purpose (Romans 8:28)I will not lose heart … for my light and I can’t go on like this. Every newmomentary troubles are achieving for problem wears me down. They areme an eternal glory. (2 Cor 4:16-18) meaningless. Wali Memon 14
Let’s look at Achievement Is achievement just a combination of talent and desire? Studies have found that if optimism is missing, achievement will not be as high Optimism is as much of a predictor of achievement as aptitude tests15 Wali Memon
What is Optimism? It is NOT just a rediscovery of “The Power of Positive Thinking” It is not “affirmations” – less important what you regularly tell yourself when things are good. Not building “self-esteem” … which is a barometer of how you feel, not the cause of how you feel. Instead, what’s most important is what you16 tell yourself when you fail or are successful. Wali Memon
The Optimism (“Attributional Style”) Test17 Wali Memon
The Connection between Attributional Style and Wellbeing What IS important is the degree to which the explanations that you give when bad things happen are: Permanent, Pervasive, and Personal. Optimism is not something you can know about intuitively. The ASQ measures something you cannot. It predicts success beyond experienced coaches’ expertise.18 Wali Memon
When Bad Things Happen When something bad happens, you are more likely to become depressed when you believe: It’s personal: it’s due to something you did or something about the way that you are; It’s pervasive: the cause is something that not only affects this situation but many others that you face. It’s permanent: you believe it cannot be changed. For example… You lose a game of checkers, and you think: “I am never good at things that require competition.” [Personal, permanent (“never good at”), pervasive (“things that require competition”).] Another choice would be to say: “I’ve been so tired lately. I was not thinking very clearly when I played checkers19 tonight.” [Not permanent or pervasive – limited to Wali Memon tonight’s chess game]
When Good Things Happen When something good happens, you are more likely to avoid depression when you believe: It’s personal: it’s due to something you did or something about the way that you are; It’s pervasive: the cause is something that not only affects this situation but many others that you face. It’s permanent: you believe that it will happen again and again. For example, you’d be more likely to avoid depression if you said… You win a game of checkers, and you think: “I have some good checkers strategies.” or “I’m pretty good at games.” [Personal, permanent, pervasive.] A person prone to depression would be more likely to say, “I got really lucky tonight” or “I’m glad I won … I usually lose competitive games.”20 Wali Memon
Permanence Optimists are more likely to believe that bad events are temporary, pessimists are more likely to believe they will persist forever. Optimists say, “My boss is in a bad mood today” rather than “My boss is a jerk”. Counselors will tell you: Avoid “Always and never” when you get into arguments. Use “sometimes and lately” instead.21 Wali Memon
PmB = Permanence for Bad Events People who give up easily believe the causes of the bad events that happen to them are permanent. Calculate your PmB (Permanence Bad) score. Add score for questions 5, 13, 20, 21, 29, 33, 42, and 46. If you totalled: 0-1, you are very optimistic on this dimension; 2-3, you are moderately optimistic 4, you are average; 5-6 is moderately pessimistic; and 7-8 very pessimistic – and you may want to change it. Remember: Failure makes everyone momentarily helpless. But some people remain helplessss for days22 or months after even small setbacks. Wali Memon
PmG = Permanence for Good Events People who believe good events have permanent causes are more optimistic than people who believe they have temporary causes. Calculate your PmG score. Add scores for questions 2, 10, 14, 15, 24, 26, 38, and 40. If you totalled: 7-8, you are very optimistic on this dimension; 6, you are moderately optimistic; 4-5, you are average; 3, you are moderately pessimistic 0-2, you are very pessimistic. People who believe good events have permanent causes try even harder after they succeed. People who see temporary23 reasons for good events may give up even when they Wali Memon succeed, believing their success was a fluke.
Pervasiveness Optimists talk about adversity in specific vs. universal ways. Optimists: “Professor Dobson is unfair” vs. “All teachers are unfair.” Do you catastrophize? Some people can put their troubles neatly into a box when one important aspect of it is24 suffering. Others “bleed all over everything.” Wali Memon
PvB = Pervasiveness for Bad Events People who make universal explanations for their failures give up on everything when a failure strikes in one area. People who make specific explanations may become helpless in that one part of their lives yet march confidently on in the others. Calculate your PvB score: Count up questions 8, 16, 17, 18, 22, 32, 44, and 48. If you scored 0-1, you are very optimistic on this dimenstion; 2-3, you are moderately optimistic; 4, you are average; 5-6, you are moderately pessimistic;25 Wali Memon 7-8, you are very pessimistic.
