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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 the Audio CD edition.
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 the Audio CD edition.
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In Part 1 of the book he lays out the theoretical case for optimism and the techniques by which it can be measured. In Part 2 he describes how the optimist's advantage is played out in the different "realms of life", such as work, sports, politics, etc. In Part 3, he explains self-help techniques for moving from pessimism to optimism.
I found Part 1 the most interesting - not least because I got to fill out a couple of tests to help me discern my explanatory style and determine if I was currently depressed (and how deeply). It turns out I am moderately optimistic about bad events and moderately pessimistic about good ones. But I am not at all depressed, so I guess I must have learned to live with the contradiction.
Part 3 gets us into the land of the light bulb joke (where to change, the light bulb must truly desire change). I am convinced from my own experience that optimism is like a muscle that can be worked and strengthened. I also recognized in Seligman's techniques ones that I had stumbled onto myself.
In the final analysis, whether the reader will find reading Learned Optimism helpful will depend on the reader. Judging by the Amazon reviews, the experience for some will be life-changing; for others not so. Perhaps underlying explanatory style may have something to do with that. Perhaps also a self-help book is not the best therapy for the truly, deeply depressed (as the book suggests, you can improve your outlook but you have to be motivated to start a mental workout routine and stick with it to see the positive results). However there is much to learn here and I would not hesitate to recommend the book to anyone interested in understanding more about the origin and effect of individual explanatory styles - including one's own - and what can be done to change them.
Part two can be quickly skimmed - it goes into too much detail on study results for casual readers not interested in verifying or replicating psychology experiments.
Most recent customer reviews
I also realized people let external negative events permeate into their everyday...Read more