What does it mean to be an optimist? I do not mean this in a mere lexical sense, i.e. how a dictionary would define an optimist, instead I want to look at it from my own experience and understanding. Prima facie I can make out two possibilities: Either you try to keep a positive attitude even in bad situations and try to find at least something good therein, or you shift your focus on to something positive that has happened or is currently happening in your life until the bad things have passed.
In my social surroundings, I have witnessed the former behaviour a lot. Some did go through a depressive stage and optimism seemed a good way to fight it. But I think here is a misunderstanding: the human brain has a naturally strong negativity bias which is intensified in real depression, therefore a strategy in many therapy approaches would be to actively train the brain to focus more on the positive things…but somehow this got mixed up with the behaviour I described above. At first glance, this optimistic behaviour seems to have actual benefits. Daily hassles seem not as heavy as before and good things seem to happen more often.
Unfortunately this seems to have rather odd consequences. When ´to be optimistic` is equal to ´to always look for the good and positive, even in bad situations` than I wonder, if the ability to be sceptical and questioning is hampered. If one is sceptical (in the common language sense), he is unsure if a certain concept or system really has said consequences. For example, a party with a particular doctrine promises that if they get to be in charge, such and such changes will occur. If we argue with friends or colleagues, if it is a good idea to vote for this party instead of any other, we will point to certain possible consequences, e.g. “when party X is in charge, evidence Y may account for consequence Z”
Now let us assume three people, where one is an optimist, meet and discuss a political event. Person A is for party x, but Person B is against x and instead for party y. Both persons want to convince person C (our optimist) that C should vote their favoured party. How should C decide? If party x is in charge, C will find reasons why it is positive that party x is in charge. If party y is in charge, C will also find reasons why it is positive that party y is in charge. Thus, if C will adhere strictly to his optimistic thinking, any situation is as good as any other.
Of course this is an over-dramatization, you may argue (and rightly so) that this is nonsensical form of optimism and people are in normal circumstances not so generalizing. They will often suspend this behaviour, if it seems to suit them. But I have often met people who will unfortunately argue in a similar way. Thus, upon reflection I decided to reject this form of optimism and instead choose to acknowledge the bad things, try to be critical of them, while still actively trying to sit down and focus on the things that really enrichen my life and give it purpose.