“Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” -Charles Dickens

In his ground-breaking book Thinking, Fast and Slow, Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman writes about his research on counterfactuals. Counterfactuals are the stories we tell ourselves about how things could have turned out differently. Studies show that the same exact event can be interpreted as either a blessing or a misfortune depending on the counterfactuals you decide to generate. 

In one study, researchers tracked down and interviewed various people who had been shot during a bank robbery. It turned out that half of the shooting victims were focusing on downward counterfactuals, like: “Of all the banks I could have walked into, and of all the people who were in the bank that day I was the one who got shot.”

However, another set of victims were focusing on upward counterfactuals, like: “If that bullet had struck me just a few inches to the left I would be dead right now. I am so lucky to be alive.”

What is an event in your life that you have been viewing as a misfortune? Could you shift your counterfactuals to interpret it as a blessing instead?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s