09 Sep Happiness and defensive pessimism
Is it OK to be a bit negative if it protects you from potential hurt and loss?
Is it OK to guard against misery and other negative emotions even if it limits your happiness and the experience of positive emotions?
In short, the simple answer to these questions is yes…
…and we've all probably done something like this at times.
So what's "defensive pessimism"? Defensive pessimism is where you tell yourself you won't win something so as to avoid the disappointment if you lose; it's when you say to yourself and to others that a positive outcome won't occur just in case it doesn't and then you don't have to feel upset; it's when you assume failure and hope that avoiding expectations of happiness and joy will minimise the fall.
And this is all OK…to a point.
There's no doubt that not one of us wants to experience hurt or loss or disappointment or grief. Accordingly, if we can protect against this then why wouldn't we. Defensive pessimism is a way of minimising negative emotions and ensuring we don't feel too bad.
But as noted above, this is OK only to a point; because as well as protecting us in a way defensive pessimism also insures against happiness and joy; it minimises negative emotion but it also limits positive emotions, like happiness.
So how do we find the right balance? Well, that's an extremely difficult question to answer and in fact the answer will vary from person to person and situation to situation but for now, all I hope to achieve, is to help you become more aware of this commonly used strategy along with its pros and cons.
There's no doubt it makes sense to limit distress but hopefully, not at the cost of our happiness!