Pessimists kind of take the default position in life, in that it takes less effort to maintain a relationship with another person because it’s going to end anyway. Saying things like “people mistake my extreme realism for negativity,” is like saying a bear is just a big brown thing; no matter how you try to disguise it, it’s still a bear. That whole pessimistic attitude is kind of like not making your bed in the morning when you get up because you know by the end of the day you’ll be back in it.
Holistic health calls for optimistic thinking, just like positive psychology teaches us. If you constantly tell yourself something bad will happen it’s like drawing that which you don’t want directly to you; like a universal magnet. Optimism teaches us to think about the good things we want in life, but it takes practice to be optimistic. You can’t try to be optimistic for a few moments and when things don’t change right away, you blame it on bad luck, or repeat a mantra of how horrible life has been to you. You have to practice optimism as hard and as often as you once maintained your pessimistic attitude.
A student once said to me, “I have realized that by not hoping for things I know will not transpire and by always expecting the worst I will never be disappointed.” Did she not think that may be a cop-out?
Do we realize how much of our actions we’re role-modeling for our children to behave in a similar fashion? We tend to look at life either with an I-make-my-luck (internal locus of control) or “if he/she would only do “x” my life would be so much better” (external locus of control); if-then situations. It’s true that sometimes we flip-flop about how much we want to take personal responsibility for anything that goes wrong (someone else is at fault) or right (I created my success all by myself) in our lives. That external locus of control factors in on how much of our situation we are directly, or indirectly, responsible for creating consciously, or subconsciously.
I hear parents brag all the time about how smart their kids are, but when it comes to how the parents’ behavior is affecting those smart kids, the parents swear that they don’t act like badly in front of the kids, and/or are teaching them better. I have to remind people that before kids had language, before they knew what basic words like stop, mommy, daddy, hot, and no, because they read your body language. Any parent knows that you can terrify a baby just by walking in the room when you’re so angry you can’t even talk. That baby will pick up your body vibes better than a Hoover picks up lint, and the only way they know how to respond is to cry, tense up, and become extremely agitated and/or angry. A kid will pick up bad vibes that Aunt Lucy or Uncle Tim isn’t a good person when you think Aunt Lucy and Uncle Tim are so great you wished they had been your parents instead of the people who raised you.
Think about how we vow that we’re going to be different with our children. We tell ourselves that they will never be put through the things we went through as children. Do we ever wonder if our parents made mental commitments to us the very same way?
We are in relationship with our children always even when they aren’t in the room. When the environment in their own homes are toxic to them and they can feel the calm in their friend’s home, for example, they may try to stay there (at the friend’s home) as much as possible. They can feel the tension between you and your spouse even when you’re both smiling across the dinner table. They act out when they know their parents are unhappy, or are on drugs, or are drinking more than the average person but don’t think they’re alcoholics. The kids will know/feel the discontent before another adult can even acknowledge the possibilities of it happening. To think we can be one way when our kids aren’t around and another when they are is only fooling ourselves. It’s a façade we can’t maintain for any length of time.
I am well aware that the student who was “always expecting the worst” must come from a hurtful and painful past and just like they learned about heartache and disappointment, they can learn about hope, faith in a positive outcome and the belief that there is more good in the world than bad.
We have it in us to be the best person, best child, best friend, best parent, best sibling that we can be. Just like that unmade bed—if we don’t learn to make it in the morning, the crumpled pillows and all the wrinkles and disarray will still be there waiting for us at the end of the day.