Changing a Ship’s Pessimistic Course
We have a friend who sees the world in a pessimistic light. This person is highly suspicious of people and situations, and sees, as well as experiences negativity at most turns. Why is this and what does it mean? What can be done to help?
First, it helps to understand the real nature of the problem. Imagine the self as a huge steamship, fully loaded, set on reaching a destination. When you set eyes on this ship in mid-journey, you don’t see it being loaded, leaving port and settling on where it wants to go. By analogy, when you see your friend, you meet her at a given moment, but she is sailing through her life fully loaded with past influences—all of us express our entire lives in this very minute. The minute is fleeting, but the momentum carrying us forward is immense.
Your friend’s pessimism isn’t about what’s here and now. It’s about the fully loaded cargo she’s carrying. Here and now you are tempted to say, “See? There’s no reason to be suspicious or negative. It’s a beautiful day, we all love you. Be happy.” This approach never works. Not because your friend is stubborn but because this beautiful day and your loving feelings are a tiny fraction of her reality, her fully loaded cargo.
If you want to help someone in such a situation, keep the steamship analogy in mind. Her ship isn’t going to change course unless she wants to steer it in a new direction. You can travel with her, showing her a new direction. But don’t take responsibility. This isn’t your journey, it’s hers. A good deal of negativity is ego-based. Beneath the surface, at a subtler level of the self, she is afraid and insecure. She wants your loving support, and sometimes the clouds clear and she sees that you want the best for her. Keep offering that subtle influence of love and support. Don’t confront her head on (her ego will only get more stubborn), and don’t be tempted to psychoanalyze her. She and you are both on a journey, and if it happens that you exchange a burst of light on the way, appreciate that and be alert to the next time you can share a moment of clarity.
Deepak Chopra is the President of the Alliance for A New Humanity
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Over the years, we’ve phased in and out of any number of book clubs: While it’s always nice to be able to prioritize time with a good novel (deadlines!), we always looked forward to the eating and chatting part best.