Like Unicorns and Rainbows? No, just optimism.

Dr. Seligman's Optimism

Dr. Martin Seligman's research points the way toward learning how to strengthen our sense of personal agency (our ability to positively impact our lives) and even learn how to be more optimistic with our life situations.

Not unicorns and rainbows optimistic, more like the Little Engine that Could optimistic. And since both personal agency and optimism are extremely helpful in transforming our anxiety I’d say that is good news indeed!

Dr. Seligman found that optimism largely comes down to how we “explain” the events in our lives.

As you read the following terms, try and figure out how you tend to “explain” factors in your life in general and toward anxiety in particular.

Permanence refers to the belief that negative events, situations and/or their causes are permanent, even when evidence, logic, and past experience indicate that they are probably temporary ("I’m always going to be be worried before work" vs. "I’m worried right now before work, there have been mornings that I wasn’t worried.").

Pervasiveness refers to the tendency to generalize so that negative features of one situation are thought to extend to others as well ("I lost that contract I really wanted" vs. "I’m stupid". Or "I wasn’t invited to lunch today" vs. "Nobody likes me").

Personalization refers to whether one tends to attribute negative events or situations to one’s own flaws or to outside circumstances or other people. While it is important to take responsibility for one’s mistakes, it’s important to be aware of whether one’s self-blame over a particular event or situation is realistic and appropriate. (“I’m anxious because I’m not good enough” vs. “I’m anxious because I’m watching too much bad news on tv.”)

In order to restore your confidence, optimism and sense of personal agency with your anxiety and worry, work towards cultivating a less permanent and pervasive explanatory style.

Oh, and try not to take everything so personal too.