Apparently it’s possible, even in this day and age:
I was thinking about my old high school French teacher again this morning as I trudged up the stairs to my office. Specifically, how I remember seeing him on his way to work (the prep school I attended had a few houses that they used to provide housing for some faculty. He and his wife had a house close to campus). He was frequently whistling and swinging his briefcase. And thinking about that makes me sad because while I value my work deeply, I never quite feel like whistling and swinging whatever I am carrying (I don’t carry a briefcase) as I head in to work. And I wonder, how does someone learn to be that happy-go-lucky? By all rights I should be like that I have an extremely good life, unbelievably good by global standards and yet I’m so serious all the time. And stuff, little stuff, gets to me and sucks out the joy I might feel.
I think part of it may be hard-coded into the genome. Mark Twain’s Old Man in “What Is Man?”, 1906:
I know them well. They are extremes, abnormals; their temperaments are as opposite as the poles. Their life-histories are about alike but look at the results! Their ages are about the same about around fifty. Burgess had always been buoyant, hopeful, happy; Adams has always been cheerless, hopeless, despondent. As young fellows both tried country journalism and failed. Burgess didn’t seem to mind it; Adams couldn’t smile, he could only mourn and groan over what had happened and torture himself with vain regrets for not having done so and so instead of so and so THEN he would have succeeded. They tried the law and failed. Burgess remained happy because he couldn’t help it. Adams was wretched because he couldn’t help it. From that day to this, those two men have gone on trying things and failing: Burgess has come out happy and cheerful every time; Adams the reverse. And we do absolutely know that these men’s inborn temperaments have remained unchanged through all the vicissitudes of their material affairs. Let us see how it is with their immaterials. Both have been zealous Democrats; both have been zealous Republicans; both have been zealous Mugwumps. Burgess has always found happiness and Adams unhappiness in these several political beliefs and in their migrations out of them. Both of these men have been Presbyterians, Universalists, Methodists, Catholics then Presbyterians again, then Methodists again. Burgess has always found rest in these excursions, and Adams unrest. They are trying Christian Science, now, with the customary result, the inevitable result. No political or religious belief can make Burgess unhappy or the other man happy.
I assure you it is purely a matter of temperament. Beliefs are ACQUIREMENTS, temperaments are BORN; beliefs are subject to change, nothing whatever can change temperament.
Aside: I’ll never know precisely how much that essay affected me when I read it as a tween. Call it an acquired belief.
Maybe he never watched the news. That could be part of it.
I’m sure not watching the news has helped my sense of self.