PvG = Pervasiveness for Good Events The optimistic explanatory style for good events is opposite that for bad events. The optimist believes that bad events have specific causes, while good events will enhance everything he or she does. Calculate your PvG score: Count up questions 6, 7, 28, 31, 34, 35, 37, and 43. If you scored… 7-8, you are very optimistic on this dimension; 6, you are moderately optimistic; 4-5, you are average; 3, you are moderately pessimistic; 0-1, you are very pessimistic26 Wali Memon
Hope Score Whether or not you have hope depends on two dimensions of your explanatory style: pervasiveness and permanence. This is one of the most important scores. Add your PvB score with your PmB score. This is your hope score for bad events. If you scored… 0-2, you are very hopeful; 3-6, you are moderately hopeful; 7-8, you are average in terms of hopefulness; 8-11, you are moderately hopeful; 12-16, you are severely hopeless. People who make permanent and universal (pervasive) explanations for their troubles: are more likely to collapse under pressure,27 for a long time and across situations. Wali Memon
Personalization Score When bad things happen, do we blame ourselves? Or other people or circumstances? It’s important to take responsibility for our actions – but the right amount of responsibility. Depressives / pessimists tend to take way more (too much) responsibility for bad events than is realistic.28 Wali Memon
PsB = Personalization for Bad Events People who believe they cause bad things to happen tend to like themselves less than people who believe bad things come from other people or circumstances. Calculate your PsB score. Count up questions 3, 9, 19, 25, 30, 39, 41, and 47. If you scored… 0-1, you have very high self-esteem; 2-3, you have moderate self-esteem/ 4, you are average 4-6, you have moderately low self-esteem; 7-8, you have very low self-esteem.29 Wali Memon
PsG = Personalization for Good Events People who believe they cause good things to happen tend to like themselves better than people who believe good things come from other people or circumstances. Calculate your PsB score: Add questions 1, 4, 11, 12, 23, 27, 36, and 45. If you scored.. 7-8, you are very optimistic; 6, you are moderately optimistic; 4-5, you are average (in terms of optimism); 3, you are moderately pessimistic; 0-2, you are very pessimistic.30 Wali Memon
Total Optimism (Explanatory Style) Score Add the three Bs: PmB + PvB + PsB. This is your total bad event score. Add the three Gs: PmG + PvG + PsG. This is your total good event score. Subtract B from G (i.e., G-B). This is your overall optimism score. Look at your Total B score (optimism concerning bad events): If it’s 3-6, you are marvelously optimistic and won’t need to work on changing it. If it’s 6-9, you’re moderately optimistic If it’s 10-11, you’re average If it’s 12-14, you are moderately pessimistic about bad events If it’s 14 or higher, you are very pessimistic, and change is recommended31 Wali Memon
Total Optimism (Explanatory Style) Score Look at your Total G score (optimism concerning good events): If it’s 19 or above, you think about good events very optimistically If it’s 17-19, you are moderately optimistic; If it’s 14-16, you’re average If it’s 11-13, you think quite pessimistically about good events If it’s 10 or less, you are very pessimistic, and change is recommended.32 Wali Memon
Total Optimism (Explanatory Style) Score Look at your G – B score (overall optimism): If it’s above 8, you are very optimistic across the board If it’s 6-8, you are moderately optimistic If it’s 3-5, you are average If it’s 1-2, you are moderately pessimistic If it’s 0 or below, you are very pessimistic, and change is recommended. (Note: For 9-12 year old boys and girls, the average score is 13.5 – people as a group become more pessimistic as they grow older.)33 Wali Memon
But don’t we need to be responsible for our actions, even if it means we are pessimistic? Realistic Depressives Low High People who are prone to depression tend to take way more responsibility for bad events than is realistic. …Or sometimes they are “all or none”… taking too little responsibility when they are wreaking havoc and should take some, and then take all the responsibility at once, and consider it something that they cannot change.34 Wali Memon
35 Pessimists do often see reality ! Wali Memon
Pessimism can sometimes be valuableIn multiple studies, non-depressed people … Believed they have more control than they actually do Overestimated their performanceCertain roles are better suited for pessimists: Finance Compliance staff Airline pilots Roles where double-checking is needed; where seeing the glass half- full may save lives. You don’t want your mammographer saying, “I see a spot, but ehh, it’s probably nothing! Go enjoy your lunch! ☺” 36 Wali Memon
But...You are more likely to becomedepressed, more likely to let yourfeelings paralyze you from takingeffective action to prevent/combatthe problem, and to sometimesexaggerate the effect of – or dwellon – a negative situation more than37 Wali Memonyou need to.
