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Pessimism vs Optimism vs Realism - Empathy & Morality

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Winston S. Churchill

When all news seems to be bad news we may all start thinking ‘We’re all doomed’ like Private Frazer in `Dad’s Army` and be unable to understand those who seem to sing ‘Always look on the bright side of life’ like Eric Idle in Monty Python’s `Life of Brian`.



Anyway, with all the government cuts which are badly affecting the vulnerable in our society, the wars, crime, corruption, etc., life can be very distressing - which has prompted me to look into these different states of mind and write this blog.

A pessimist looks at the darker side of life and is easily subdued. The moment a pessimist encounters a difficulty they tend to give up, rather than try to make it work. A pessimist thinks that nothing can be done in a given situation and does not try to do anything adventurous they think that things can only get worse.

We can all become pessimistic about the future, expecting the worse to happen and be filled with doom and gloom. Negative thinking can escalate, leaving us in a hopeless state - cynical and distrustful about everything and thoroughly depressed.

It starts by thinking your life is bad, then that moves on to everyone’s life is bad, the country is bad, the world is as bad and corrupt as it could possibly be and evil will most probably prevail over good.

An optimist looks at the bright side of life and cannot be easily subdued - they always hope for the best, never give up challenges, love adventures and hope that time will change a bad situation to a good situation.

Even when a situation is very hard they can find at least one good thing to make them carry on - they make the best of what they have.

People tend to prefer those who are bright and optimistic rather than pessimistic because an optimistic person knows how to appreciate and be happy.

A realist looks at the things around as it is in reality, does not believe in probability, considers things at their real value, deals with things in a practical way does not believe in imagination – whereas optimists only see the good, do not think in a practical way and believes in imagination.

Realists do not allow their perceptions to take hold of the reality of the situations, but on the other hand, give more importance to the reality of the world and its happenings – this does not mean that a realist is a pessimist.

This is important - it is the ability to understand other peoples’ perspective and to communicate that understanding i.e. feeling genuine distress when confronted with the distress, sorrow or loss of others.

It we have empathy we are able to discern core emotions; recognise the facial display of emotion; identify emotion in verbal statements, tone of voice and body language; carefully select appropriate emotion words when responding; demonstrate appropriate emotional responses; offer sensitive reflection statements; and generalise emotional content to new or comparable situations

Empathy is foundational to moral development. Justice, being a core value, has two components - care and equity - empathy provides a foundation for both. Indeed, emotions are an individual’s moral compass, evolutionarily developed to guide and self-regulate our behaviour.

The process of labelling emotions helps develop empathy. Sadly, our Tory government has set about re-labelling the most vulnerable groups of people in our society – to break down our empathy with them and replace this with distaste and disgust. We must reverse this moral decline in every way we can.

Courage means taking action in the face of fear – as opposed to cowardice, which is not taking action when feeling fearful. We must not allow ourselves to become pessimistic because we will be too subdued to bring about any change for the better. We must be optimistic yet realistic at the same time. Above all we must remain empathetic, work on our courage and keep our moral compass working well.

With the pace of change today, we are all concerned about the future but together we can make a difference no matter what type of person we are – whether we consider ourselves to be too far down the pessimistic, optimistic or anything else road and I am sure we have all crossed back and forth from all of these states of mind at some times in our lives.


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commented 2016-03-07 11:58:04 +0000
I will always try and make sure my colleagues glasses are more than half full although realistically there may be exceptions.

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