Since Norman Vincent Peale published The Power of Positive Thinking over fifty years ago, the power of the mind in health and well-being does not need to be reiterated. Hope and positive thinking has implications in all manners of disease states and the adaptation of healthy behaviors. Maintaining a daily positive thought process or engaging in cheerful self-affirming attitude benefits all most all aspects of life. Studies have shown this time and again as we have had similar experiences ourselves or in others.
What is not as prevalent in the medical and psychological literature is the power of pessimism. There is great benefit to some to see the glass half empty. I am not talking about the Eeyore’s we all know walking around in the ‘huhh-hum’ mode of behavior. I am talking about the strategic doubter’s or defensive pessimists.
According to Julie K. Norem, PhD, professor of psychology, and author of the book The Positive Power of Negative Thinking, “Defensive pessimism is a strategy used in specific situations to manage anxiety, fear, and worry.” According to Norem, these people who occasionally are viewed as negative are preparing for situations by setting low expectations usually by reviewing anything and everything that could go wrong. Friends, relatives, and co-workers (due to the influence of ‘positive people’ like Tony Robbins and the like) think these defensive pessimists are just depressed and negative about life. We are told by these happy gurus that those people will never succeed, never reach their full potential, always battle their inner self, not to mention some of their other esoteric pretexts.
In reality, it is defensive pessimist’s way to evaluate and examine life situations so as to better prepare how to handle them. A number of studies have actually shown these strategic doubters can be very successful people. To us they have a low self-esteem or vision of life through dirty glasses, but actually they are preparing and motivating themselves to perform better.
A joyful optimist would be greatly disappointed focusing on the best case scenario of a situation that did not come to fruition. A defensive pessimist’s who focused on the worst case circumstance would not be surprised and be prepared for what’s next. A blissful idealist convinced that positive self affirmation is best may unwittingly generate more negativity.
No matter how you look at it, if you are what others would consider pessimistic or at the very least know someone you consider a negative person, remember we all deal and cope with situations differently. Being positive or being negative –we need to view the person and their actions. We are all different and face life differently – that I am positive of.