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‘To the pessimist the cup is half-empty. To the optimist it is half-full.’ (20th Century)

25th March 2019

In the stories of Winnie the Pooh, two characters exemplify optimism and pessimism. Tigger is the ultimate optimist, happy, bouncy, not to mention fun, fun, fun, fun, fun! In contrast Eeyore, who always has a dark raincloud hovering over his head, talks about how miserable he is, and proclaims ‘I never get my hopes up, so I never get let down’. I wonder if you would say that your default setting is more Tigger (glass half-full) or Eeyore (glass half-empty)? Most likely it depends on the day or even time of day that you are asked!

Popular psychology is all about positive thinking but we live in what the philosopher Alain de Botton describes as a ‘painfully optimistic’ world. We are encouraged to be upbeat and positive about everything and we even edit our lives on social media to present only the positive, in order to be acceptable. With all this positivity and glass half-fullness on display, it might be expected that everyone must be much happier but on the contrary, never have we been more concerned over our mental health or general lack of happiness. Could it be that too much positivity and optimism has led to an essentially unrealistic and disappointing view of life, so that we need a good dose of pessimism to help us gain a better and more balanced view of reality? Is too much optimism making us unhappy?

One of the strengths of religion has always been its acknowledgment of the less-than-perfect side of life. Far from being a way of escaping the harsh realities of life, it has acknowledged and wrestled with their realities and the questions which arise from them.

Buddhism teaches its followers that life is suffering and unavoidable, yet it is not without hope and the Eightfold Path offers a way to live with this reality.

Christianity acknowledges the imperfect (Fallen) state of human nature and its ability to cause suffering, yet it is not without hope and the Easter story embodies a message of redemption and transformation through divine love.

Life is at times the glass half-full but it is also the glass half-empty. Perhaps you cannot have one without the other and the space provided in the half-empty glass enables us to see the many things for which we can be thankful.

So don’t just treasure your Tigger but channel your inner Eeyore to keep a healthier, more balanced perspective.

Mrs C Crossley