Ultimately, it is always in our own self-interest to be open and vulnerable rather than to be nasty or write people off. The only person we can control is ourselves. When we get cynical, we are the ones who suffer.
Like most families together for the holidays, we spend the first hours going over the updates: who died, who went bankrupt, who needs surgery. Given enough time and liquor, this can easily become a competition: whose disaster story is worse?
As a mental practitioner who helps people change their mental state from the consciousness of sickness to one of health, I've seen again and again how the removal of fear and fixation on the images of disease positively affects one's well-being.
Are you a pessimist or an optimist? When you've eaten all the whipped cream and upper midsection of your Venti Soy Mocha Frappuccino, is that cup half empty or is it half full of stuff you probably shouldn't be drinking at the start of your day?
Is the glass half-empty or half-full? I subscribe to the answer my colleague Sally Fisher formulated: "Both!" Life is both full and empty. When we are only in the empty part, we are suffering; when we are only in the full part, we are in denial.
Did pessimism about the future influence people to abandon the hope of saving for retirement, or did a lack of savings lead to the pessimism? One clue may be in the fact that people over 55 are even more gloomy about the future of the economy than the general population.
To be successful, you need to understand the very vital difference between believing you will succeed, and believing you will succeed easily. It's the difference between being a realistic optimist and an unrealistic optimist.