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Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life Paperback – January 3, 2006
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Martin Seligman, a renowned psychologist and clinical researcher, has been studying optimists and pessimists for 25 years. Pessimists believe that bad events are their fault, will last a long time, and undermine everything. They feel helpless and may sink into depression, which is epidemic today, especially among youths. Optimists, on the other hand, believe that defeat is a temporary setback or a challenge--it doesn't knock them down. "Pessimism is escapable," asserts Seligman, by learning a new set of cognitive skills that will enable you to take charge, resist depression, and make yourself feel better and accomplish more.
About two-thirds of this book is a psychological discussion of pessimism, optimism, learned helplessness (giving up because you feel unable to change things), explanatory style (how you habitually explain to yourself why events happen), and depression, and how these affect success, health, and quality of life. Seligman supports his points with animal research and human cases. He includes tests for you and your child--whose achievement may be related more to his or her level of optimism/pessimism than ability. The final chapters teach the skills of changing from pessimism to optimism, with worksheet pages to guide you and your child. --Joan Price --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
The author, a leading expert on the theory and treatment of depression, has written a lively, very accessible book on the power of a positive outlook and how to develop it. Basing his theories on his original research on "learned helplessness," Seligman goes on to develop a systematic model for the cognitive treatment of depression. This book summarizes his more recent work on a person's characteristic predisposition toward optimism or pessimism. Convincingly demonstrating that an optimistic mood contributes to one's success and happiness, Seligman goes on to demonstrate how a more optimistic outlook can be developed. Presented for lay readers, this book can be highly recommended to professionals as well for its lucid and informative introduction to cognitive therapy and its approach to issues of mood and depression.
- Paul Hymowitz, New York Medical Coll.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Maybe I'm not lazy, selfish, or depressed--I just have a system of negative thoughts that are making me feel disempowered and helpless. It's becoming clear that my thinking is VERY cyclically pessimistic; I even feel a clenching in my chest every time I return to one of my negative beliefs. But even today, the first day I've consulted with this book, I've used some of its technique to challenge my negative thinking, with positive results. I'd been putting off returning a friend's text because I thought he might be upset with me, but just examining that belief made me realize how knee-jerk and baseless it is. Having reoriented myself, I texted him back.
It's one small step but that felt VERY powerful. I already did feel compelled to reattribute much of my depression as pessimism, and if I do that there will be ways to positively change every thought I have. All we are is the set of assumptions we make about the world, and I'm amazed at how little I've been examining my own assumptions.
I am so happy I bought this book. Take a look at the preview and see if it resonates with you; it did with me because it's so research-based, not airy or cheerful at all. Just useful and powerful. If you struggle with any sort of depression or ineffectiveness, I recommend you give those first few pages a read. It really might give us all a way to get better.
Instead of directing the reader's process, it follows the advice my teacher used to give me -- if you're struggling with an adversary, capture one of the enemy and interrogate it. The more you know about how it operates, the better you'll be at keeping it out of your way. It provides questionnaires that help with assessing the problem, both at the beginning and along the way (ALWAYS use a sheet of paper for the quizzes, so you can take them repeatedly and evaluate the changes you're making), and suggestions for strategies to get in touch with your feelings and construct a personal strategy for healing..
Learned Optimism sets out on a quest to change a fundamental aspect of human personality. While we have all been asked the question, "Is the glass half empty or half full?", who knew a book could help change your answer? Is that an overstatement? Absolutely not.
Seligman explains that people have different ways of explaining events. When an event happens, it can be seen as neutral. The milk spilled; WE are the ones who say that is a 'good' or 'bad' thing. While many self help books try to address the issue of positivity, they advocate blindly holding an optimistic attitude. I have read many pop psychology and self help books, ranging from "The Power of Positive Thinking" to "How to Win Friends and Influence People", to "Think and Grow Rich" (I'm still trying this one - no luck so far). Some of these self-help books advocate an almost faith-based approach to changing one's behavior. Simply will something, and if you desire it enough, you can manifest it! Allow your inner thoughts and desires to carve out your external world! Think positive and you can do anything!
I believe Zig Ziglar said that no matter how positive somebody was, if they aren't a certified cardiovascular surgeon, he wouldn't trust them to give him open heart surgery! I agree, and I think positive thinking without realism, prudence, and planning is pointless. In Learned Optimism, this problem is addressed. Seligman points out that being positive isn't something you turn on and keep on 24/7. When a bad thing happens, an optimistic person doesn't paint over it, declaring "It will be totally fine, I'm happy!". The difference is that an innate optimist would say that negative events are external and temporary.
This distinction is an incredible revelation, and we all do this to an extent! When treated rudely, perhaps by a clerk, a pessimist might declare that "People are rude, this is the way things are.", and that the clerk "Was a jerk". They might be upset or offended, taking the clerk's actions as an attack toward them. An optimist, according to Seligman, THINKS differently. They might say "THIS (particular) Clerk is acting rude." He or she "must have woken up on the wrong side of the bed."
This difference in explanatory style was the key concept I took away from this book. While events simply occur, one's interpretation can be positive or negative. So if it's a choice, then how do we change from being pessimistic to being optimistic?
You'll have to read the book to find out. Either way, just know that while positive psychology is a new field, I gained more from this scientifically accredited book than I did reading 5 self-help books. Apply the concepts and principles within, and you might just surprise yourself! :)