On Depression and Delusion

This week’s learning is from ‘The Geography of Bliss’ by Eric Weiner.

Martin Seligman, founder of the positive-psychology movement conducted multiple experiments exploring how happy people and depressed people remembered their pasts. He was surprised to find only one fundamental difference –

– Happy people remembered more good events in their lives than actually occurred while..

– Depressed people remembered the past accurately

Essentially, he discovered that realists were typically at least a little depressed while optimists were generally at least a little delusional.

How do we remember our pasts? What kind of stories do we tell ourselves? Do we try and stick to reality (what is reality anyway?) or do we permit ourselves to be slightly ‘deluded’ so we can be that bit happier?

I found this story to have a big personal impact (even before I’d read it for the first time!). A few months back, I’d had a conversation with a friend about a past experience that I didn’t look back on positively. Essentially, I always had a negative response when the experience was brought up.

During the conversation, I realized my interpretation of that experience wasn’t helping. It’s high time I focused on what I learnt and moved on. Seligman would call that ‘Learned optimism’.

Here’s to remembering our past with a ‘pinch of salt‘ this week!