Optimism vs Pessimism: How do we get there?

I was listening to a podcast Thursday during my drive home that was talking about inflammation’s role in depression. Basically it said that while not all depression is related to inflammation, it does appear to be a factor in some of the cases and studies have shown that where inflammation is a factor, reducing it helps relieve depression.

The natural questions from that are “can I take an Aleve every day and keep from getting depressed?” No. Although there do seem to be some on-going benefits of a small dose of Aspirin daily according to the program.

One of the thoughts I had while listening to this is that there are definitely people who are more prone to depression than others… a higher or lower tolerance, if you will. Which led me to wondering why some people are pre-disposed to a more negative outlook on life while others seem to naturally look on the bright side of life (hat tip: Monty Python). Why is that? Is it nature… locked in at birth in one’s genes? Is it nurture… based on the relationship with one’s parents/the world? Is it some combination?

I have long maintained that fear and faith are opposite ends of a spectrum: fear is the belief that something bad is going to happen; faith is the belief that something good is going to happen. Does this play a role? If one grows up in a fear-based environment, do they wind up pessimistic? I’m not sure they do. If one is raised in a faith-based, positive arena, are they pre-disposed to be optimistic? I’m not sure that is true either.

I guess question one is this: Does someone who lives a faith-based life (belief that something good is going to happen) present themselves as generally optimistic? And the corollary: Does someone living a fear-based life (seeing evil/bad at every turn) present themselves as generally pessimistic? Purely from a personal observation standpoint, I would say that the latter has to be true.

These thoughts also bring me to ask for more clarification on the fear-faith spectrum. What is it a spectrum of? Is it gratitude? Is it hope? Is it trust? Or some combination of these or other factors. I may have to examine each of these three in the future to see if I can work out how they relate to fear and faith. The scale is obviously belief and the ranges you have of it. But how do we present where we are on the scale.

Please note that I suggest only looking at your own place on the scale. To try to judge someone else’s place is likely a countdown to an argument. There are certain aspects of life that are only adjusted by self-examination. The Socratic method might be a path to tread here.

Here’s the other thing I need to remind myself of: very few people are always at one extreme or the other. I’m not sure you can survive long at the end of the fear end and I’m not sure the world will allow you to stay very long at the peak of the faith end. (That didn’t sound very ‘faith-y’, did it? Haha) The trick for all of us to figure out is how to spend more time towards the faith end and less time near the fear side of life. This definitely bears more discussion and thought.

Photo: Sunset Clouds, 2020, Jeff Carroll