Saturday, January 16, 2010

Selling optimism

I was reading an article in the Washington Post, "Researchers ask why optimism is associated with health, pessimism with disease", and it was interesting for what the researchers are trying to prove. They've always tried to link optimism to good health, a good attitude and prosperity. And the opposite, link pessimism to disease, illness, depression, and everything bad physical and mental health.

And they tried to link better social attitude and prosperity to the whole mess of optimism, meaning pessimism is linked to being alone, social phobias, and everything else they can dump on the evidence. Except it's never been fully proven true, only interpretations of the data to what they set out to prove anyway.

Overstated, maybe a little. But when other researchers looked at the data and their interpretations, they discovered they didn't include other factors effecting a person's health, such as economic and financial standing, social networks, education, experience, and so on down the list, but more importantly the invdividual's genetics and characteristics.

They simply made connections which don't ring true when examined under the whole suite of data. They selective choose which factors they wanted and denied the rest had merit or value. And if nothing else, I am an example. I have excellent health, barring the genetic conditions provided by my ancestors. I exercise (walking, running, hiking, etc.) and am active (photographer).

Due to issues and problems with my digestive system I eat healthy, all natural and organic foods, minus the occasional prepared soups and meals I can't fix. I eat a variety of foods, that my body will allow. In short, I am the very model of the optimistic persons based on individual health and fitness in their interpretations.

Except I have genetic, meaning lifelong, Dysthymia and optimism isn't in my mindset. I am predisposed to pessimistic thinking, feeling and emotion from mild to moderate and on occasions in the my life, severe depression. It's who I am, and that flies in the face of their statements about pessimistic people.

And it's what Barbara Ehrenreich points out in her new book on Optimism. The data has been misinterpreted and misused and the widespread acceptance of optimism by people is at the foundation of many of this country's problems.

We have hyped optimism into a hole we can't see out of, let alone find answers. Just look at the news, especially the interviews of people, and especially politicians. They espouse confidence, hope, and so on with the words saying it will get better, forgetting that same "get better" is what got us where we are today. Our hype of optimism is part and parcel key in the whole suite of problems we're facing.

And still we hype optimism. Like the blind being lost with no companion or tools to know where they are, let alone how to get out. We're blind to our own hype. And we keep paying the price.

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