What if you are pessimistic? You may be depressed more often You may be achieving less than your talents warrant. You may not use the talents God gives you. You may have weakened physical health (gets worse with age) Your life may not be as pleasurable, and you won’t find the joy God intends for you.38 Wali Memon
The Good News Pessimistic explanatory style can be changed. Example: 16 hour Learned Optimism Training with children at higher risk for depression led to them having half the rates of depression when compared with “controls,” and the result lasted.39 Wali Memon
Optimism at Work Met Life study Used to test potential salesmen for aptitude and motivation. Put together a “special force” who scored low on their tests, but high in optimism The “special force” outsold and outstayed normal employees40 Wali Memon
Optimism and School Children who see bad events as permanent, pervasive and personal will over time get depressed and do badly Children suffering bad life events (divorce, family deaths, etc) will do worst. Explanatory style is as much of a predictor of success as SAT’s or IQ tests41 Wali Memon
Optimism and Sports Berkeley swimmers study (p. 163-166) Pessimists (using the ASQ) had twice as many unexpectedly poor swims as the optimists. Simulated defeat experiment: Told swimmers their time was 1.5 – 5 seconds slower that it actually was. Swimmers allowed to rest and try again. Pessimists got even worse times than before. Optimists either held their time, or got even faster. Some optimists improved by 2-5 seconds (the difference between winning and finishing dead last). “Teams” can have a measurable explanatory style that can predict how well they perform under pressure. A team’s explanatory style for bad events strongly predicted how they did against the point spread after a loss in the next season. National League (baseline): Team’s overall win- loss record in the next season is predicted by their explanatory style in this season, equating for their win-loss session in this season. Explanatory style works by means of how a team does under42 pressure – after a loss or in the late innings of close games. Wali Memon
Optimism and Health Animal studies … “learned helplessness” (pessimism) and fighting cancer: Rats that learn to press a bar to stop a static shock: 70% reject an implanted tumor. Rats that experience same shocks, but cannot control them: 27% reject tumor. (All rats got the same number of shocks.) Rats that learned to press a bar to stop the shock when young were more likely to reject the tumor later in life (when not being shocked) in comparison with those who got uncontrollable shocks when young. 35-year study, 100 Harvard graduates: Pessimists less likely than optimists to give up cigarettes, more likely to suffer illnesses, and less likely to take fewer steps to get and sustain social support. Pessimists – measured early in life – are more likely to encounter more bad events. (Mechanism: Less likely to do prevention? Less likely to stop bad events?)43 Wali Memon
Experiment where First Floor residents are the “high control” group: Given extra control and choice in their lives Asked to choose omelets or scrambled eggs for breakfast the night before. Asked to choose the film to watch the night before Asked to pick a plant that they want and they must water it.44 Wali Memon
Second Floor Residents are the “low controlgroup”. Same added extra good things, but: Omelettes provided on Mon, Wed, and Fri, and scrambled eggs on the other days (no choice); Residents from left corridor go to film on Wednesday, those from right corridor on Thursday (no control) Nurse waters plants in the room (no control).First floor residents (with choice and control)were more active, happier, and had lowermortality. Helplessness can kill.45 Wali Memon
How to Become More Optimistic: Optimism Training, the ABCDE Exercise A = Adversity B = Belief C = Consequence D = Disputation (using evidence, alternatives, implications, usefulness).. “Talking back” to yourself. E = Energization (changed consequences)46 Wali Memon
How to Become More Optimistic Examine the ABC’s (adversity, beliefs, consequences) A: Someone cuts you off while you are driving B: You think “______________” C: You get mad and honk your horn, and feel stressed.47 Wali Memon
A: Your boss is snippy with you at work. B: You think “______________” C: You don’t mention it and bring her back coffee when you go to Starbucks.48 Wali Memon
A: A friend who you were at odds with easlier calls you and invites you to lunch. B: You think “______________” C: You feel good the rest of the day.49 Wali Memon
How to Become More Optimistic Examine the ABC’s (adversity, beliefs, consequences) A: Someone cuts you off while you are driving B: You think “______________” C: You get mad and honk your horn, and feel stressed D: But instead you could think … E: And then you feel…50 Wali Memon
Learning to Argue with Yourself and Win Remember, you have a lifetime of experience with “disputation” (arguing). But you have usually used this when arguing with others. Now you have to use it on yourself. Repeating positive statements to yourself doesn’t really work. But learning to confront your negative self-talk does work. It’s a matter of being accurate instead of exaggerating and overreacting. Four ways to make your disputations convincing: Use evidence. Think about alternatives in terms of ways of framing the situation. Think about the implications – decatastrophize.51 Wali Think about the usefulness of your conclusion. Even if Memon your belief is true, does it do any good to dwell on it?
Learning to Argue withYourself and Win Four ways: Use evidence. Pessimistic reactions to adversity are often overreactions, exaggerations. Ask yourself, “what is the evidence for this belief?” Look at alternatives (e.g., alternative interpretations). Example: When thinking, “I am never good at things that require competition,” argue back: Well, I sometimes win; I win more at word games; I do better at games that I’ve played a lot. I was very good at football – that’s competitive.” Feeling down will “color your perception” and “limit your field of view,” so you may need to think about it a while to come up with evidence. Think about alternative ways of framing the situation: Almost nothing happens because of one cause. Pessimists have a way of latching on to the worst of the causes – the most permanent, pervasive, and personal ones. Ask yourself, “is there a less52 destructive way to look at this?” Focus on the changeable, Wali Memon specific, and nonpersonal causes.
