More on Martin Seligman’s What You Can Change and What You Can’t: The Complete Guide to Successful Self-Improvement
Depressives are incredibly realistic. I mean incredibly realistic. In turns out that a realistic understanding of one’s skills and chances codes incredibly well with either having depression or future depression. HBR had an article on this last year by Dan Lovallo & Daniel Kahneman (“Delusions of Success: How Optimism Undermines Executives’ Decisions
“, July 2003). Lovallo and Kahneman showed how the optimism that makes executives successful also makes them prone to keeping with projects that should be killed. They actually recommend having a professional naysayer on staff to provide the “no” point of view.
Of course, the ancients had this all the time. Medieval rulers had jesters who gave unfiltered commentary on the ruler’s actions. Ancient Israel and Judah had their prophets. Jeremiah had to be a depressive.
Perhaps our view of depression is more wrong than it is right. Cooperrider talked about the research into positive emotions. It turns out that if you want to undo the effects of negative emotions, don’t rehash them over and over. Instead, fill your mind and heart with experiences of positive emotions. You don’t have to be 100% positive, just not balanced in positive/negative. Realism, with a good analysis of positive and negative scenarios, fall apart. Successful cases have twice as many positive scenarios as negative. Pollyannas were as bad as the realists.