Developing RESILIENCE – Thinking (Part 2)

PREVIOUS: Resilience – Mental  #1

SITE: Basic differences between Optimists, Pessimists & Realists”

Being mentally resilient gives us ‘response flexibility’ – the ability to pause > step back > reflect > shift perspectives > create options > & choose wisely.  Psychologist Linda Graham calls this process ‘de-centering’ – a way to not get lost in the moment. Then we can observe the experience from a neutral standpoint, & try to solve the problem – using appropriate thinking, instead of acting on impulse.

As a starting point for this ability – when a child is upset, but only crying, pouting or raging – an attentive, caring parent could say “Use your words! Tell me what’s bothering you.” Once the child is old enough to form thoughts & has a basic knowledge of emotion words – this can be very beneficial. Taking a breath & the time to identify feelings & thoughts,  effectively switches the brain from the emotional narrative side (Right), to the observational, thinking side (Left). This is not to deny or suppress the child’s upset, but rather it’s teaching them to find balance, which  promotes resilience.

“Living well is the best revenge” includes keeping a realistic sense of optimism, by accurate & flexible thinking in every situation.
Reframing how we think about stressful events & correcting any cognitive distortion helps make things turn out better, in spite of unfair & undeserved suffering.

Dr. Martin Seligman put together the ABC model of “Learned Optimism:
“Beliefs (B) about an adversity (A) – not the adversity itself – cause the consequent (C) feelings. (see Post)
This means that external events do not automatically cause our Emotions – since what bothers one person is neutral to another – but rather come from what we think about those events – which can be modified or changed. (More…..)

All forms of resilience require a certain level of maturity. Most of us are some combination of the following categories (Least to Most ‘psychologically/ spiritually’ mature) & we can even switch between them during the day.

OPPORTUNISTS – are very adaptable, seeing opportunities everywhere they can take advantage of, with little regard to how it affects others (think Quark of DS9)

PESSIMISTS – are either ‘addicted’ to a deprivation mentality, or skeptical worriers who need proof that something’s safe before they agree with an idea, take on a task, a relationship, a new way of life….

REALISTS – are independent, practical-minded & excellent problem-solvers. They see things as they are, without sugar-coating

OPTIMISTS – are generally look at the bright side of things, appreciating every little thing, & tend not to ‘understand’ anyone who’s depressed & negative (think Goldie Hawn, Jenna Elfman)

IDEALISTS – look for things that have deeper meanings, working to form genuine relationships. They have a bright outlook on the future, but aren’t always realistic enough. Helping & seeing others succeed brings them joy.

NOTE: What the top cartoon ↗️ does not include is that when Optimists are punched by life – they get up again & move on! 



Pessimism  & Optimism on the brain
Neuro-scientists studying Ps & Os (with college students in the West) noticed that several parts of the brain (IFG=inferior frontal gyrus, the amygdala & anterior cingulate cortex) were activated differently when subjects were shown negative, neutral or positive images.
One result seen in these 2 scans:
a. When ‘finding out the world is better than you thought’ – updating beliefs in a positive direction – scans showed increased activity in the left IFG.

b. When updating beliefs in a negative direction (‘finding out the world is worse than you thought’), pessimists showed significant decreased activation in the right IFG.  The worse the participant’s mood (from a questionnaire), the higher the activation in that area.

In comparing Ps & Os, when using updated beliefs in a negative direction, both optimists & pessimists showed similar activation in the left IFG, & pessimistic participants had significantly less reaction in their right IFG than optimists.
Several other studies have tied activation in the right IFG to pessimistic thinking.

Neurotransmitter systems also can differentiate Os & Ps. Sufficient Dopamine seems important in maintaining the positive bias, & low Serotonin has been implicated in the negative bias. (MORE….)

BTW – correcting chemical imbalances is the reason for taking meds – although not everyone can take them safely.

NEXT: Resilience – Emotions #1

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