Connection vs. cruel Optimism – Day 9

Transformation and Advent

December 9, 2020

Day 9

Yesterday I was referring to various social posts from the internet - today I get my inspiration from a magazine to which I have subscribed as a print edition since this year. It's not just the transformative publishing concept with a crystal-clear focus on the common good that appeals to me - also and especially the content is a great inspiration for my own work.

This morning I read an article from the latest edition of "Neue Narrative" that deals with the phenomenon of "cruel optimism". A topic that touches me a lot: as a "Happiness" Practitioner (see under "Services" my "Focus + Skills"), it is close to my heart to contribute to satisfaction and the common good in my field of activity. I want to strengthen confidence for a vital togetherness and creative creativity. I want to enable courage so that transformation can succeed.

Confidence lives on the hope that it will succeed. But not everything succeeds by a long way - even if we switch our thinking and acting from "problem orientation" to "solution orientation". Optimism does not save us from pain and defeat. And that is also the tenor of this article: if "New Work" is used as an instrument to make our work more bearable and to optimize ourselves permanently, for even more productivity and success, then the principle of positive psychology turns into cynical self-destruction.

Confidence is also nourished by trust - trust, in contrast to hope, always includes the knowledge that something may not succeed (see my post on the 7th day of Advent), it includes our awareness of the responsibility that we bear for it to  to take responsibility for the consequences. Trust and responsibility always include the vulnerability of not being infallible - qualities that are not very popular in the vocabulary of an efficiency and success-driven manager.

Fortunately, there are only a few - at least in the teams in which I have worked in the last 20 years - who spread such a striking cheerfulness and good humor and thus proudly carry their success in front of them.

But I know many situations in which executives or managers move forward with strong willpower, even with a pioneering spirit and confidence, and look down impatiently and also disparagingly on those around them, who are insecure, fearful or at least have a critical look at realities. It is important to keep things simple, not to complicate things. Optimism is a grateful tool for keeping things simple - and it's also legitimate and, in many cases, effective.

If, however, optimism leads to the denial of the essential problems, feelings of frustration, of pain, feelings of loss, grief, of being lost to be ignored or interpreted as weakness, then a whole half a life is simply suppressed. There is a lack of compassion and empathy!

There is another very important article in the new booklet on mindful communication. There is a chapter about feelings vs. Pseudo feelings. Examples of feelings are "angry, free, weary, worried, relaxed, sad, happy". Examples of pseudo-feelings are "punished, praised (is not there, but there are only negative examples on the pseudo-feelings side), unimportant, disregarded, worthless". Personally, I've learned another term for the type of feelings that are referred to as pseudo-feelings here: secondary feelings. Secondary feelings are those that I feel as an interpretation of the effect that others have on me, i.e. feelings that have an external effect on me from the actions of other people. Primary feelings, on the other hand, come from myself: I am sad, I am happy - in these sentences it is not what matters from the outside that I feel that way, but only the genuine feeling as such, that from inner myself emerges.

For me as a linguistic and word-loving thinker, the grammatical distinction between subject and object also helps to distinguish between primary and secondary feelings. When I express primary feelings, I stay in the subject and my feeling is an active state that I am expressing - I am connected to my inner feelings. Secondary feelings make me an object of action or power from another person from outside. If I only perceive secondary feelings, I am solely oriented towards the outside world, but the connection to my own inner feelings and needs is cut off.

And for me that is the core of resilience - a force that strengthens my self-confidence: You are not resilient if you remain strong, optimistic and effective on the outside. You are also not resilient just because you get up after a defeat. Resilience doesn't come from denying bad feelings. Resilience is nourished above all from the connection with all of one's feelings and the certainty that one feels pain, helplessness, frustration, sadness, loneliness, fear - and realizes that one can endure it without blaming others for being responsible for my feelings.

The connection to my feelings makes me unique and gives me self-confidence - and it is essential to stay connected with others - not as the object of the power from others over my feelings, but as a self-responsible subject with intention (not belief, not the simple hope), to solve problems courageously (which does not exclude fear)  together.

This is about Emotional Intelligenz: I need factual competences to gain confidence in fixing problems - and I need emotional intelligence to grow my confidence in order to process problems in a transformative way.