Can You Learn Not To Feel Good?

Pessimism is an overwhelming factor in health-related issues and in personal success and achievement. Being tight with money and time makes you tight at the cellular level of your body.

It really is our number one health problem and the greatest deterrent of well-being and life satisfaction.

The answer to research that shows the dangers of optimism is not that you need to be more negative but that you be more effectively positive.

Optimism is a very basic way your perception sees the world. It’s measuring a very elemental thing that started with you genetically and continued with you in your nurturance. It’s a very basic way about the way you see and judge the most elemental events in your world.

Consciousness starts with what we do with the most elemental events in our world.

That’s where we’re going to find out how hopeful we are.

The ego is always going to give itself away, evolve, change and morph and become a “new and different” ego.

But you will recognize when it tells you, “Don’t be proud, be humble, don’t share this with your neighbors, you know, don’t tell everybody about this.” The ego gives itself away when we’re feeling badly.

The ego is giving itself away when we’re feeling negatively. When we’re engaged in believing in the permanence and pervasiveness of bad events, or when we are not giving the good the permanency that it needs or the pervasiveness that it needs, we’re going to experience the ego giving itself away.

We are going to be feeling less than good, or we are going to be feeling the feelings of negativity, feeling the feelings of going into a DownSpiral.

We’re on to one of the central causes of moving into that DownSpiral that is not a fun place and certainly not a healthy place to live.

Pessimism narrows your options and your access to your strengths.

Optimism, on the other hand, is a “force multiplier.” It broadens and builds an UpSpiral mindset.

And here is the key issue: Do you know what your strengths are?

Optimism, especially high levels of optimism that might have a tendency toward impulsiveness, need to be grounded in one of your positive strengths that provide a balance for you in your life.

We learn not to use positive emotion in our lives because of any number of reasons.

I call that “learned-non use of positive emotion.”

We can forget to exercise positive emotion just like we forget to use our muscles or work our bodies.

That’s why we have invented “The Emotional Gym.” It is a way of exercising positive emotion, of keeping it strong and evolving for a life where we are able to feel strong levels of love, peace, gratitude, joy and hope.

© Dr. William K. Larkin


About the author

Dr. William K. Larkin
  • Dwayne Paro

    There are so many examples of being pessimistic in our daily lives. Being in work environments that are not positive can be a real “cancer” to your health. You find your days draining, your nights dreading the next day and the cycle continues over and over. If left to its own accord your health will begin to falter. I’ve been in both an optimistic environment and a pessimistic environment over my many years of work experience. In the optimistic environment people tended to be out sick less, more engaged, less turnover of staff, better quality and timeliness of results, less thinking just about themselves and what they can get out of the company, and on for quite a long list of benefits. Now in the pessimistic its the complete opposite, much like every strength has a weakness. I would assert that you will find that most leaders that produce a pessimistic environment are driven by their ego, not saying I’ve not seen this in the optimistic environments but less likely if its a highly engaged and productive environment. Knowing and building on your strengths is the most effective way to produce at a high rate and be the highest in your UpSpiral regardless of which environment you find yourself in, not to mention the positive results it will have on your emotional scale as well. With that said in order to grow as much as an individual and continue to climb in your UpSpiral scale and Emotional Scale getting out of the negative environment as soon as feasibly possible is best.

  • Kathy Lee

    We just had a tragic death in the family – a 38 year old mother of three young children ages 2, 6 and 8. I was asked to help prepare her body for burial, involving a reverent washing and shrouding in silk fabric, a practice in the Baha’i Faith. While fully engaged in this spiritual experience, I felt as if I were in an ethereal realm, it was a sense of sublime purpose and meaning. And while the loss of this dear family member is great, the sense of meaning we all have been given has been immense. It is bringing out the best in everyone who has been touched by this experience – from the hospice staff who wish to rename the facility in honor of Sarah to the faculty members who work with her husband, all of whom unanimously offered all of their sick days to him so that he could be with her at the end of her life once she entered hospice care and still receive his salary during the time he needed to take off from work. Talk about virtues and values in action (VIA)! This has been a very enriching, edifying and ennobling experience for so many people. We buried Sarah yesterday. When I read the homework reading this morning, it captured what I’ve been seeing these past few days – strengths of character are everywhere, in everyone. I felt I was living in some of my own strengths and my perception of the kindness, love, hope, support, generosity coming from so many people was a source of immense gratitude. The readings have provided a framework that organizes strengths and virtues (and their opposites) and combines them with the Emotional Gym as tools to help us live lives with purpose, engagement and happiness. Thanks to all those engaged in the research of Positive Psychology that has the potential to uplift humankind.

