Feb 152010

Source: “Authentic Happiness,” Martin E. P. Seligman, Ph.D., Chapter 6


Permanence and is about time. Permanence reflects thinking in terms of “always” or “never.” Believing that the causes of bad events are permanent may cause one to give up too easily and give in to feelings of helplessness. Believing that the causes of good events are permanent contributes to optimism.


Pervasiveness is about space. Pervasiveness reflects the degree to which good or bad events affect unrelated aspects of life. Pervasiveness distinguishes between universal and specific explanations.


Hope is associated with permanent and universal explanations of good events as well as temporary and specific explanations for misfortunes. Hopeful people recover from troubles more rapidly and are better able to sustain successes.

Increasing optimism and hope

Most people never hesitate to accept negative self talk. To build optimism and hope one must recognize and then dispute pessimistic thoughts.

Martin Seligman uses the ABCDE model of disputing pessimistic thoughts. A – Adversity is the event that stimulates negative self talk. B – Belief is the set of established assumptions that contribute to negativity. C – Consequences… D – Disputation… E – Energization…

Learning to Argue with Yourself
  • Evidence – A negative belief may disappear if you consider it analytically and demand supporting evidence from yourself.
  • Alternatives – Consider alternative causes. These may indicate different meanings to an even that what you previously assigned. Especially seek alternatives that are changeable, specific, and nonpersonal.
  • Implications – Realistically, how bad are the implications? What would have been the worst possible outcome? It could have been worse. Decatastrophize the event.
  • Usefulness – Is this belief useful? Does it produce good? Am I expecting something that is unlikely? What factors of the event are under my control?
Disputation record

During future adverse events, keep a record of your mental steps. Pay attention to your thoughts, consider alternative beliefs and meanings, observe possible consequences of various beliefs, and observe the energy of choosing alternatives to negativity.