Five keys to cultivating intelligent optimism

Far from the magic, intelligent optimism is a way of seeing life on the right side that is not opposed to the complexity of our psyche or reason. The psychologist and psychoanalyst Alain Braconnier proposes ways to appropriate it.

Flavia Mazelin Salvi

There are two kinds of mistrust in optimism. The one tinged with ironic contempt, because in our culture, intelligence and pessimism are traditionally associated. The other is skeptical about the exhortations to change the look on oneself, on others and on the world to finally see the glass half full. This double mistrust is not only the expression of a resistance to change, it is also legitimate: it has an optimism but stupidity that the psychologist and psychoanalyst Alain Braconnier calls "optimism of illusion", which consists of a mixture, clever and sometimes not very honest, of magic thought, denial and sub-method Coué. Thus, it would be enough to believe to see, to say to be and to repeat to win.

Good news, there is also an optimism that reconciles realism and critical thinking, and that we can call "intelligent optimism". "Intelligent because we start from the observation that it produces benefits in the different areas of our world. Alain Braconnier, who is the leitmotif of the American psychology researcher Christopher Peterson: according to him, studies show that this disposition of mind is associated with happiness, perseverance and personal fulfillment The intelligent optimist is not in the illusion: he plans, takes into account the criterion of efficiency, where the optimist of the illusion is content with incantatory formulas. " It is understood that we are not all equal in the face of this ability: our history, our experiences, but also our biology make the difference. But we can all increase our wellness capital. Because it does not neglect the services of pessimism, does not deny the complexity of our psyche and, above all, because it appeals to our personal resources and our intelligence, this optimism seduces us and convinces us. Alain Braconnier offers us five tracks to explore.

Use pessimism

If optimism is bad press, so is pessimism, demonized by activists of positive thinking. However, this trait, which drives us to see the glass half empty, is not necessarily this malicious sherpa that guides us slyly on the paths of discouragement, inaction and depression. Well used, it could even serve our projects and our ambitions. First, because it is anticipatory: it forces us to take into consideration obstacles, difficulties, obstacles, as many possible failure factors, or problems that our enthusiasm sometimes leads us to minimize or ignore.In a word, it puts us back into the complexity of reality and makes us think better of our decisions and choices. It is the guardrail that prevents us from falling into "the optimism of illusion" and a lever of creativity, so sublimation. By forcing us to use initiative and imagination to overcome obstacles, pessimism pushes us into our entrenchments and allows us to mobilize all our resources. Lucidity, anticipation, imagination are the virtues of a selective pessimism, put at the service of a realistic optimism. Let's listen to that wary inner voice, list its warnings, and think about how we could achieve our ends despite the pitfalls.

Reasoning positive

It is not easy to remain optimistic about a painful life event or a moody mood. And it is not easier than effective to repeat in a loop that all is well and that time will do its work. On the other hand, a method has proved its worth. It is a question of borrow from the optimists two peculiarities of their reasoning: "the optimistic disposition to think the future" and "the positive explanatory mode of the events". Easy to implement, they are cognitive variants, that is to say on ways of reasoning and not feeling.

The optimistic disposition to think about the future can be defined as a general confidence in obtaining results or as the ability to imagine that there will be feelings, behaviors, positive experiences to live. It is therefore a question of endeavoring, when one is in the negative anticipation, to oppose to each fear or obstacle its positive antidote, so as to rebalance the thought and the emotions. Indulge in positive reverie about the future, without concern for realism, is also a pleasant and effective way to block anxiety. The positive explanatory mode of events has been studied by psychology researchers, who have found that optimists tend to view unpleasant episodes as momentary, situation-specific, and related to reasons beyond them. Let us try to analyze each negative experience by passing it through these three criteria. To practice, one can think back to past events and make a narrative that takes into account these elements.

Another point that sets them apart from the pessimists is that optimists think that acting will have more beneficial consequences than if they simply "do things". Active behavior (developing a strategy, making a choice, taking an action) is always more positive - in terms of self-image, confidence and future vision - than behavior of inhibition or passivity. The good reflex is to take into account the situation (failure, impasse) then to ask oneself: "What can I do now?"It makes us leave the position of victim to put us back in the position of subject.

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