Everyone has a song to sing, a story to tell, and love that they hold inside. Whether they are willing to bravely take the stage and put it out there for everyone to see, depends upon how their brain weighs the risk and the reward. Someone who thinks the entire universe is out to get them is less likely to risk being rejected than someone who typically expects to encounter good people and good things along the path.
In her book “Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain,” psychologist Elaine Fox explains recent brain research that digs into the reasons why some people expect to encounter mostly pleasant people and experiences, and others expect constant bad news and disappointment. Dr. Fox provides a short introduction to the topic in the video below:
Sometimes the optimists are wrong. But on the average, the “sunny brain” people tend to have happier and more successful lives. “Our personalities have a profound effect on the life events we experience.” Perhaps being willing to take chances to go for golden opportunities leads to bigger payoffs over the long run, than just sitting on the sidelines for fear of failing.
There are genetic and physiological reasons why some people have sunny brains that expect success, and others have rainy brains that are counting on failure. And there are certainly experiential reasons for why some brains expect one outcome, while other brains are certain of the opposite outcome.
Being afraid to try guarantees lower achievement levels and fewer pleasurable situations and relationships, leads to more inflammatory and degenerative diseases, and seems to shorten lifespans. The pessimistic mindset may be partially based upon genetic factors, but it tends to be self-reinforcing due to ongoing negative life experiences.
Notice that in the lyrics of the Paul Simon song “Song for the Asking,” the singer is not playing all his love. He is offering to play it, if the person will only ask:
Here is my song for the asking
Ask me and I will play
So sweetly, I’ll make you smile
This is my tune for the taking
Take it, don’t turn away
I’ve been waiting all my life
Thinking it over, I’ve been sad
Thinking it over, I’d be more than glad
To change my ways for the asking
Ask me and I will play
All the love that I hold inside
In this way, he only risks total rejection if he is asked to play all of his love. Like a salesman offering to give a sales pitch, he is risking something — but not everything. He is only risking everything if he puts it all out there, where rejection can be total.
It is that risk of rejection against which we must fortify the minds and spirits of the young so that their lives will not be stunted unnecessarily. Even for those who may be genetically and physiologically predisposed to avoiding social risk, there are certainly strategies and tactics that can be taught to help the youngsters to break through the seemingly insurmountable barriers between where he is and where he might wish to be if he only dared.