During most part of psychology history, most of the psychological research has been focused on problems, disorders… But Martin Seligman was one oh the professionals who began to study the positive side of psychology. Seligman has been considered as “The father of positive psychology” and has deeply researched happiness, optimism, and hope. His book “Authentic Happiness” is really one of the best books I have ever read. And I also recommend “Learned Optimism” where Seligman explains that we can learn how can we be more optimistic and also explains with greater detail “The Three Ps of Optimism”.
After spending decades studying how people deal with setbacks, Seligman found that there are three P’s – personalization, pervasiveness, and permanence – that are critical to how we recover from hardship. With the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic crisis, many people are suffering. Many people are dealing with serious problems. And learning optimism can help anyone face the current challenges they have with a better predisposition.
As I wrote before, Seligman explained that following the 3 p’s of optimism can be very helpful to face uncertainty and tough times.
The first P is personalization. It is understanding that not everything that happens to us happens because of us. Many people, when facing problems they guilt themselves. They suffer because they are the cause of their problems. And sometimes it can be true, but not always. Some or most of the problems we face are not our fault. Understanding this simple idea can help you overcome your hardships.
The second P is pervasiveness. It is the belief that an event will affect all areas of our life. Sometimes people think that after a serious problem, everything else will be a problem. After suffering a hardship many people tend to think negatively about most of the elements of their life. In this way, Seligman recommends focusing on the areas that are not negative. To really value the positive things most people have in their lives.
The third P is permanence. It is the belief that the negative feelings will last forever. It is the feeling that we will not be able to overcome the problem. That the bad situation will never end. It’s obvious that no problem lasts forever. That often, time can heal the pain. As Anthony Liccione – the American poet and author – said, “Pain will come with time, but time will heal the pain”. When facing serious problems we have to understand that we need time to overcome them.
Regarding the current crisis we are living, following the 3 ps of optimism suggest that:
- We have to understand that we are not the cause of all the problems we are facing. Most of the problems are not our fault, they come to our life for multiple reasons. And I don’t mean ignoring that sometimes we are the cause of some problems, but not always.
- The crisis can affect our health or economy, or the economy or health of the people we love. But with certainty, we do know that in other areas of our life the situation will be better. And sometimes, as humans, we need to have some “issues” in our lives to really value the other positive things we have in our life.
- It’s obvious that no problem, no crisis lasts forever. Some days ago I wrote the post “The Perfect Storm” about the current crisis. And I finished writing that, after every storm, the sun rises again. We have to think that time will heal some of the pain, that the crisis will not last forever. We have to accept that, in order to recover from hardship we need time.
I just wanted to share 3 ideas about how you can be more optimistic. I really think we need to face current challenges with greater levels of optimism. Because as Martin Seligman says “It is the combination of reasonable talent and the ability to keep going in the face of defeat that leads to success”.