Pessimism lingers like a dark cloud over the aging

Old folks, like me, are sometimes accused of being pessimistic. Young folks are more often optimistic, ready to go and impatiently waiting while old folks are running through a long mental list of potential problems.

Old folks, like me, are sometimes accused of being pessimistic. Young folks are more often optimistic, ready to go and impatiently waiting while old folks are running through a long mental list of potential problems.

Is there any truth to that from your perspective? Mark Twain summed pessimism up succinctly: "There is no sadder sight than a young pessimist."

Oscar Wilde said, a little more pessimistically, "When a pessimist has a choice between too evils, they take both."

I hope to demonstrate that leaves me out as a pessimist. How can we older ones become a bit more optimistic? Realistically optimistic, that is. My theory is that we can become more optimistic by pretending each new situation to be evaluated is a debate, and we have been given the optimistic, the supportive side. If you are going to make that case, you have to seek out some positive points and positive data to make your case. So you are looking for the good aspects and almost every conundrum has at least one.

People have made the case for one side of an issue and then are forced by circumstances to speak for the opposite side, very, very rarely will ever be as convinced and outspoken against their earlier position. Why? Because we tend to find what we are looking for. So attitude is so very important.


My conclusion from that happening, leads me to believe that we can take any position and more frequently develop a positive attitude. The old half-full-glass adage illustrates that as well. When we call the glass half full, we are speaking positively rather than saying it is half empty.

As you listen to politicians speak on an issue, you quickly discover that one party often takes one side and the other the opposing position. Both sides appear to be sincerely convinced that their side is the right one. But then, every now and again, we've had it called to our attention there were unmentioned influences. Some may have had a large financial gift (such as re-election contributions) from the side they are favoring. Sometimes an ethnic and/or religious group is pressuring them to vote in their favor. Sometimes a little undercover hanky pank gets uncovered. But, for the most part, both sides of the political issues get presented and compromise is very often the result.

Why should we attempt to be more optimistic? Optimists tend to be liked more, don't they? Too often, a person with pessimistic tendencies gets the reputation of being a wet blanket - a not too happy person, -- and the wet blanket attitude often dampens the enthusiasm of all would-be participants. And some pessimists even give the impression that they want to be disliked, but those are few and far between.

What does a good business manager tend do since they get job applications from individuals with different attitudes? The resulting interview will tell the business manager an individual sits on the continuum. They tend to hire the optimist as a salesperson and the pessimist to work in the credit department. And they hire many more salespersons.

Pessimism is not as humorous a condition as optimism, but here is an attempt with these definitions:

Pessimism is contagious with our present financial problems; you can get it by watching the six o'clock news.

California is not a happy state right now financially, so it is easier to understand the California pessimist who carries a card saying, "In case of an accident, I'm not surprised."

The pessimist is a person who absorbs sunshine and radiates gloom.


The pessimist thinks the real purpose of sunshine is to cast shadows.

Nothing, and I mean nothing, worries the pessimist more than the optimist who tells them that they have nothing to worry about.

A pessimist has no motor; an optimist no brakes.

Save the best for last -- with our present wars, growing debt and unemployment, if the pessimists aren't satisfied today, they never will be.

Bernie Hughes, Ed.D, is a retired educator who resides in Superior. He can be reached atbernie3024

Editor's note: In last week's aging column, Bernie Hughes incorrectly identified a father charged with his daughter's death as a Christian Scientist. The Wisconsin man accused of killing his daughter by praying rather than seeking medical attention for the diabetic girl was a Christian, but not of the scientology faith. Hughes apologizes for the error.

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