  • kit

    I see practical yummy applications of this work for implementation into mine, via daily activities, in the ‘melding’ of the Emotional Gym exercises, and, intentional focused reliance on one’s identified strengths. I have seen the impulsiveness of high optimism, as this article mentions, when someone latches on to the idea of positivity as a ‘tra la la’ fix. The synchronicity, or alignment, of all of a person’s stuff, including the recognition of our messy, contradictory pieces, is disregarded in this flat, all or nothing view. Optimism isn’t about ignoring all the stuff we don’t prefer or are scared of, it’s about focusing and building on what we do. Human beings are not digital, on/off, good/bad. We can be both altruistic/self centered; generous/petty, etc. Dr. Larkin’s discussion of the actionable path to moving ourselves, and others, along the Routes of Happiness scale starts with the exercises of the Emotional Gym, or perhaps the strengths. Establishing a notebook to study and practice one’s strengths, as he suggests in Growing the Positive Mind, is a self rewarding exercise that encourages the practicer to continue. I’m loving it! I’ve always found the momentum of mining for our inner diamonds can be exhilarating. To my recollection, everyone I’ve ever worked with in self discovery finds it liberating and energizes their expectations of positive outcomes. By grounding a person’s desires to feel better and realize a high quality of life in an actionable plan of focused exercises in both the positive emotions and strengths, we build a foundation for a positive state of being, even in the most trying of circumstances. Kathy Lee’s beautiful post evokes experiencing this foundation. Finding ennoblement in the midst of deep grief is a richly meaningful testimony to this work.

  • Dr. gloria wright

    I remember being in a workshop with Drs Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes on the “Impostor Phenomenon.” Doubting that you are as competent as people think you are is common among high achievers. In this workshop, Dr. Clance said that IF you do not believe you are competent, worthy, etc., your psyche gets tired of trying to convince you. It was like a bolt of lightning – I need to believe in myself. I need to believe I am deserving and
    capable. Not in a braggart way, but in a grounded way where I am aware of my strengths and know that I know how to utilize them.

    I thought of writing an article on “beyond ego.” In developmental terms, it’s as if you have to form and build an ego and then let it go. When ego drives us we lose sight of compassion with others. When we strive to be first or the best, we can become aggressive, without thought of others, in our pursuits. We fear the worst so we push harder. It’s easy to move
    into pessimism in this state.

    And optimism can be natural and it can be learned. I think our pessimism and optimism are sometimes unconscious habits. So – we need and want to be conscious. When we are conscious and conscientious, we can move our views, feelings and beliefs toward the positive. I’ve never really heard anyone say, “Pessimism is good for you! Try it.” But I have certainly heard and read, “Optimism is good for you.” So, try it.

    Thinking optimistically alone is not enough. We need to shift our views, our perceptions, our feelings, our actions and certainly our beliefs to an optimistic slant. To quote Dr. Larkin, “Optimism….is a ‘force multiplier.’” Try it. Keep it. Savor it. Use it. Live by it. It’s good for you!

  • Yolanda Smith

    Due to the circumstances in one’s life, in regards to their background their upbringing, a person may not even have the opportunity to “learn to not feel good” because not feeling good is just a way of life.

    When someone finds themselves living in a state of not feeling good a majority of the time, the thought of feeling good seems unobtainable. They become a slave to pessimistic thoughts, as being optimistic is something that they are not accustomed to. It is not easy to recover from such a state of existence.

