Turning Pain into Pleasure
(#23 of 27, continuing on the discussion of how optimists and pessimists choose to use their memory and imagination)
A smart optimist knows that it would be a mistake to blithely tell someone who is in a dark place to simply “look on the bright side.” Glass half empty half full whatever, there is such as thing as reality. The reality is that some people have an experience of pain — past or present — that is coloring their ability to see into the future.
With enough tact, class and emotional intelligence, a smart optimist can navigate those situations, demonstrating grace and empathy, with no need to “fix” the other person or “teach” them a “better way to see things.”
But what happens when the smart optimist is feeling the pain themselves? What happens when “they should know better,” but nevertheless, don’t? This is where cognitive restructuring comes in.
Cognitive restructuring is the ultimate Jedi mind trick that all smart optimists must be equipped with. Simply put: cognitive restructuring is a way to turn pain into pleasure.
All thinking is subject to reframing — it is impossible to think something without somehow giving it meaning and context. Every time we remember something, we reassemble the memory and give it shape, color, flavor, texture. Same goes for thoughts of the present and imaginings of the future.
Given that there’s no way to avoid reframing, it behooves us to get good at doing it. Cognitive restructuring is the smart and optimistic way to channel our natural propensity to reframe thoughts.
Once we get good at this skill, we can perform magic. Pain can be transmogrified into pleasure. Humiliation converts into honor. Agony can be made exquisite.
There is no pain, there’s only the frame.