Optimism is Irrational

I think of optimism as a denial of reality.  Both in it’s modern pop psych sense and in it’s original philosophical sense.

The original philosophy was that We are living in the best possible world.  Clearly evidence abounds that this not true.  But since it was a religious viewpoint it didn’t have to be factual, it only had to explain why the world sucked and to make people think that the world sucking was the best possible thing.   The odd part is that it is so easy to subvert into making your current choice be OK.  So one could do horrible thing or not help in horrible situations and just say – this is the best possible choice because this is the best possible world.

Today though, optimists are really just positive thinkers and so don’t say that this is the best possible world, but they use a variation of it.  They look at the happy side of life in all situations.  But in order to do that, one has to ignore the bad things.  Or one has to manipulate one’s view of a situation to change a negative thing into a positive thing.  So an optimist drops a glass of red wine and says “one less glass to wash!” “I need to drink less, this was fortunate.”  How pleasant and positive.  But it ignores the red wine stain on the white carpet.  The dangerous broken glass that needs to cleaned up.  And if you need to drink less – that is a problem that requires an active solution, not an accidental chance.

When I worked in Corporate America, this positivity thing was toxic.  They would implement a change and if anyone expressed a concern or pointed out a problem, they were labeled negative.  Don’t Be A Complainer!  Be Positive about Change!  As though that would fix things.  But it quite naturally did not. Instead it taught people to avoid pointing out issues. As a result changes were often littered with problematic outcomes that everyone worked around without complaining to anyone who could fix it.  More work but better for your career.   Looking at problems and addressing them fixes it.  Pretending they don’t exist does not.

That corporate positivity is an offshoot of the pop-psychobabble that pretends that if people think positively everything will turn up roses.  Affirmations of positive things!  Project your best future!  Imagine  your best life and it will appear!   It’s not quite the same thing as positivity, but it takes that same delusional manipulation of reality as its platform and just magnifies it 10 fold by including magical thinking.

I think we need to look at life complexly.  I recognize and don’t think that we should ignore the positive aspects of life.  And I think being able to see the silver lining is good. But it is a silver lining in a storm.  It’s not the entirety of the situation.

Optimism and Pessimism are equally pointless projections.  There is value in Reality.  In looking at the entire situation and acknowledging all of it.  In the long run it means positive change.  Because there is no point in changing if this is the best of all possible worlds or if all I do is focus on the positive and ignore the negative.

It’s important to see that same situation can be viewed from different perspectives, as with half empty / half full glass.  Because we need to be aware that all we are doing is changing our own viewpoint, not the situation.  The amount of water in the glass remains fixed.   But being able to see it both ways makes you aware of the flaw of perspective.  If you focus only on how full it is, you may not recognize that you will need more water.  If you focus on how empty it is you may panic and start hoarding water.  If you realize that there are two perspectives you can set that aside and look for larger context.  How much water do I have and how much do I need and what actions do I need to take?

Reality is Complicated.  Simplification doesn’t help you.  Positivity / Optimism is simplification.

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There is a cold on my horizon.

I’m surrounded by the cell exploding virus at work.  It started with the boss, but it has gotten a good foothold in the office and I’m just waiting for it to smack me around.

I just sneezed and am now sure I will wake up tomorrow with a sore throat and giant head cold.

Last week on Reddit someone on r/ask science asked why we are tired and weak when we have colds.  And someone answered.  And gave a complete answer on what is happening inside your body when you have a cold.

The only part that counts is that your cells are exploding.  THEY ARE EXPLODING, JIM! Essentially a virus invades your cell, replicates until your cell can’t hold it and then the EXPLOSION!  Now virus is splattered all over the neighboring cells who get invaded and the cycle repeats until your immune system kicks in.  That’s when you start to feel SUPER CRAPPY.  Mucus, fever, inflammation, etc.

It’s our own immune system trying to eradicate the virus that makes us feel like crap.  BUT EXPLODING CELLS.  I never got past that.

I’m gonna assume the sore throat is the cells exploding.  I’m just connecting dots, but if you recall that fire-like sore throat that started your last cold, you will agree that it all makes more sense once you realize your throat is like a battle field of exploding cells.

Anyway, I’m just waiting for the grenades to go off.

What are you doing.

The Difference between Hope and Optimism

Sometimes – Sheenagh Pugh

Sometimes things don’t go, after all,
from bad to worse.  Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don’t fail,
sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.

A people sometimes will step back from war;
elect an honest man, decide they care
enough, that they can’t leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.