    I I’m speaking on this topic based on my personal experience. The great thing about the human spirit, is that in spite of the negative or pessimistic state of being that appears to be prevalent in someone’s life, somewhere in there is an optimist that quietly and secretly not only desires to feel good and live a better life,

  • Yvette Gauff

    When I think of pessimism, I see it as a constricting, limiting energy that sucks the life out of all that is around it. Think of a sponge that is wrung dry, then left in the sun. It can still be used. Over time, however, it collects dirt and there is residue that cannot be removed.
    The sponge’s effectiveness lessens and eventually, it must be tossed. Though it is not meant to last indefinitely, the sponge’s usefulness is adversely affected by the remaining dirt. Pessimism has the same effect; left to itself, it causes erosion – of one’s mood, one’s outlook, and one’s health. I can personally attest to this. In a negative marital situation far too long (and very possibly exacerbated by my own inward negativity – chicken/egg
    argument), and left unchecked, the stress eventually broke my body down. I came very close to losing my life. After months and months of tests by six doctors and specialists, a sickness nor disease was never named as the culprit. I had become pessimistic. Very!

    Ego is defined as a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance. Synonyms: self-esteem, self-importance, self-worth, self-respect, self-image, self-confidence. One
    definition based in Psychoanalysis describes the ego as “the part of the mind that mediates between the conscious and the unconscious and is responsible for reality testing and a sense of personal identity”. And Deepak Chopra said of the ego: “The ego is not who you really are. The ego is your self-image; it is your social mask; it is the role you are playing. Your social mask thrives on approval. It wants control, and it is sustained by power, because it lives in fear”. I recently heard a definition of ego as “Edging God Out”. I thought that was
    good. The idea that when one’s ego is ‘showing’, that the person is declining to their “lesser’ self. And therefore susceptible to falling into the negative to protect oneself.

    As stated in the blog: The ego gives itself away when we’re feeling badly.

    I recently had a misunderstanding with someone. On the surface, it could be said it was due to a breakdown in communication. Broken technology negatively contributed to the situation. However, given the things I am learning in our course and coursework, I was able to tell my friend our misunderstanding was a wonderful case study for this class. Ego, patterns of learned negativity, including a number of cognitive distortions, i.e., jumping to conclusions, emotional reasoning, and “should statements” to name a few, all showed up, and played a part in the problem. Fortunately, we were able to name the symptoms, and address the bigger issue, each owing our ‘stuff’. It was a great learning experience.

    It was easy to see how the learned negativity and pessimism that exists in each of us caused us to downspiral resulting in confusion, and potentially hurt feelings. Fortunately we are both open individuals, who desire to learn and grow. Our ability to STOP, hear and listen to one another, and shift to the positive thwarted what could have been the end of a budding relationship.

    “Optimism is a force multiplier”. What a powerful statement! Simply put, when we work in the positive, and use optimism as tool, it creates an atmosphere for growth, progress. The results are better; there’s increase – mood is enhanced, productivity rises, health can be improved.

    Our work is indeed likened to exercise and bodybuilding. Muscles left unworked, atrophy. But muscles that are exercised are strengthened providing support for our physical frames to be more effective. How much more important is the exercising of our brains, in the positive, to better support the mental framework necessary for us to live more effective, productive fulfilling lives.

  • Kalah Vaughan

    As I was just reading about pessimism and ego, I felt constricted. Once I came to the part about optimism, I felt lighter.

    It is interesting how these emotions can have such an effect on a person. I have dealt with my ego speaking through to me many times before. Although, at the time I may have just thought of it as negative and limiting thoughts. Now, being able to label the ego for what it really is helps me understand and break through the barriers into optimism.

    When we started this program I would consider myself to be an optimistic person. However, after taking the optimism test I am realizing how little perseverance I truly have. To me this is exciting news! This means that I have something to work towards that can open up a whole new way of living.

    After taking the strengths test, I was surprised to find that my strengths are intangible. For example; my number one strength is to be able to see and recognize beauty in the world where others can not. I could always feel this about myself, but it was true wake up call to know this is considered a strength.

    Gratitude, is another one of my hidden strengths. I am proud to say when my ego is peaking through I will now use this new information about myself to become grounded as the blog suggests. What a great suggestion it is! I am truly beginning to feel that I have stepped inside my flow of living a purposeful life.

    To everyone reading this…What are the moments you felt your ego peaking through? The next time this happens; what strength will you use to ground your self?

    I send love, gratitude, peace and hope to all you. Bye for Now!!

Copyright © 2015 The Applied Neuroscience Institute