Optimisim To Ease Chronic Pain

  • Choo! Choo! Welcome aboard this train called life. We cover quite a bit of ground over the years, some uphill and some downhill. All the while, this train keeps moving. Lately, some passengers have reported seeing the world famous Eeyore on board. What's that? You do not remember Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh. Let me refresh your memory with this passage.


    Eeyore, the old grey Donkey, stood by the side of the stream, and looked at himself in the water.
    "Pathetic," he said. "That's what it is. Pathetic."
    He turned and walked slowly down the stream for twenty yards, splashed across it, and walked slowly back on the other side. Then he looked at himself in the water again.

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    "As I thought," he said. "No better from this side. But nobody minds. Nobody cares. Pathetic, that's what it is."   -- --Winnie the Pooh

    Now, we cannot go throwing cute little old donkeys from the train. So, let us learn how to deal with his habitual pessimistic thoughts. Thanks to Dr. Seligman's book called Learned Optimism, I have three words in mind: distraction, disputation, and distancing.


    Poor old Eeyore takes after his cow cousins and chews the cud a little too much. How can we get him to stop the ruminating from amplifying his depression? We can try to stop his thoughts with a bit of distraction. Interrupting his habitual thought patterns with a signal might just work. Some passengers have recommended placing a rubber band on Eeyore's tail. And every time he mentions a pessimistic belief, we snap the rubber band to snap him out of his thought pattern. That just might work as long as no one gets bucked in the process on account that he thinks some snake is biting him. Anyone have another distraction technique that might stop the ruminating? I know, I could blow the horn every time he says, "Nobody loves me". With enough distraction, Eeyore might stop lamenting.


    If the distraction does not work at teaching Eeyore to be more optimistic, we could try to dispute with him. Eeyore thinks that nobody loves him. Well, I have got plenty of evidence to the contrary. Adults and children alike love this cute old gray donkey. So, let us tell him that he is blowing things out of proportion. And maybe, just maybe, Eeyore could learn to argue with himself when he recognizes the same old pessimistic beliefs creeping back into his stream of thought. Those rejection beliefs might be unfounded. For example, if no one came to his birthday party, Eeyore would normally explain the situation as proof that "nobody loves me". However, the lack of attendees could be due to the simple alternative fact that he just forgot to send the invitations. I know many people who would love to go to Eeyore's birthday party. Let's teach Eeyore to dispute his pessimistic thoughts. Let's give Eeyore some optimist's tools on this train called life.


    The final tool that could change Eeyore's pessimistic tendencies is distancing. If someone puts me down, I just blow it off and ignore the unfounded beliefs. I distance myself. Eeyore could do the same thing. Only this time, he needs to distance himself from his own unfounded beliefs about himself. He should stand back and evaluate his self attack for accuracy. You and I both know that everyone loves Eeyore. So, his belief statement, "nobody loves me, nobody cares", is completely inaccurate and he needs to ignore this habitual thought.  Just because he believes the explanation, does not make it true. After proper distancing, he can then launch his own dispute against this inaccurate belief.


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    Using all the tools: distraction, disputation, and distancing; even Eeyore can learn to be an optimist. No need to throw him from this train called life because he does keep us grounded in reality. But, if he could just learn to be a little more flexible in his thought patterns, then I am sure this train is destine for a place called happiness. Choo! Choo! This little engine just keeps on going. "I think I can... I think I can... I think I can..."

Published On: August 24, 2009