A few years ago, I ran into an old acquaintance I hadn’t seen for a while. Our short conversation confirmed just why I hadn’t seen him — and wouldn’t again soon if I could help it! I started off with, “Hey Phil. How’s it going?” His response was, “Oh, you know; same crap, different day.” His expletive-laced language was much spicier than that. He then proceeded to proudly pile up the most recent crap in his life as if inviting me to wallow in it with him. He likely has a closet full of those “inspiring” T-shirts like, “Life’s a Bitch and Then You Die,” or “Gravity is a Myth, The World Just Sucks.”
Our world is full of crap. There’s lots of injustice, inequality, and unfairness. Life isn’t fair; the crap that hits the fan in life is often not evenly distributed. But we get to decide whether to stand in it or not. We decide if we want today to be crappy or happy. If we walk around with our “crap glasses” on, we’ll see lots of it. The more crap we look for, the more crap we see. The more crap we see, the more we look for. My fellow performance improvement author/speaker, psychologist Peter Jensen, calls this “optical rectumitis,” which he loosely translates as “having a shitty outlook on life.”
Our world is also full of beauty, joy, and happiness. We do need to squarely face our issues — the crap — in our lives. Putting on rose-colored glasses and not addressing problems — our moose-on-the-table — means we’re deferring and compounding the day of reckoning when we’ll do a face plant in the crap.
My last few posts are part of a series on “reality.” Overwhelming evidence shows there’s no such thing as objective, definitive, never changing “reality.” As William Arntz, Betsy Chasse, and Mark Vicente put it in their book, What the Bleep Do We Know!?, “The bottom line, at least as far as science has gone up till now, is this: We create the world we perceive. When I open my eyes and look around, it is not ‘the world’ that I see, but the world my human sensory equipment is able to see, the world my belief system allows me to see, and the world that my emotions care about seeing or not seeing.”
C.R.A.P.: Can’t Readily Absorb Positivity?
It’s all in how we frame life’s problems and possibilities. The vibrational energy we put out to the universe, and the energy frequency we’re tuned into, create our reality. There is no objective reality. We don’t see the world as it is; we see the world as we are.
Charles Dickens opens his book, A Tale of Two Cities, opens with these now famous lines, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…”
Dickens contrasts the two ends of what I call the Range of Reality. These are the glasses we put on to look at every aspect of our lives. These are the focal points for the perspective we bring to our every thought and action hundreds of times throughout any given day.
American Heritage Dictionary provides these sharp distinctions for the opposing ends of the Range of Reality:
- A tendency to stress the negative or unfavorable or to take the gloomiest possible view.
- The doctrine or belief that this is the worst of all possible worlds and that all things ultimately tend toward evil.
- The doctrine or belief that the evil in the world outweighs the good.
- A tendency to expect the best possible outcome or dwell on the most hopeful aspects of a situation.
- The doctrine that this world is the best of all possible worlds.
- The belief that the universe is improving and that good will ultimately triumph over evil.
Martin Seligman is the Director of the Penn Positive Psychology Center and Zellerbach Family Professor of Psychology in the Penn Department of Psychology. He is also Director of the Penn Master of Applied Positive Psychology program (MAPP). He’s written more than 350 scholarly publications and 30 books. Seligman’s been studying optimism and pessimism since his foundational experiments and theories of “learned helplessness” at Cornell University in 1967. Here’s how he explains and contrasts his more than forty years of studying pessimism and optimism:
“Pessimists, I have found… are up to eight times more likely to become depressed when bad events occur; they do worse at school, sports, and most jobs than their talents augur; they have worse physical health and shorter lives; they have rockier interpersonal relations, and they lose American Presidential elections to their more optimistic opponents.
“Optimism and hope are quite well-understood, they have been the objects of thousands of empirical studies, and best of all, they can be built. Optimism and hope cause better resistance to depression when bad events strike, better performance in work, particularly in challenging jobs, and better physical health.”
Like Marvel’s Hulk character, we can harbor an inner beast that erupts in negative emotions destructive to ourselves and/or others. The frequency and intensity of our inner demons partially depends on our awareness (cognition and mindfulness) and choices about where we live on the Range of Reality.
Which reality glasses do you wear? Where’s your home on the range?