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Perceptions of Life Today

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Sep 3rd 2010

Perceptions of Life TodayCharles Dickens great novel about the French Revolution is called "A Tale of Two Cities." The story takes place in London and Paris of the late 18th century. The famous opening quote to the book is, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."

How would you characterize life in the twenty first century? Mental Help.Net receives comments and E. Mails from some people who state that the world today is awful and that, therefore, their lives are not worth living because conditions are so very bad.

On September 1, 2010, David Biello wrote an article for Science Magazine titled, "If the World is Going to Hell, Why are Humans Doing So Well." The article is available online at:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/blog/post.cfm?id=if-the-world-is-going-to-hell-why-a-2010-09-01

While Biello is addressing environmental scientists who warn us that human life is endangered on this planet, the overall issue remains deeply connected to the mood and psychology of average human beings today.

In other words, if we ask whether or not there are worldwide problems today, most of us would agree fully. However, it is also true that there are wonderful things today that we seem to take for granted or not even notice.

Biello's article relies upon a study done by a number of scholars including the geographer, Ciara Raudsepp-Hearne, at McGill University. Basically, the scholars conclude that life today is wonderful even if there are problems.

For example, world wide, there are fewer people dying, despite wars. In addition, infant mortality is down, life expectancy has risen and is continuing to increase, more food is being produced around the globe than ever before, the economies of countless numbers of nations are surging and that is helping to spread productivity, higher standards of living and wealth to ever more human beings.

Discussion:

So, why is it that so many of us seem to think in terms of gloom and doom, much like some of the people who write to Mental Help.Net?

In my opinion, a lot of this negative attitude is caused by the way the world is portrayed in the press and mass media. I guess it goes back to the old saying that, "good news does not sell newspapers." It is impossible to avoid the influence of the mass media. Just being Online, one is exposed to the headlines that, more often than not, describe the latest disasters, and bad news around the globe. In a way, this is a variation of the notion that if you sit in front of the television enough you will become frightened to ever leave your home.

The perception of gloom and doom has a lot to do with the way each of us perceives both the world and our individual lives. If we believe that glass of water is half empty, we feel poor and desperate. If we perceive a glass of water and half full, there is a tendency to feel optimistic. As human beings we seem to possess the capacity to view things in the worst possible way. There is a vicious cycle at work here in which, if we feel depressed and sad, the world looks awful and, if we look at the world and pay attention only to those things that are negative, we feel depressed.

All things considered, and in my opinion and view, we live "the best of times." Its important to remind ourselves of all that is happening that is very positive in order to balance out the mass media's focus on bad news only. Fight against depression and gloominess. Make yourself aware of all that is good. Are there problems? Yes. Are we working on them? Yes.

Life is good.

What are your opinions and comments about this? Are these the "best of times or the worst of times?"

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

 

 

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at dransphd@aol.com for details.

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