Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Pleasures of Pessimism

Life in Saturn-Pluto Times
"The mind seems to be wired for negative thoughts. Common wisdom says that pessimism is a problem. The anti-pessimists warn: “don’t think like that or you’ll doom yourself to failure.” But common wisdom can be wrong, and pessimism can be helpful – if it is done correctly."Dr. Shawn Smith
I ran across a fascinating article in my paper yesterday and I thought it would be a good time to update you on some research I've been doing.
A 4-year-old boy who was hit in the head by a foul ball at a minor league baseball game in September spoke his first words since the accident this week, a major breakthrough in his recovery from an injury that nearly killed him.
~Luke Holko told his mother he wanted "more" crackers during snack time Tuesday night.
The boy can also say "no.
Leingang: Associated Press
What's so interesting about this is the negative nature of his first words. I recently learned that experiments in the lab have pointed to human brain wiring being that which leans toward the negative. News and television certainly bear this out. My theory is that it has to do with survival need and feeling insecure in a perceived threatening world spurs humans to become extra aware of potential danger, feeling uneasy about relaxing too much into paradisiacal thoughts. The psychologist above concurs.
Pessimism seems to be hardwired into us. We are masters at spotting flaws, dark clouds, and dangers. Imagine standing in front of a beautiful stained glass window. It is a wonderful creation of color and form... and in the corner of this beautiful window is a broken piece of glass. Most likely, your eye will immediately gravitate toward the flaw. With effort, you might ignore the missing piece and enjoy the artwork, but there is little chance you will miss the imperfection. Most minds will want to focus on it.
Why does pessimism come so easily? Why, when faced with something as lovely as stained glass or a new home, must the mind inventory every blemish? The answer might lie in the adaptive, positive effects of negative thinking. Evolutionary psychology teaches that widespread psychological traits are adaptations that help us cope with the environment. Pessimism may be an adaptation that promotes survival.
The Power of Pessimism

Here's the fact. Optimism and pessimism are equally valuable in moderation. Some people deal with an unpleasant present by looking forward to a rosier future. Others protect themselves against disappointment by expecting less. Personal preference.
Now that Saturn and Pluto will be aligned as the current educators it could well be that some of the negative aspects of experience are up for consideration. Venus and Jupiter conjunct in Cancer in the United States chart does indicate an upbeat positive emotional nature, but the opposition to sometimes-menacing Pluto in stern Capricorn is sure to affect this "have a nice day" mentality. The "it's all good" philosophy. The stigma around thinking negatively is silly. Guilt can be better placed. If positivists are firm in their views, the negative won't harm them. And vice versa. They provide a perfect balance, well appreciated by Saturn in Libra.
Since 1993 anti-depressant use in the country has skyrocketed 50%. Obesity is epidemic and heart disease is our No.1 killer, the heart being the seat of happiness. All of this points to an underlying depression that if acknowledged and worked with could lead to a sincerely better mood in time. Events lately are leading to a confrontation with this somber side of reality and the case for a little pessimistic thinking could be sensible, especially when Pluto opposes Jupiter. It doesn't eliminate happiness. It doesn't want to. It might make serious thought desirable and even pleasurable. Here is an interesting article about the value of negative thinking....
A study conducted by professor Joseph Forgas at the University of New South Wales showed that bad moods can actually turn out good for you, as it makes people less gullible by increasing their ability to judge and also is a big memory boost.
The study proved that people who were experiencing bad moods were more critical and paid more attention to the surrounding environment than happier people, who were more likely to believe everything that they were told.

“Whereas positive mood seems to promote creativity, flexibility, cooperation, and reliance on mental shortcuts, negative moods trigger more attentive, careful thinking paying greater attention to the external world,” Forgas wrote. “Our research suggests that sadness … promotes information processing strategies best suited to dealing with more demanding situations.”
To conduct this study, the team actually conducted several experiments that began by inducing happier or unhappier moods to the subjects, by recalling a past event or by watching movies. In one of the experiments, they were asked to analyze the truth (or lack of it) behind urban myths and rumors; the result was that those in sadder moods were less likely to believe what they were told and showed an increase of analytic ability. The sadder people were also less likely to make rash decisions or those based on racial or religious beliefs and made fewer mistakes when recalling a past event.
“Positive mood is not universally desirable: people in negative mood are less prone to judgmental errors, are more resistant to eyewitness distortions and are better at producing high-quality, effective persuasive messages,” Forgas wrote.
It’s been known for quite a while now that a good mood can increase work capacity, concentration and creativity, but not so much effort has been put into understanding what happens to you when you are feeling unhappy.
Mars Retrograde in Leo
Saturn will be spending the next several months tight with Pluto, and Mars in the ebullient often joyous sign of Leo will be in an extended retrograde, a perfect time to see what ails our collective spirit. Just when Mars leaves Leo for Virgo, Saturn will be back in Virgo and possibly, with good analysis, some answers will present themselves.
The Skeleton of Reality
A fantastic idea I have to cope in these difficult times is to accept the reasonable naysayers since their influence is increasing and will probably be on the rise even more for awhile. It's helpful. The more hopeful can use their services to get through the hard times.
Jupiter in Pisces next year continues the magic carpet roller coaster ride and the negativists can teach you how to better handle the crashes when they inevitably come. A certain amount of naivete about human nature has its charms, but savvy comes in handy, too, especially when Saturn, Uranus, and Pluto get together for a party.
I'm an optimist on and off, yet I feel less of a need to be either way at this point. It does what it does. I do what I do. I'm okay with negative experiences since they're so numerous and inevitable. I'm used to them. I'm joyous enough, being an experienced opportunist. I've discovered that there's always something else. I have eggs in multi baskets.
Cage free.