Looking At Your Glass Half Empty
Excerpt from: Who’s REALLY Driving Your Bus?
By James O. Henman, Ph.D., Psychological Associates Press, 2003, pp. 215 – 218.
Nugget: It Is Wise To See The Glass Half Full, Rather Than Half Empty
If you see the glass half empty, there are several natural reactions you are likely to have – feeling bad about what is missing, resenting what is missing, getting defensive about what isn’t there. These reactions make it harder to enjoy what is in your glass. On the other hand, when you see your glass half full, there is a natural tendency to value what is in your glass, thus increasing the chances of enjoying it. This reaction naturally enhances your pleasure with what is in your glass.
The extreme of this difference comes when you see the glass that is filled to the half point as if it was totally full or totally empty. Some try so hard to be positive that they deny reality and focus only on the positive. I find most of these people have a strong, underlying fearful child inside, afraid to acknowledge any negative feelings for fear of breaking the dam, and starting a flood that may never end. At the other end of the continuum are those who see the half-filled glass as empty. If it isn’t perfect, forget it! It’s all or nothing for these folks. What feels most familiar to you? Notice deeply and share with me in your journal.
Some people take the stand that to be most realistic, you must adopt the half empty perspective as coming to grips with what has been lost. They say, “Take off your rose colored glasses and face facts!” The truth is that either describing the glass as half full or half empty is equally accurate. The real question is the cost/benefit of each perspective. Which generates contentment? Which works best? Do you recognize either of these patterns as being familiar? Share your reactions with me in your journal.
One subtle but powerful cost of survival mentality is the core feeling of scarcity that comes with this perspective. This core sense of scarcity filters everything. From this survival mentality it is natural to see your glass as half empty. It is also natural to feel anxious when things are going well (Second-Order feeling), because of previous experiences of getting your hopes up, only to be disappointed. It is very difficult to relax into becoming when everything feels like a test. These assumptions are affecting your ability to be chooser in your life.
The truth is that you can learn to develop a more constructive perspective by consciously attending to positive aspects of your daily experience. Think of it as building a muscle. Habits form from repeated experience, so practice, practice and more practice. Savoring what is in your glass not only allows you to increase your pleasure, others will tend to be drawn to you. This is not about faking it or wearing masks! It is about applying the Fundamental Principle of New Program: A growing commitment to the acceptance (acknowledgement) of Reality in the present. By giving yourself the permission to start where you are starting in the present, you can relax into enjoying the adventure of learning and growing. You can have fun with the clumsy, awkward feelings that are natural when learning something new, living consciously with your glass half full.
As you practice this perspective it comes more easily and feels more natural. Don’t fall for the trap of believing the filter “That’s Just How I Am” (See Chapter Two). Some people are more naturally positive while others are more naturally negative. Both physiology and early conditioning play a part in where you are starting regarding your “normal” perspective of half full or half empty. Practice and a willingness to develop this perspective determine your future. It is not written in ink, but in pencil. What do you choose for your future?
People suffering from depression often develop a half-empty perspective toward life. They focus on what they don’t have, sure that things will turn out badly. They concentrate on the flaws in themselves and others, feeling robbed by life and resentful for what is missing in their lives. This attitude/perspective tends to be a turn-off to others, and damages their relationships. It actually keeps them from risking and taking chances to make healthy changes in their lives. Imagine what it would be like to come home from school with a report card of five “A’s” and one “B.” Many clients suffering from debilitating perfectionism share the experience of bringing such a report card home and having a parent say, “Why do you have this B,” with no acknowledgment of the A’s.
Although life experiences have affected your perspective up until now, from this point forward, you get to choose which elements you are going to notice. This is just like working any muscle to get it into shape. It is the process of developing a habit. The truth is that you can choose to begin noticing what is in your glass, and can choose to feel good about what you have at this moment.
This is not a denial of what is missing or painful about this moment, but rather a chance to apply the Serenity Prayer to the unwanted things, at the same time, appreciating and valuing the positive things. In the Serenity Prayer you are asking for the serenity to change what you can change, the freedom to release what you can’t change, and a growing wisdom to know the difference. This is where spirituality really comes alive. What is important and what is not? What are needs and what are wants? What assumptions are you bringing into your life? Reflect deeply on your ability to learn to see your glass half full, and share what you notice with me in your journal.