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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Optimist or Pessimist?

I could bitch for hours about the disgusting heat wave we are having in Canada right now, but after seeing and hearing about what folks in Somalia are facing right now because of drought, it just doesn't seem right.

What a peverse world we live in, huh? Here in North America we face a growing obesity epidemic because of our over consumption of calories and our insufficient energy expenditure. Half a world away millions of people are facing starvation.

Of course, this is a global problem that goes beyond individual life choices. It involves politics, economics and culture

Will things ever change for the better? I am not sure. How do you feel?

Are you generally an optimist or a pessimist?

I am probably more often a pessimist, which is typical of somone like me who tends to be an anxious worrier.

Like many anxious folks, I tend to hold common dysfunctional beliefs about my worry like: preparing for the worst possible outcome will (1) prevent it from actually happening, and (2) it will protect me from pain and disappointment if it does happen.

Really, our thoughts are not this powerful. If they were, we could just think positively and only positive things would happen to us, right?

We discuss this stuff in our therapy sessions at the fertility clinic a lot. Couples facing infertility often cope differently, with men being more hopeful, and women being more cautious and pessimistic. The women try to prepare themselves for the worst by expecting the worst, but then they worry that their worry and negative thinking will actually negatively affect the outcome of their fertility treatments and/or pregnancy.

But research shows this not to be the case. No matter how negatively you think, this does not lessen the pain of failure and loss. Nor does negative thinking affect outcomes of fertility treatments or pregnancy.

Nevertheless, this may be different in other areas of life, such as how we perform or success at a given task. In fact, there is an abundance of literature that shows that self-efficacy beliefs (beliefs in one's ability to accomplish a given task) are significantly related to health behaviour change.

For example, if you embark on a quest to lose weight, quit smoking or start exercising, but do not actually have a lot of confidence to reach the goal, you are much less likely to reach the goal. If, however, you begin this quest with confidence that you will be successful, you are significantly more likely to actually be successful.

I am trying to keep all of this research in mind right about now. I have started worrying about what I am going to do when I finish school. Here are my what-ifs:

What if I try to start my own counselling practice and can't get any clients?

What if, because I can't get any clients I have to look for a counselling job but I can't get one because I have so little experience?

What if so much time goes by that I have not had an income that I have to settle by taking another research job?

What if I end up being stuck back in the research industry and the past two year (time and financial) investment was all for nothing?

What if I am miserable in this research job but end up stuck there for the rest of my working life?

What underlies all of these worries is my lack of confidence/pessimism about my ability to go out on my own and build my own counselling practice. But I am trying to reign in my fears and insecurities since torturing myself will not lessen the suffering I will experience should the worst case scenario actually occur, nor is it likely to help my chances of actually reaching my goal. So please excuse me while I go get a drink of water...and fill it up half full. As I gulp it down, I will keep repeating this mantra: I CAN DO IT!

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