I read a story today in the Daily Mail about how people who are too optimistic are more likely to get scammed. THE PRICE OF BEING OPTIMISTIC: STUDY FINDS PEOPLE WHO ‘SEE THE GLASS HALF FULL’ ARE MORE LIKELY TO FALL VICTIM TO SCAMS. (I had trouble putting the link here but if you google it, it will come up)
I immediately saw the link between optimism and being taken in by psychopaths.Even after decades of having my hopes dashed by my son Patrick’s failure to learn from his mistakes, from him continuing to escalate in his criminal behavior, I still maintained the false optimism that he would want at some point to change.
I wore rose colored glasses and made myself believe his lies until it became so apparent that he would never change, that he was actually the way he wanted to be that I finally had to give up on my cancerous false hope that was eating me like a cancer. My optimism was blinding me to what he really was…a psychopath without conscience, without regret and without the ability or desire to change.
But this is not limited to me and my thinking, because I have friends who have felony criminals in their families that keep on robbing, stealing, and worse, who continue to hang on to the optimism that “Junior will change.” When “Junior” gets out of prison they welcome him back into their homes, give him a place to live and a car to drive, and lo and behold, “Junior” goes back to his old habits and goes back to prison. Rinse and repeat.
I understand the false hope that these people cling to and with their friends telling them “you can’t give up hope, he is your son!” I wish I had a dollar for every time some well meaning acquaintance has said this to me.
There is a difference really between a well placed “hope” and “expectations” of something really happening. If I buy a lotto ticket I HOPE I will win, but I really do NOT EXPECT TO WIN. So when I do not win, I am not crushed. My expectations of winning are nil so I am not disappointed.
So really when we say we “hope” Junior will reform, it is more in the form of EXPECTATIONS rather than just a normal “hope” of winning the lotto. So when Junior does not reform we are crushed again. Hurt again, and stressed and grieved beyond belief.
My false expectations of Patrick reforming were the problem that kept me in grief and pain. Once I gave up those expectations, when he did not reform I was not crushed.
While I tend to be “optimistic” about some things and “hope for the best” I have now tried to keep my head out of the clouds of “false hope/expectations” and be more realistic about what is versus what I would like to be the case.
As a registered advanced practice nurse I have seen patients who were having a heart attack and they were in denial about their symptoms and therefore did not seek medical care in a timely manner, in some cases this cost them their lives. When we keep up the “optimistic” false hope/expectations about someone changing we are essentially in denial about the truth.
Denial, short term, can help us to cope with a tragedy we are at the moment unable to grasp, but long term, it is toxic because if we are in denial we will not take steps to fix the problems, and like the person experiencing chest pain, and being in denial, that it is a heart attack, they do not seek medical help.
We can only address a problem and work toward fixing it if we give up false hope, false expectations and get out of denial about the severity of the problem.
People who repeatedly violate the law, both the moral and the legal laws, are not going to change no matter what we do for them, how much we love them or how much we wish they would change. Taking them back into our homes and lives after they repeatedly get into trouble with the law is not going to help them, and will only hurt us.