Monday, September 8

Everybody Needs to Read this Book Now!

What are you doing right now? If you answered anything other than reading Learned Optimism, you should maybe reconsider and decide to read it instead of whatever you were doing.


This book is so good that the Department of Health and Welfare should issue a copy of it to every household in America.

Learned Optimism deals with the impact pessimism has on a person's life, especially the influence pessimism has on depression. Dr. Martin Seligman has spent over 40 years studying the link between pessimism and depression, concluding that pessimism negatively reinforces and prolongs depression and causes people to become helpless and inactive in their lives. So, what your mother always told you about thinking positive has been clinically proven to be true.

This all sounds like, "duh" stuff, especially if you are familiar with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, but the book has tests you can take to find out how optimistic/pessimistic you are and how prone to depression you are. Seligman also includes tests he gives to kids to find out how optimistic/pessimistic/prone to depression they are. If you have or work with kids, you should seriously check this out, because Dr. Seligman discusses how easily children (and adults) can change the habit of rationalizing/explaining bad experiences from a pessimistic style to an optimistic style, making it easier to bounce back from hardship or failure and keep trying.

I'm only half way through this book, but I already feel like it's helped me immensely. As Dr. Seligman has found, there are certain people (many of whom are women) who ruminate over and over again on things in their life, which I've also heard of as repetitive destructive thinking. Rumination can be a very destructive force for pessimistic thinkers because it causes you to analyze and re-analyze and reinforce negative thoughts, causing you to become depressed and unable to do...well, anything, really.

I am a ruminator. This is why I had so much trouble working at the call center, because there were many MANY negative encounters at that place--at least half of all conversations or interactions involved complaining, yelling, put-downs, etc. I would end up going over and over them again in my mind until I just didn't want to do anything except think about those things constantly, like women who would scream from the beginning of a phone call to the end that they were going to sue our company or get people fired or kill their delivery driver--all because delivery was running late on some nonessential item like eyeshadow. (Even non-customer interactions at that place were negative. Between the bad feelings caused by negative phone encounters and the bad feelings caused by management-union power struggles, that place was a nightmare. I always felt like I was in prison while I worked there. Let me reiterate how glad I am that I don't work there anymore. I am sorry that place is being closed down because I don't want people to lose their jobs, but I hope they can find somewhere happier to work. I'm pretty sure "Call Center" is one of Dante's nine levels of hell).

I think I see some unfortunate souls with headphones in the bottom third here:


That was quite a digression, but I really want to stress how awful and destructive it is to ruminate over negative thoughts. It is stupid. If you find you think constantly about bad things that have happened or worry about bad things that might happen, you should definitely take a look at Learned Optimism. You also may want to look at the website called MoodGym, which has exercises to help rid you of those negative repetitive thoughts.

1 comment:

Mambinki said...

Thanks for the book recommendation! The place where I work, we use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy as our treatment modality so I should definitely check this out.

I agree on teh call center thing. That was an extremely negative place to be for hours each day. Not only were people on the phone ridiculously angry, the people working there were too. Yuck. I'm glad it is over.

Yay for being happier now.