And I’m really freaked out!
As someone who grew up in a nearly constant state of defence and readjustment, I get very antsy at the first sight of good fortune and stability.
What am I missing? What future disaster is coming? What am I not doing that I should be?
Unfortunately, I have tended to live a life pieced together with surprise instability interspaced with uneasy positivity. Furthermore, my bipolar II tendencies have given me an incredible ability to get my hopes up very high when things are good. This makes the transition from smooth life to stressful periods feel absolutely devastating.
In response, my beliefs have developed to become quite pessimistic.
What is the most realistic and healthy way to deal with a pessimistic attitude?
1. Thank it for being there
Like fear, pessimism can highlight a hidden truth that we may not have been conscious of. It is especially effective in areas in which our experience is lacking – it tends to make us conservative, preventing a reactionary decision.
I will let my belief that things will soon go poorly serve to pause me enough that I may look around and back in on my life. To see what is what with a more investigative manner.
2. Find its source
Commonly, I have met people who proudly say that they are pessimistic. We can become identified with many different attitudes, and the current trend is to highlight our traditionally less positive ones.
Why is that?
Be honest about past issues that may be affecting your beliefs. It is extremely helpful to write down a couple of lists that begin with “I believe that I am…”, “I believe that the world is…”, “I believe that the future is…”, “I believe that people are…” etc. This will serve to show you how much you might prescribe to cynicism and in which parts of your life it is most influential. When I did this exercise a year ago, I could only sit back and laugh at the glum picture that I had painted.
Another huge source of dread for the world may be the people you surround yourself with! Identify those that love to complain and criticize a happy voice. See them for the unhappy (likely insecure) people that they may chose to be and detach yourself from their game. If you feel that the only way to fit in with your group or get along with people at work is to be cynical about the world, then make the world better by being a voice that responds to complaints with empathetic solutions.
Becoming aware of the source may roll over the stone and uncover the soggy pile of bugs that had been buzzing in your ear all this time. As you uncover them, they spread out and the soil sees the sun again.
As always, deeper awareness of the problem is an effective step in its solution.
3. Turn down the news
Most of my despair for the world can be traced back to a single hour scrolling through my Facebook feed. One summer, I decided to learn everything I could about the history and causes of strife in the middle east – and after a few weeks I had become so drained that the only thing I wanted to do was take a backpack to the woods to be alone in silence…indefinitely.
While it is a sign of genuine caring to be informed and to engage in discussions about world issues, too high of a dosage can establish an almost crippling pessimism.
Recognize your circle of influence and shrink your circle of concern to the same size, so that you will have some actual feedback. It is important to remember that you can change things…if they’re within your reach.
4. Don’t fear your emotions
Be brave enough to wake up excited for life!
Become intricately acquainted with the life of an emotion in your experience. You may see that the disappointment of a dashed hope is not as devastating as it first feels. Likewise, your joy may be at a more realistic volume than you think it is – you may actually be experiencing a normal fulfilling life’s comfort. A good feeling can last as an undercurrent waiting to be noticed.
5. Establish trust
We must dialog with this life in a new and positive way. While life will eventually kill us, I do not believe that it in anyway has an agenda specifically set up against me or you (that would require us to have unrealistic significance in this world). I trust that life will provide me with a statistically sound amount of devastations and delights, I don’t feel tricked or under control, and I believe that I at least have all the resources available to me that I might need (thanks to the internet).
More-so, a sense of trust with oneself is paramount when living with pessimism. I can look at my own life-resume and agree that I am up to the job of my future, even if it is bleak. I can see that I have handled bad times and good ones with relative success – or at least that I have learned to recover from failure in increasingly creative ways.
We can trust our own sources of logic and experience, at least enough to truly listen to them.
When hope is so rarely offered to us from the world, we must allow it to grow within us in spite of our preference towards pessimism.
I am excited to write this blog post (I am excited to even have blog posts) and I am glad to experience this current moment of joy for reference in later moments of cynicism. I am not reacting to my potential good fortune by making choices I wouldn’t otherwise, and I can understand why my pessimism is wanting to protect me. I thank it for being there and move on with the feeling of hope – which currently feels like my eyes are always tensed for a smile, and my stomach has the light tartness of a fresh apple.
Good luck all!