Stop telling people that everything is going to be fine. Sometimes it isn’t, and this is where defensive pessimism helps us cope with that fact.

Not everything in the world goes according to plan. Some things go terribly wrong. For optimists, this can be devastating. You see, optimistic people, while their happiness is usually pretty healthy, sometimes do not account for what can go wrong. With the use of defensive pessimism, individuals can accept bad outcomes.

How does defensive pessimism work?

When I speak of a defensive type of pessimism, I don’t mean you’re getting offended and being negative. No, I’m talking about using your thoughts to plan a defense against the pain of bad outcomes.

It’s like that old saying goes, ‘plan for the worst, but hope for the best’. You see, that’s what your defense is all about. When it comes to anxiety, being defensively pessimistic is actually much better than trying to be optimistic all the time.

How to use defensive pessimism to calm your anxieties:

1. Utilizing strategy

While positive thinking helps you stay upbeat and hopeful, defensive pessimism works those strategy muscles. When you play chess, you don’t think one move ahead, but three, four or even five moves…strategy.

Some even think further ahead than that. Strategies in pessimism help us to understand that we do need to appreciate the now, but we can also plan ahead in case our opposition, the world, throws us a surprise.

2. Preparations expert

When you use pessimism to your advantage instead of letting it become overwhelming, you learn how to make logical preparations. It’s kind of like being realistic about life and knowing what tools to have for both good and bad outcomes.

This doesn’t just apply to surprises, it can apply to anything negative that plagues you or could become a problem. If you are prepared, negative issues will only be a small bump in the road. A prime example lies in retaining what’s called “Plan B”. You’ve heard me talk about it a few times, I believe.

3. Past experiences drive intellect

A defensive pessimist is often pushed by negative past experiences. These traumatic events cause many problems for them later in life, but it also grows a strong human being. These individuals rarely use optimistic strategies to combat life’s problems. They understand that “Just stay positive” doesn’t solve problems, and doesn’t keep them away.

Instead, they think of all the possible scenarios of most any given situation, just short of letting it overtake them. They know when to stop, and keep stress at bay, replacing that worry with those strategic plans that I mentioned above.

4. Using all your abilities

When you are defensively pessimistic, you tend to utilize hidden abilities. Optimists may never use these abilities because they tend to ward of concern and worry completely, depending on everything going the way it’s supposed to.

When you properly use your defenses however, you use all the abilities you’ve earned in life, plus the gifts you were born with to make sure you have that safety net. When things go south, you have a basket full of options to choose from. Yes, you’re prepared, and having many powerful abilities just adds even more to your preparations for “Plan B”.

5. Controls and tames anxiety

So, we come to the main reason why defensive pessimism is also a good mindset. When you have anxiety, and everyone is trying to make you stay positive, your levels of panic actually rise. This happens due to the pressure of thinking all good thoughts. It leaves you unprepared for what could happen. While it might not be all that good to constantly dwell on bad things, it’s also not good to assume everything will be rainbows and butterflies all the time.

Being defensive allows you to work through scenarios in your head and gives you the chance to tame your anxiety by coming up with solutions you may possibly need later. Controlling anxiety means staying in control of your life.

Optimism actually doesn’t give you all that much control at all. It just means “Stay happy, believe in good things, and never think the worst”. While this sounds all good and wonderful, it can be extremely dangerous to some.

Balancing between pessimism and optimism

I’ve been pessimistic many times in life, even to the point of being too dark. I have tried being optimistic, and that worked for a while, but only a while. So, defensive pessimism has actually become a way of life for me.

I do prepare for the worst and hope for the best, most of the time. While I don’t know the whole truth about how healthy this is, I believe it can’t be any worse than turning a blind eye to problems and assuming life will always turn out great. I would be fooling you and me both.

I do, however, think defensive pessimism is worth a try. Planning for the pitfalls of the future can really allow you to exercise strategy, gathering preparations and bracing for negative impacts. Either way, striking a good balance between dark and light in this manner is well worth a try.

What do you think?



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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Alvaro

    Tersely, and intelligently stated. I too think in that way. Thank you so much! Alvaro Barsi

  2. Helen

    In this time of lockdown is important keeping the balance between being an optimist and a pessimist person because we are living time of uncertainty in many ways. I liked the article because gave me a realistic point of view of our lifestyle now.

    1. Yes, it’s good to use your best logic and wisdom during this time. Most importantly, be discerning. When you get ready to make some decision about going out, think long and hard before you do, be safe, and think of others who could be affected. There is a division going on right now in our nations and our world. While it can be scary, we have to be the difference and the intelligence that this world needs.

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