Becoming pessimistic after trauma is understandable. Trauma tends to test every resource, and can result in clinical depression, anxiety and a general feeling of being unsafe. Pessimism becomes a protective measure that buffers vulnerability.
But like any defense mechanism used excessively, negative attitudes tend to impede us from attaining what we want most. Fortunately, optimism can be learned and replace pessimism.
Before any habit can be changed, we must first become aware of it. Forming an intention to increase the awareness of our pessimism helps us to recognize the associated behaviors as they occur. Journaling and/or meditations can assist us in this process. The more details we can identify around a behavior, the more we are empowered to allow optimism to develop.
Questions that can increase our awareness include:
- How does pessimism show in my self-talk?
- What was I thinking at the time?
- What was I feeling I at the time?
- What am I afraid of?
As we recognize negative self-talk, the negative content of our communications with others, and the tendency to worry, we can take responsibility, without judgment, for these behaviors and determine the actions needed to build optimism. The responsibility accepted is not for the trauma, but both for the pessimism that follows after surviving the traumatic experience and for developing optimism. Responsibility is accepted without judgment.
As our awareness grows about our personal pessimistic views, there are multiple actions that can cultivate optimism. Our goal is not to eliminate pessimism, as this will contribute to an internal struggle. Instead, by shifting our focus from the undesired behavior to a wanted behavior, we build the foundation for the desired change.
There are numerous actions we can take and, for many individuals, using several strategies at once can be most effective. Asking someone we trust to point out when we are talking negatively can reinforce our awareness. Surrounding ourselves with positive people, while minimizing time spent around those who tend to complain too much, is a simple but powerful step toward optimism.
Reading stories and watching movies that are inspiring is another simple step that can be incorporated into your daily life. Stories of overcoming challenges can remind us of our own resiliency. I have developed a list of movies and books that can help get you started. The flipside is to decrease watching news and movies, as well as reading material, that reinforces cynicism.
Another action is to make a daily list of things we appreciate about each day. This can include something as simple as getting mostly green lights to greater experiences such as receiving unexpected money or spending the day with the love of your life. Appreciation nurtures optimism.
Some have unsuccessfully utilized affirmations in an attempt to change their thinking patterns. However, Afformations by Noah St. John have assisted many people in their efforts. Instead of trying to convince the mind that we have something that we do not see in our lives (e.g., I am rich), Afformations retrain the mind in how we think. Examples of Afformations include the following: Why am I so loved? Why are my needs met effortlessly? Why do I have more money than I need? Why do I have so much peace? Why am I so optimistic?
Sometimes, in spite of our best efforts, we need additional support in our transformative actions. Having someone who understands the residual issues of trauma can be powerful in the ongoing healing process. To learn more about trauma life coaching and to receive a free 30 minute session, please click here.
Acknowledgment of Progress
Finally, being kind to ourselves in this process is essential to success. Instead of focusing on where we fall short in our efforts of change, we want to reward any steps we take. Offering constant reminders of how far we have come reinforces our ongoing transformation. I often remind my clients that they did not get to where they are overnight nor can they expect immediate change.
So celebrate the miracle of being you and all that you have to offer. The world is full of surprises.