I have briefly touched on this topic in pervious posts but today I will dive deeper into it. What is pessimism? It is when you always look for the negatives in every situation. Some people do this automatically without even realising that they have this habit. An example of pessimism might be if you are out at a nice bar with your friends and you choose to point out all of the flaws. So instead of noticing how lovely your cocktail was made you might instead point out that the glass is so huge and that it could’ve been put in a more presentable glass. Another example could be if you are out on a date with your partner and instead of being grateful that they have strategically planned out every detail of the night for you so that the two of you can spend quality time together, you might find a flaw within the restaurant and start complaining about small, irrelevant things that easily could be overlooked.
Some people come across as pessimistic because they are just really unhappy with their lives. As a result, they might begin tearing other people down in order to make themselves feel better. An example of this could be if someone is upset because they feel that they do not have a strong group of supportive friends in their life. If this person (lets call them person A) comes across someone else (lets call this one person B) who seems to have lots of great support systems in place then person A could begin tearing person B down and accusing them of being fake for having so many close friends. This stems from insecurity and is only ever done if someone feels so low about themselves that they feel the need to actually tear others down or do something to try and discredit them in order to make themselves feel better. It typically has a lot to do with power too, if person A can put down person B then they may feel more in control and like their insecurity has just been justified.
Another example could be if someone is feeling quite lost about where they are in life and as if they do not have a life purpose. If person A is feeling this way, then they come across person B who has a very clear vision about where they want to be career wise and have detailed to do lists to accomplish their monthly goals then person A could go out of their way to put down person B. They could do this by making snarky comments like “Person B is such a control freak did you see their 5 year plan? It is too much to handle” or “Person B is living in lala land, they actually believe that they can achieve x, y and z in 5 years”. Lastly they could say something like “Do you really think you are capable of working in that career? I can’t picture you doing something like that because ____(then begin trying to dim this persons shine by pointing out the negatives)___”. The underlying problem here for this kind of pessimism is insecurity.
For the other types of people who are pessimistic this could stem from childhood trauma. When children are young, they turn to their care-givers to observe their reactions to the world. In doing so, they are able to form their own judgement on whether the world is a safe place to be or not because if mum thinks that it is safe then the child will copy and also think it is safe. Children turn to their care-givers to have all of their needs met so that means to receive food, shelter, hygiene, love, approval and for many other needs. They view their parents as these magical heroes who can make anything happen at the click of a finger and this is why they copy. Just like in adulthood, people who really admire you will generally start to mimic everything you do because they think you are amazing and want to be just like you too. Anyways the point of this is if children are in an environment where a lot of trauma is experienced within the household, then they are taught that the world is not a safe place and often have to go into fight or flight mode aka survival mode. So this could mean being a witness to domestic violence and abuse. It could also mean personally experiencing neglect or family violence and abuse physically, verbally, emotionally or psychologically. Trauma comes in many different forms though so this is just the tip of the iceberg I have just narrowed down the most common types. As a result of the brain sending out this fight or flight message to the body an adrenaline rush occurs but I will talk about the impacts of this in another article because that is a whole other topic.
When this is constantly happening, it then becomes a habit in the brain to keep thinking about danger and it keeps enforcing the message that the world is not a safe place and that nobody can be trusted. When these children grow up, they then are so used to thinking that everything around them is dangerous so they start to intentionally look out for the dangers around them even if they are in a safe environment. This then comes across as pessimism because in an environment that should be fun they may begin to look for reasons about why it is not fun. Additionally, when these children are around someone who is very optimistic or overly happy then they might start to look for reasons to not trust what this person is saying or to doubt them. These are just the main two reasons behind pessimistic thinking patterns, but there are more out there and who knows what future neuroscience studies may reveal about this? There is still so much to uncover.
So you are a pessimistic thinker, what now? Well the good thing is that you can re-wire your brain so that you can get into the habit of forming optimistic thinking patterns. You can do this by firstly becoming aware when you are saying something negative when you do not need to. For example if you are out with your friends and they say they really like another girls sneakers then you begin saying something negative about them just be mindful of this and try to pin-point why you felt the need to comment on this? Why were you looking out for the negative? Is this stemming from your own insecurity? Or is this because this is what you have done since childhood due to your automatic brain response? Once you have figured it out it will be a lot easier to solve the problem.
Next, when you find yourself making unnecessary negative remarks observe it coming out of your system but then pause at the end and for every negative thing you just pointed out say “but I like how” and list positive things. Please note that this needs to be an authentic process; so do not point out things you do not truly like just for the sake of it because that will just defeat the purpose. You need to train yourself to start looking for the positive, because if this isn’t your natural response then you will have to turn this into a habit so that it can become embedded into your memory. This will then turn into an automatic response until eventually the unnecessary negative remarks stop coming out all together. Of course if you have a genuine reason to complain about something like if food is hazardous at a restaurant due to poor hygiene or something like that then this is NECESSARY so there is no need to go looking for positives.
This could also work for low self-esteem too. So if you notice that you are only pessimistic due to your own insecurities, then you can start building your confidence up by using this same method every time that you put yourself down.