Sometimes our best efforts do not go
amiss, sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen:  may it happen for you.

I’m not a fan of optimism.  It strikes me as irrational.

But this poem, fully recognizes every goddamn thing usually does go wrong and reminds us that sometimes the world steps forward into the light and things go right. We survie a new day better than the previous one.  Sometimes.

What I find most encouraging is that those sometimes moments seem to have more power than I give them credit for.  Because the arc of history suggests things are improving for humankind.   Slowly creeping toward a place that in the exhausting daily battle of today’s world affairs it seems impossible to achieve.

Fewer children die, more diseases get eradicated or controlled,  there is less war.  It feels impossible to believe but it is true. And it was achieved by just a few people.  A small percentage of us took initiative.  A few people were the sometimes and things got better.   The power of those moments of sometimes is great.

It’s important to remember when the world feels like it is sliding irrevocably into a pit of despair.  There is a crack of light in the distance.  The darkness, while deep and present, is not complete.

WAKE UP!

I would like to celebrate that Moore wasn’t elected.

But all I can do is see the demographics.  2/3rds of white women voted for a man who preys on teenage girls.  

TWO THIRDS. 

Jones, and the nation, was saved by black voters.  By a smart, well run, get out and vote movement among black citizens.  People who recognized a racist sexual predator was NOT  a good choice for congress.

I don’t know how to make white women pay attention.  To stop and think about the things that they have just accepted as part of the nature of life WHICH DO NOT HAVE TO BE.

I don’t know what will make anyone stop and think about the broader context.  To look beyond defending their identity and into facts in context.

And the lack of thinking is what has led to the state of this country.

 

Customer Service Skills for Health Professionals

It’s a thing that should exist.

People think customer service office work is low end mindless work.

But if you do it well, if you want to be good, it requires skills.  Interpersonal communication skills that require effort and intention.

And I think those skills should be REQUIRED learning for healthcare professionals.  Particularly doctors and nurse practitioners.

A huge amount of diagnosis is getting the relevant information from the patient. That requires guided discussions and active listening.  That requires making sure that both people are sharing understanding of what is being discussed.

Another huge part of healthcare is communicating clearly about diagnosis and plans for fixing problems.  Again, that requires that both parties fully understand what is being discussed.

And finally respect must be communicated.  Fully 80% of what is communicated in a person to person conversation is inferred by body language, tone and assumptions about shared meaning.  Respect is part of that 80% but it is also a pivot in how a person accepts the information they are being given.

There is a reason that some people look at a news story and see truth and others see fake news.  We filter information through our feelings.  The feeling we have about an interaction quite literally changes the understanding we have about the information.

Customer Service, when it is done well, is not so much about happy customers.  It’s about clear transmission of information.  It’s about solving a problem with communication.  Because a person doesn’t feel their problem is solved unless that customer service person made them feel confident that it was solved, regardless of whether or not it was solved.

Studies have shown that people sue doctors that they don’t like, not doctors who screw up.  In other words, if a doctor is likable but makes a bad diagnosis they are far less likely to be sued.  Because people trust the communication more than they trust the ACTUAL SOLUTION.

Insurance companies try to leverage this point to reduce malpractice by teaching doctors to be likeable.  But I think a much more salient point is my original one.  The one that is buried in why people don’t sue doctors they like.  Because HOW people understand what is said is deeply embedded in the feeling of respect and understanding they get from a doctor.

Shared understanding is sitting on a platform of respect.

Medical Schools need to require, at MINIMUM, the level of customer service skills that get taught to the best customer service centers.  And frankly they ought to be taught at the level of a counselor.  If they were, I would bet that the outcomes would be markedly improved.

Capitalism is the Heart of Christmas

It’s not God.  It’s not Jesus. It’s Money.

And that’s not a horrific thing.  It’s an annoying thing if, like me, you dislike crowds and don’t particularly participate in Christmas.

But this is the season that feeds the Western Economy.  Indeed, because of globalisation, it feeds the world economy.  It’s the engine of spending that employs most of us in one way or another.

I find this idea that there is a war on Christmas amusing.  The strongest power in the world is firmly entrenched in the idea of Christmas.  The power of money.  Christmas isn’t going anywhere.

Even today, most Christians have melded the holiness of the day with decorating, buying, cooking and commenting on people who say Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas.

But, sadly for those who still think it’s about religion, Money is all about leveraging for more money.  And so it’s inclusive.  It wants there to a gift giving Hanukkah and it wants Kwanza to be about gifts as well.

