Ah, the perils of negative thinking. We’ve heard them time and again, especially in today’s society that advertises unrelenting optimism as the only ticket to “the great life.” Go to the nearest bookstore and you’ll find at least one title selling positivity as a “power,” “recipe” or “secret” to success.
In essence, it’s a valid argument. But to assert that optimism always yields favorable results is akin to turning a blind eye to an existence run by polarities. Arguably, everything in this world is either good or bad, and the only answer that truly ever leads to a definite decision is one among yes or no. Did “maybe” ever get you anywhere?
With 2017 underway, many of us will start working on resolutions in an attempt to structure the future we desire. If you’ve written them down, take a look at the words you used. Did you start with “I will” or “I will not”?
If you are yet to make your list, tired of faking smiles or simply want a new perspective, read on.
Unconventional thinking, which includes pessimism, has undeniable advantages. It is backed by evidence-based research that cranks can be superior negotiators, better decision-makers and less susceptible to heart attacks, BBC noted. In a similar fashion, cynics can be in more stable marriages, earn more and live longer.
On the other hand, good moods have been associated with decreasing motivation and concentration, as well as making one more gullible and selfish. Optimism, meanwhile, is tied with overeating, binge-drinking and engagement with unsafe sex.
These highlight the benefits of negative thinking, but the core idea is that our feelings are adaptive. Anger, sadness and pessimism are not arbitrary emotions plucked from a tree of feelings when consciousness was possessed by mankind. As Positive Psychology Program wrote, emotions are natural, including the negative ones. Author Diogo Costa put it:
“If we always tell ourselves to smile when all we want to do is cry, we are psychologically mistreating ourselves, which on the long run will negatively impact our psychological welfare.”
But if being grumpy, short-tempered and pessimistic have overwhelming benefits, why aren’t these moods marketed in the media? More so, what are the flaws of positive thinking?
The answer to the first question is disputably self-explanatory. We are a society conditioned to think and feel good, not the other way around. Deviate from these variables and fall into the minority that sees the planet as a disgusting piece of rock that has no hope out of a looming apocalypse that its inhabitants initiated themselves. Whether more think this way is up in the air.
The second question may have already been answered. According to Greatist, some researchers point that constant positive thinking deprives one of relaxation — a state of anxiety that’s always worried over a “negative” thought popping up. In addition, those inclined to think that “everything works out” will have no Plan B in case things turn sour before they notice.
Notable figures who have not always been cheerful and optimistic include Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, known for his scathing insults, Hugh Grant, who hates all the films he was in, Beethoven, who threw objects at his servants, Newton, who knew how to hold grudges, and Steve Jobs, who was notorious for being a jerk. Still, popular culture acknowledges these people as “successful” in their own respective games, and we’ll probably live with that for longer.
Finally, some benefit from negative thinking by perceiving it as a means of staying grounded on reality. In other words, pessimism helps one stay sane. Farid Singh Nat wrote over Odyssey:
“Being negative is just the same as being realistic, which can save anyone from potential heartbreak in the long-run, if they remain too positive. Despite what the motivational speakers and books may say, a positive mindset won’t magically lead to a successful life, and it could even lead to more pain. The only way to be successful is to just try hard and be realistic with yourself.”
Are you starting the new year with more pessimism?