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The Trouble with Optimism

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The Trouble with Optimism

So many newcomers to the field of psychology may believe that any problems can be solved with a little bit of optimism. Students walk into psychology class so willing and eager to change people’s lives that they lose a little sight of reality. Having the glass half empty vs. half full mantra will make you seem much more like a self-help novel than a licensed professional, and will surely irritate whatever clients you may be working with. True, a positive outlook on situations can be helpful and patients probably won’t succeed in their goals if they don’t at least believe that they have the ability somewhere within them to do so. But they are coming to you with problems, real problems that they’ve tried to solve on their own and haven’t been able to. Your job is not just to tell them to look on the bright side of life. Patients need to be aware of the reality of their own present situations; too much optimism can, in some cases, lead to a delusional outlook on life. They need to recognize their pain. Have them maintain a pessimistic view of their futures if they don't get the psychological assistance they need, and hope for an optimistic view only if they succeed in their plans with you. Optimism can be the attitude but not the action plan.



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