Trusting the Process: Penelope

Joseph Dispenza

The Universe has some great things in store for you if you will do all you can, then just sit still and trust ‘the process’ to work its way to a successful — and often dazzling — conclusion.

When the Greek general Ulysses, King of Ithaca, told his wife Penelope that he had to go away to fight a war in Troy, neither of them could have known that he would be gone so long. He promised her he would return…when? only the gods knew.

Ten years passed before word reached Ithaca that the war was over and Ulysses and his fellow generals had been victorious. But there was no sign of Ulysses himself. Soon, suitors from nearby kingdoms began to arrive at Penelope’s palace to ask for her hand in marriage. If Ulysses was not coming home, his fair wife (widow?) should at least have the comforts of a new husband and a new life.

Penelope, however, trusted the promise of Ulysses that he would return — and she trusted the timetable of the gods (the process) in the matters of how and when he would return. Another ten years crept by. Meanwhile, far away from home, Ulysses and his small band of adventurers were undergoing amazing experiences — attacked by a one-eyed monster; lured into a storm by sweet-singing mermaids; narrowly escaping an avalanche of crashing cliffs.

To quiet her restless suitors, Penelope told them she would choose one of them to be her new husband as soon as the tapestry she was weaving was finished. By day she wove industriously in her studio. But at night she lit a candle and stole back into the studio, went to her loom, and unraveled all the work she had done the day before. In this way, the tapestry was never finished.

At last, after a twenty year absence, Ulysses came home to Ithaca. He immediately set about ridding the palace of the greedy suitors, dispatching some of them to their homes and others to heaven. He and the faithful Penelope were reunited, and the kingdom rang out with shouts of joy and laughter. We are told that Ulysses and Penelope lived happily ever after.

Trusting the process worked well for Penelope. By her faith in a happy outcome, and an optimistic attitude, she brought Ulysses safely back into her loving arms.

Why you should trust the process with optimism

  • A recent study tracking 839 male and female patients from the Mayo Clinic found that the pessimists (determined by personality testing) had a 19 percent higher mortality rate than optimists.

  • Another study at University of California at Los Angeles discovered that unrealistically optimistic HIV-positive men (those who expected to get better despite all evidence to the contrary) lived an average of nine months longer than those with a more realistic (and, thus, more pessimistic) view of their medical condition.

  • A new study of 112 college students suggests that pessimists catch more colds than optimists. Conducted by Wilkes University and a Veteran’s Administration medical center in New Jersey, the study showed that those who were classified as pessimists had lower levels of immunoglobulin A, an antibody that fights colds and other illnesses.

‘Learned’ optimism can prevent depression

Optimism — the inclination to put a positive spin on life’s actions and events — has not always been in vogue, psychologically speaking. Throughout much of the 20th century, mental-health professionals agreed with Sigmund Freud that optimism was an illusion that kept the masses happy and only those who were coldly realistic were psychologically balanced.

But in the last couple of decades, researchers have begun to discover that there is a definite relationship between pessimism and poor health and, conversely, optimism and good health. ‘The link between optimism and health is now solidly established,’ says Christopher Peterson, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of Michigan and the author of many studies in the field. And, as a result of this link, ‘positive’ psychology is now the trend in both research and practice.

Simply put, positive psychology attempts to discover what works (an optimistic outlook, for instance) and how to develop it, rather than concentrate on what isn’t working. ‘In the past we were too preoccupied with repairing damage, when our focus should be on building strength and resilience,’ says positive-psychology advocate Martin Seligman, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and former president of the American Psychological Association.

Seligman believes that learning how to promote joy and happiness will, in turn, lessen negative feelings and depression. Because, according to him and other positive psychologists, negative thinking is itself the disease — rather than just a symptom of depression.

Take Dr. Seligman’s Quiz on Optimism and Helplessness

Are you a negative thinker?

Here are eight of the common thought habits pessimists share. Recognize yourself? If so, there’s good news. You can change any of these with a conscious effort.

  1. Everything’s your fault. This is called personalization, says Harvard’s Peg Baim, M.S., N.P., and it’s the source of all guilt. If your child fails a test, do you think it’s because you’re a bad parent?

  2. You see black or white. A.k.a. all-or-nothing thinking. “If your performance falls short, you’re a total failure,” Baim says.

  3. To you, it’s catastrophic! You magnify everything that goes wrong to the point of catastrophe.

  4. You dwell on negative minutiae and overlook the positive big picture. You’re at a friend’s wedding, but all you think of is how you look with the three pounds you’ve gained.

  5. You — and everyone else — must achieve perfection. With this kind of thinking, everything has the potential to become a failure.

  6. You are unable to accept a compliment. Does self-deprecation sound familiar?

  7. You seek approval a lot. When all the people in your life do not approve of what you’re doing, you’re miserable.

  8. You over-generalize. An isolated negative event is sweeping disappointment. Your boss is mean and nasty? All bosses are mean and nasty.

This month, try to be a positive thinker about yourself, your life, and the people in your life. Penelope trusted the process, remained optimistic, and was rewarded with the return of Ulysses — and the blessing of the gods on her joy-filled future.

Suggestion Reading

Trust the Process: An Artist’s Guide to Letting Go
This inspirational book expands the reader’s view of what it means to live in tune with the labyrinthine ways of the creative spirit, which mysteriously works its magic when we relinquish ego control and “trust the process.”

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