Is the glass half full or half empty?
The answer reveals if you are an optimist or a pessimist, so say the experts.
Another expert said that the question is not whether the half is empty or full but how the glass feels after holding it up for a minute or two. The answer is: heavy. The lesson was not to hold onto things that stress you out.
This is much easier said than done for many people. That’s why psychiatry and psychology are booming. The New Age has introduced (and re-introduced) alternative methods to look within to identify and resolve stressors, including meditation, yoga, and T’ai Chi.
A surprising number of people believe in life after death and seek spiritual counseling outside the orthodoxy. In my lifetime, I have helped hundreds of people find emotional relief in the form of answers provided by what can only be described as channeling higher forces.
Optimists have positive expectations about the future based on past experiences. Positive thinking, although very beneficial, could be thought of as wishing thinking or dreaming – envisioning without a plan to achieve success. Plan to fail and fail to plan.
There is a Tarot card, used for psychic divination, which teaches about how we perceive gains and losses in our lives. The Five of Cups shows a person whose head is lowered, looking down at three overturned cups, their liquid contents puddling on the ground, with two upright cups standing behind.
This card is traditionally interpreted as meaning “Loss, but something remains over.” I go further and interpret it as someone who is focused on the losses in their life and ignores the good things.
We all know such people. They used to be called sourpusses – negative thinkers. Nothing can please them and they are their own worst critics. A dark cloud seems to follow them around with occasional lightning shooting out from time to time.
The secret to emotional success is letting go of our negative thoughts and feelings about everything we experience. In Reiki, the Japanese healing stress-reduction and relaxation technique that is often described as “laying on hands,” has a saying that I set as my personal, constant goal:
“Just for today, do not anger, do not worry, and be filled with gratitude.”
Alison Ledgerwood is a social psychologist or “professional people watcher” who tries to figure out “how humans think and how we might be able to think better.” She took an interest in how people react emotionally depending on whether news delivered is optimistic or pessimistic.
The researcher noticed that whenever she scored a win in her life, such as having a submitted academic paper selected for publication, the elation she felt afterward peaked quickly and fell back to her ordinary, average baseline level.
If Ledgerwood received a rejection notice for a paper, her bad emotions were twice as strong over this life loss as the good ones had been for the previous paper’s acceptance. Then, even if another paper was approved for publication, the emotional peak wasn’t as high as it had been originally because “somehow, I can’t get that pesky rejection out of my head.”
Simply stated, Ledgerwood took the bad news twice as hard as the good news. She wondered why she didn’t feel as positive about her achievements as she did about her misses:
“Why does a failure seem to stick in our minds so much longer than a success?”
Political scientist Amber Boydstun teamed up with Ledgerwood to answer the question, “Do our minds get stuck in the negative?”
Believe it or not, scientific studies have evaluated people who look at a glass filled with water halfway. When told the glass was “half full,” test subjects felt good about it because it had been presented with a “gain frame.” When told the same glass was “half empty,” using a “loss frame,” study participants “don’t like it.”
Ledgerwood’s team set out to see if people could switch from thinking about the glass one way to thinking about it another way. Were people capable of changing their emotional attitudes or were they stuck in one way of thinking about it?
To test if people feel differently about something based on how it is presented – with gain or loss framing, two groups of study subjects were told about the same surgical procedure. Group 1 was told the surgery had a 70% success rate. Group 2 was told the surgery had a 30% loss rate. Note that these two statements say the same thing. We would expect that the two groups would react equally to how they felt about the medical service.
But that didn’t happen. People liked the surgery when it was described as 70% successful and didn’t like it when it came with a 30% failure rate.
Then, the researchers added a twist. They told the Group 1 participants that they “could think of this as a 30% failure rate.”
“And now they don’t like it anymore,” said Ledgerwood. “They’ve changed their minds.”
Then, subjects in Group 2 were told that they could think of the procedure as having a 70% success rate – but they weren’t swayed by this positive framing after they heard about the failure rate – they seemed “stuck in the initial loss frame that they saw at the beginning of the study.”
Or perhaps no one likes anything presented in a loss frame, ever?
Keep on the sunny side of life and cultivate a positive mental mindset. Focus on the positive gains and get over the negative losses as quickly as possible, with help from faith, family, and friends.