Monday 8 July 2013

Wishy-washy optimisim

Recently after seeing a video on The Upworthiest, I started weighing my intentions related to positive thinking and being optimistic. The cleverly made video dismissed positive thinking and optimism as delusional and wishy-washy. Of course, the video's message attacks a greater source but I would like to dwell on the positive as delusional aspect. Well, being a torch-bearer for positive thoughts, the video rattled my nerves and I wondered whether it was actually delusional to be optimistic or am I genuinely trying to hope against hope. I, of course understand that being positive and optimistic alone would not solve the crises but it does alleviate the situation. Now if I'm not optimistic, what is the other choice I have - Being negative and brooding which I definitely don't want to do. If there is a choice between worrying and hoping, no prizes for guessing my choice.

But the video also made me think on another level: According to the video, having a smile and being positive is America's way of dealing with things in a very shallow level and people who spread the message of optimism were depicted as clowns who were just moving around despondent and brooding people. The caricature was disturbing. I could, to my horror, imagine myself as that clown with a red nose and floating about with the words, 'hope,' 'faith,' 'trust' and so on. I stopped the video mid-way. I decided that it's absolutely fine if I am delusional. After all, not everything that we practice and follow can be proven to yield grand results! A quote from Christian Nestell Bovee comes to my mind,

“No man is happy without a delusion of some kind. Delusions are as necessary to our happiness as realities.”

This also brings another concern to my mind. While being positive and optimistic is sure a better way than feeling blue and wallowing away in self-pity, it is not something like a magic wand that can turn the entire situation upside-down. And that is what I call "wishy-washy optimism," which is the prerogative of many naive and quick-fix solution seeking individuals. Maintaining a calm disposition during times of crises and being assured that 'This too shall pass,' requires tremendous strong will and courage - Courage to smile at the storm and keep the inner oasis of sanity balanced is no easy task. Well, many think contrary to this. A positive attitude is seen as a solution that can bring about change in a jiffy. When someone says, 'Hang in there,' it spells out the fact that, remain in that situation, albeit with a positive demeanour and things will change when they should change. Come on, if things change just by a wish, then the world would be a better place overnight with so many of us thinking positively at the same time!

A couple of mornings ago, I read a post on one of my blogger friend Avis Viswanathan's blog. The post was about a woman Suzette Jordan who was raped in Kolkata. (Well, these days the horror levels at the word, 'rape' seldom happens because one sees news of rapes almost everyday). Jordan, of course was emotionally and physically traumatised but never allowed herself to wallow in sadness. She chose to be positive about her life and sprung forth. And please, the word 'delusional' cannot come in the picture. If she had imagined positive thoughts and moving on as delusional, then she would have been a victim in the literal sense of the word.

Anything that is good, positive, optimistic requires hard work and patience. Everything is connected to everything else and it cannot be truer in this case. It is easy to be pessimistic and go around saying, 'I'm down in the dumps and feeling blue. I cannot manage. I want to break free from this world' and so on but it takes tremendous energy and will to step out of the what-comes-normally mode and strive to maintain a cheerful and happy demenour. And that doesn't mean the optimist doesn't feel pain or remorse. One feels the pain but looks beyond that pain and also knows that the present painful state is just a stopover that will soon give way to better phases. 

So, stop being optimistic in a wishy-washy manner and strive to wholeheartedly hope against hope. The rains will come and take away the dryness but then you should be ready to wait with a smile.

So, half-full, half-empty or just a full glass ;)

Image 1: Internet 
Image 2: Internet


  1. Nicely written :) Encouraging and awakening one :)

  2. (Via Geeta Krishnamurthy)

    "Susan meandered through... though i don't believe in essentialist approach... it all depends at which phase of life you are in and what your mental make-up is at one particular point of time... I strongly believe that people can never ever be the same... we are both positive and negative... positive n optimistic when we are human ,open, non-judgmental and can empathize with others... pessimistic when we r closed... but of course we all would love to be we succeed depends on the person and the immediate circumstances... humans are beautiful and beastly... positive and negative...optimistic n pessimistic... manitham paathi,mirugam paathi..irandum serntha kalavai naam....:)"

  3. (Via Leah Denzel)
    "Hi Susan, I've finally come to revisit your blog taking chances of this Wi-Fi quick fix solution .. All because I have that patience as an integrant to my optimism. Delusion, illusion and hallucination - they are integral of our human psyche. I'd rather be hopeful than brooding over matters I have no control with. Lovely to hear your insight of life beyond your comfort zone. (I tried typing this comment direct to your blog, but the system forbid me not to. So I re divert it here.)"

  4. (Via Avis Viswanathan)

    Grateful for the mention and for letting me know Susan Deborah! My two-penny worth on your Post's theme - what we in the management world know as the Stockdale Paradox is to be bifocal in Life - Confront the brutal facts of your current reality at one level and keep the Faith that things will get better one day for sure. It's a feet on the ground, head in the skies perspective. This is what works. Mere optimism can drain you when things don't happen per deadlines YOU set. Life knows no deadlines. Life knows only how to flow, at its terms, at its pace....!

  5. huh its an interesting thought...i am not a fan of fake it til you make it false emotion, but i do try to keep a positive attitude and look at the beauty in things, the possibility...i see the shadow though as well and thing there is as much relevance to it...

  6. Hi, Susan Deborah! ~

    I feel a strong affinity to your stated viewpoint here. It also seems somewhat synchronized with the quandary inherent in my current post 'Bloom Where You Are Planted".

    Of course, I've heard every version of putting down 'positive thinking' because of the business I'm in. Personally, I fall back on the words of great, positive geniuses such as Henry Ford who said, "If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you're right."

    I have yet to find a naysayer as personally successful as ol' Henry, so I guess that's what brooding will get you ;-)

  7. Hope is different right, hope is a good thing... optimism, is more or less same? I don't know...

  8. Dear Susan Deborah, I see little, if any, difference from which you write this Monday (Now I 'm really confused--maybe it's Saturday, that's OK, but which ONE? Hmmmm.

    Back to topic: I kept looking for amother piece of dirt, to stick my roots. When I meet people from home town--who've never brached out--except to visit "Grandma"...we have little of substance to talk about.

    Could ne my fault--wanting to get BACK ON THE ROAD AGAIN! heeheehee.
    My private example of what you have written today is a man who was joyful (acting, possibly, but don't think so) through everything, even when he ran, slamming into doors--left half-open by others, it happened a lot. Or running into a newly placed chair, where before was straight open space. He was deaf/bilnd (Yeah, you know of him) my father, so happy, humming to himself constantly (not in tune!)

    Thanks for this reminder for us who are fairly happy most of the time...wasn't always like that!

    PEACE and LIGHT!
    Steve E

  9. Really fodder for thought! I am also a firm believer of positive thinking. And as you have rightly pointed out, just by saying "positive thinking," the troubles will not melt away. But I do believe that if you are in a better frame of mind, you can fight the battles of life more effectively. And I simply loved the last cartoon!

  10. By who's technique ur glass is full :).. good one..



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