Learning to Argue withYourself and Win Four ways: If you decide that the belief IS correct, try these two: Think about the implications – “decatastrophize.” Ask yourself – Even if the belief is correct (e.g., “you are never good at things that require competition”), what are the implications? Ask yourself, “how likely are these implications?” Use evidence. Think about the usefulness of your conclusion: Will it do you any good to dwell on it? Whenever you have to perform right now, it may be better to use distraction/delay rather than disputation. For example, write down the situation and plan a time when you will think about what to do about it (“Next Wednesday afternoon, I’ll figure out how to deal with my sister’s drug habit. I have a report to turn in53 Wali today.”) Memon
Your Examples What examples do you have? A (Adversity): ?? B (Belief): ?? C (Consequence): ?? D (Disputation): ?? E (Energization /new consequence): ??54 Wali Memon
An ABCDE Journal Example Based on a story from Learned Optimism (Seligman) A: My sister Andrea and I (Brenda) have always been close. Andrea’s son is a freshman at Dartmouth, and both she and I are excited about helping Joey, my son, to start researching the colleges he wants to attend. Joey told us he doesn’t want to go to college, but wants to restore houses and work in construction. When Andrea asked me why Joey doesn’t want to go to college, I snapped at her. “Not that it is any of your business, but not everyone has to follow in your son’s footsteps.” B: I’m sick and tired of everything in my life being an open book to Andrea. She has her own family. There’s no reason for her to be constantly nosing around in my life. She thinks she’s superior to me because her son is going to Dartmouth. I don’t need that type of attitude from my sister, so she can just buzz off. C: I felt sad and anxious. We are not talking right now. D: I am probably overreacting a bit. All Andrea did was ask why Joey has decided not to go college [evidence]. That’s a fair question [alternative framing]. I would probably feel like I could ask her that question if the situation were reversed and it were her son and not mine who decided not to go to college. She wasn’t acting superior or rubbing my face in it. She’s probably just concerned because she cares about Joey a lot [alternative framing]. I guess I’m feeling defensive, and envious about Andrea’s situation. I am happy about how close Andrea and I are. I wouldn’t trade that closeness for the world [usefulness].55 E:Wali felt better. I called Andrea to apologize for snapping and we had a great I Memon conversation.
An ABCDE Journal Example A: The plumber replacing the faucet said that the “stems” needed to be replaced as well. B: But we are spending so much on house repair that we won’t have money for Christmas, or it will take forever to pay off the credit card. The house is getting older, and will probably start needing more regular repair, and paying for that while the kids are in college is going to be tough. C: I felt stressed and kind of down. D: I have no idea if they really need replacing or if the plumber just trying to get me to spend more money. He tried to get me to buy a toilet that has a “butt shower” for heaven’s sake. But I had to go ahead and get that done to be sure it would not mess up the new faucet. That was the right decision. The cost was not that much more, anyway ($70). If I really need money, I could do a consulting job on one of my vacation weeks that I never use anyway. The house is getting older, but there’s not really been a pattern of increasing repairs needed. We did some of the repairs that had been “building up” for a while … maybe we are done now. E: I felt more at ease. I felt like I had options. I will think more about the56 one Memon consultancy. Wali week
Disputing your beliefs You can’t do it if you aren’t aware they exist See the link between your belief and how your feel Distract yourself Argue with yourself Keep a written record of your ABC’s each day. Try on different beliefs (D) in each situation and see how you feel (E) Look for alternative explanations, decatastrophize57 Wali Memon
So does Optimism Just Work by Changing How we Think? That’s one mechanism. But… Research shows that there is an optimistic way of behaving that makes people happier. One things that sets optimists apart is that they have better coping strategies in the face of adversity: They confront problems rather than avoiding them. They plan better for the future. They focus on what they can control and change. They persist when they encounter obstacles instead58 of giving up. Wali Memon
Homework: Story Editing This “Best Possible Self” story editing exercise from Redirect builds optimism: Find a quiet, private place and follow these instructions on four consecutive nights: Think about your life in the future. Imagine that everything has gone as well as it possibly could. You have worked hard and succeeded at accomplishing all of your life goals. Think of this as the realization of all of our life dreams. Now, write about what you imagined. Don’t just think about what you have achieved (e.g., getting your dream job), but be sure to write about how you got there (e.g., taking a new job, going back to school). Students who completed this exercise (compared to randomly-assigned controls) reported greater optimist with their lives for weeks afterwards, and even had fewer visits to the health center!59 Wali Memon