negative thinking pessimism

Oscar Wilde said that a pessimist is someone who “When he has the choice of two evils, chooses both.” A quirky observation perhaps, but psychological research has shown that people with a pessimistic outlook could be harmed by being forced to be upbeat. After all, none of us likes to be told to think in a way that is not natural for us.

So my point is, if you re naturally negative, and that works for you, here are some pointers to maximising your natural thinking style. Rather than looking seeing a crisis as an opportunity – as I often imply in my posts – harness your natural negativity to the full.

Try Natural Pessimism

There are several ways to use pessimism to your advantage if you are naturally inclined towards it. For some naturally pessimistic people, imagining the worst ‘most likely’ outcome of any situation is actually a way of managing their anxiety.

If redundancy and financial hardship are in the air, then really getting into the worry that it might be you who loses their job can be an effective strategy for coping with the worry and PLANNING for the worst.

They use their aptitude to pinpoint the negative aspects of a situation, and this motivates them to do something about it. This aspect is critical, because it turns the worry into a course of ACTION.

Worrying by itself is not recommended, especially when associated with a pervasive sense of powerlessness, because it is linked to depression, so it can be really defeating. If you find yourself sinking into this sort of rumination, distract yourself by doing something different. The key word here is DOING, as opposed to THINKING.

Help if you are depressed

That’s enough on negative thinking, except to say that if you are a pessimist and also inclined towards depressive thinking, I can recommend The Feeling Good Handbook, by David Burns, and the website of Dr Michael Yapko, who really helped me understand about helping people change their patterns of depressive thinking. Take a look at this video of you want to know more on this.

Working (or living) with a negativist

By the way, maybe you work with someone who is only able to see the downside of things. If you want to find out how to tackle constant negativity from a person at work, or any other of six typically difficult types of behaviour, then there is sound advice in my book Difficult People; How to Handle Difficult Behaviour, if you can still find a copy.

Honouring pessimism

Coming back to my original point about respecting people who have a natural talent for pessimism, rather than trying to get them to change it. Part of my philosophy is that we should always try to respect the other person’s point of view. It follows that if someone really wants to be negative who am I to try to persuade them otherwise?

So, in the interests of balance – and to compensate for the generally upbeat tone of this blog – I have spelt out below how to really make the most of all your negativity, if that is what turns you on.

Maybe life is all doom and gloom really, and I have just missed it. Well, let’s put it this way, maybe you don’t buy into solutions, perhaps all this positive stuff turns you right off. Most of us don’t like change, so if all this is too much for you, and you’d rather stick to an easier path, here is how to do what many people are doing already, but do it properly.

Here is how to go about it: Here are FIVE THINGS that will help to protect you from upbeat people like me.

Join the scaremongers

Go for it, each time you think of something that could go wrong for you, embrace your pessimism. Take a little time to sit and think about how bad it might really get. And when you’ve done that, search you memory for evidence to support it.

Enrol in the Doom and Gloom Club

When others start up on how bad things are, get into the gossip. Pretty soon you’ll find out how good you can be at this. Remember misery loves company so there is no better way to bring yourself down.

Bury your head in the sand

You may have things you should be doing, like planning how to save money, talking to your bank manager, re-structuring part of your life or looking for new ways to prosper. Much simpler though if you just ignore it all. Any time you feel a plan coming on, distract yourself. If you notice that this makes you feel a little guilty or irresponsible, ignore that too. So simple, yet so effective.

Believe all you read and hear

You are surrounded by bad news. As well as the naysayers, there are the media; Newspapers and TV are particularly good at feeding us negativity big-time. Soak it up, believe it, and bathe in the hopelessness as we talk ourselves deeper into recession. Then, watch the soaps. Nothing like an hour or two a day of authentic sounding drama and arguments to set you up for a troubled night’s sleep.

Exaggerate – turn the crisis into a drama

Finally, remember to always exaggerate any negativity that comes your way. This comes naturally to some people, less so to others. Any time you see a glimmer of hope, a little ray of light creeping into illuminate your life, shut it out. Remember all that bad news you’ve been absorbing? Mull it over. Ruminate! Learn to shake your head muttering things like “It’s hopeless”, or “There’s nothing can do, afte all it’s a global crisis.” So remember, all is not lost, but there is plenty you can do to make sure that it seems like it is.

I’m a psychologist, coach, and therapist. All my work is aimed at enabling people to improve personal aspects of their lives and work.


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