The Positive Pessimist and Redefining Success After Brain Injury

Dr. Herman Lukow says that a person who was a pessimist before his injury will probably remain so after his injury, but by finding new interests and small jobs, positivity can slip in one step at a time.

View more videos with Herman Lukow, PhD.

[Dr. Herman Lukow II] As far as changing someone's basic personality from being a pessimist, I don't think that's necessarily going to be happening. I've run into that with a couple of clients. It doesn't change necessarily. But there are other things that can change. They can still maybe have sort of a rotten outlook on life or always looking on the dark side but still realize they have strengths that they can use—maybe even some new skills they didn't know— find enjoyment out of things that they never found joy from before. I've had great success with a survivor that came in, and I was thinking, "Oh, this is going to be almost like pulling teeth." There didn't seem to be any willingness to communicate—no motivation—a hard time with word selection and memory and really not much of a positive affect—not a very positive person. It was as small a thing with her as introducing coloring mandalas—different complex patterns. We were looking—how are you going to re-author your life? How are you going to make the life you want now based on now—not based on before—right now? What can you do that's going to let your mind slow down so you're not always thinking about it— so you're not depressed—you're not in pain. For her, it was the success that she found drawing mandalas—drawing or coloring in complex objects and patterns. The next week she came back—was talking more—was much more engaged—had done three on her own where before it was hard to get any kind of compliance with any suggestions. So that was one of those—that's a success. I saw it as a real success because—as did she because she saw there were things that she could do that did give her relief or bring joy into her life. It is nice to be able to see someone change to a more positive view or—when I was talking that example— to get it—to realize how they must moderate and change what their definition of success is.
Posted on BrainLine September 18, 2013.

Produced by Victoria Tilney McDonough, Justin Rhodes, and Lara Collins, BrainLine.