Mark my word – it wants Mawlid to be about gift giving too.   Someone, somewhere is working on a way to change a festival for Mohammed’s Birthday into a retail bonanza.  Christmas used to be a festival holiday too.  Now it’s a season of shopping.

AND I bet if they pull it off, the division between Muslims who celebrate Mawlid and those who don’t will disappear.  Because big business always trumps religion.  ESPECIALLY if it can somehow leverage religion into it’s drumbeat.

100 years from now imagine the incredible booming economy that would exist if we could add in a gift exchange for 2 billion Muslims!   Imagine if you gave it a nice unique set of colors and symbols that they would display each year, creating entire industries out of decorating for the holiday.   Almost everyone benefits when the economy is booming.

 

 

I need a list

of things to do when my brain is functional.

Inside my brain are a dozen or more nagging things I should do .  Things that don’t get done because during the brain stillness, I function on a rail.  I do the habits. I walk through the day by doing the next habit.  I focus on conquering the small stuff.

But depression is not a static state and when it moves into the zone of normal I very often get less done than I should because I can’t really seem to put my thoughts into gear to get those nagging tasks done.  I can’t remember them.

I think I need a list.  It has to be on something easily accessible.  So when the nagging thought shows up, I can put it immediately on my list.  Thus removing it’s anxiety from my head.

And when I realize I am in functional normal mode, I can grab the list and do something I wouldn’t normally get done.

I also need the list to be already set up as a functional to-do.  Ie – task broken into it’s component parts.

I will try to do it on one of my phone apps I think.  Although I find writing things down easier, I no longer carry any pad of paper.  I have a phone after-all.

But breaking down the task means it can’t be an app like Remember the Milk.  It has to be a proper to do app.  But that will be an additional electronic nagging rather than a place to put my nagging thought that safely removes it from the anxiety place until I can do it.

I think finding the right app might end up being the first thing on the to do list?  Or at least figuring out how to make an easy app like Milk work for this.

Anyway – that is my current state of mind.  I need more lists in my life.  My brain is way to full of holes.

I bought a cat tree.

I got it quite cheaply compared to most of the cat trees you see, which was why I bought it.  No doubt it’s not as high quality, but…

Anyway, I bought it online in a fit of kitten love.  Then 24 hours later… it occurred to me to check how heavy the delivered box would be.  50lbs.  Huh.  OK.  I can lift that I guess… Up two flights of steps.  I guess.

Then it arrived.  The box was very large.  I was NOT going to be able to carry it.  But I triumphed.  I got out my two wheel cart, essential tool for all single people, tied the box to the cart and pulled that damn box up 2 flights of steps.  And didn’t kill myself by falling head first down the stairs.

Now it’s a box in my living room.  It’s still not a cat tree.

Apparently, cat trees don’t just happen when you open the box.  ASSEMBLY IS REQUIRED.

Assembly has not shown up and the box been waiting since Tuesday.

Saturday – the traditional day to celebrate the Assembly is Required footnote.  I think Assembly must show up today because the cats are currently entertaining themselves by stampeding through the apartment like buffalo.

Happy Cat Stampede is a sound that I personally enjoy, but it is my understanding that other people do not.  And I am going to assume that the downstairs neighbor finds the cat stampede to be annoying.

Hopefully if we assemble this cat tree they will focus their play on the tree and do fewer stampedes at 6am.

I doubt it though.   Maybe she’s deaf.

For the 1st time in 7 years I put up Holiday decorations.

I strung lights around my front window.  I’m rather proud of that step into normal behavior.  I haven’t involved myself in Xmas since my mom died.  But I feel more human and interested in making a pretty place for myself.  So I pulled out a box of lights I bought in an after Xmas sale, with the vague idea of making some kind of decorative element for the bedroom.

Now I need to watch the kitten and how he treats them.  He and Bijou were on the balcony while I put them up.  It’s a beautiful sunny warm winter day and kitten hadn’t been out on the balcony much.  Bijou supervised.  NO GROWLS!!

But I think it was serendipitous because then they weren’t involved in putting up the lights and didn’t see them bouncing about like a toy.

You know.  I really am a WHOLE lot better than I was 5 years ago.  It’s been a long VERY slow slog that feels like nothing gets better.  But it really does.  And it has.  I doubt I will ever be Mrs. Mental Health.  But I’m getting to be Mrs. Mental OK Sometimes.

Maybe I will buy tiny tree too.