Learned Optimism: Is Martin Seligman’s Glass Half Full? - Deepstash
Learned Optimism: Is Martin Seligman’s Glass Half Full?

Learned Optimism: Is Martin Seligman’s Glass Half Full?


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Learned Optimism: Is Martin Seligman’s Glass Half Full?

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Learned Optimism in Psychology

This is a concept that suggests that we can always change our attitude and behaviour, be aware of our thoughts and stop our negative self-talk.

Learned Optimism is a positive psychology concept, and is the opposite of Learned Helplessness, which states delves into people who believe they are incapable of changing their circumstances after repeated exposure to stressful and negative events.


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Pessimism is defined as the anticipation of good or bad things to happen in the future, while optimism is generally considered the opposite. Optimism can be defined as the individual difference variable reflecting the extent of which we hold positive expectancies for the upcoming event.

The ways in which we think affects our health, well-being and success, even though the situations are the same.


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  • A positive impact on many aspects of physical and mental health.
  • Provides motivation to work harder.
  • Greater career success in life.


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Teaching And Learning Optimism

Interestingly, life provides the same problems, tragedies and setbacks on both an optimist and a pessimist, but the optimist is able to weather them better and live a happy, successful life. It is possible to learn and teach optimism and change one’s perception of life.


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People tend to see things differently, and this affects their perception. Our selective attention can see things in contrasting ways and also form different opinions based on what information is processed.


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We all have either an internal or an external locus of control. This cognitive mechanism provides us with confidence that we can change the elements of our lives.

Having the locus of control on the outside makes it subject to every twist and turn of our lives, making us feel helpless.


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  • Pessimists take everything personally, leading to any kind of failure hurting their self-esteem.
  • Optimists attribute failure to external, localized circumstances and keep their self-esteem and positivity intact.


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The three cognitive distortions (3P’s) that need to be changed:

  • Personalization: Optimists tend to externalize any failure, rather than taking it personally or blaming themselves.
  • Pervasiveness: While pessimists tend to close the doors after facing a setback, optimists see negative events as temporary and bounce back.
  • Permanence: A negative situation is often viewed as lasting or unchangeable by pessimists while optimists understand that things are flexible, and changeable.


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Albert Ellis’ ABC technique refers to: Adversity, Beliefs and Consequences.

  • _Adversity is the problem in hand, and your Belief is how you explain that problem to yourself.
  • The Three P’s come into play while you encounter something (I lost my job) and how you explain that (I am unworthy!).
  • If you think you are never going to get any other job again and will starve to death, that is the point that you need to change (Going from A to B).
  • The consequences are what you get, based on how your self-talk._


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