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The Upside of Defensive Pessimism: The Potential Benefit Anxiety

https://positivepsychology.com/defensive-pessimism/

positivepsychology.com

The Upside of Defensive Pessimism: The Potential Benefit Anxiety
Defensive pessimism is a strategy used by people who are anxious about an upcoming event. While pessimism is often seen as a negative trait, defensive pessimism can be a useful way for someone to harness their anxiety into positive results.

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Defensive Pessimism

Defensive pessimism is a strategy used by people who are anxious about an upcoming event. They set unrealistically low expectations before going into a situation and take steps to avoid poor performance. Defensive pessimism involves over-preparation.

For example, someone preparing for a job interview might convince themselves that the interview is going to be a disaster. The anxiety of this likelihood helps to prepare them for the job interview. The result is that they do exceptionally well.

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Self-handicapping

Self-handicapping is where an individual will create obstacles for themselves before an ability-evaluating event. If it turned out poorly, the obstacles became an excuse or explanation for the failure. If it turned out positive, the obstacles became conquered hurdles.

Self-handicapping involves expecting the worst and self-sabotage.

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Benefits of Defensive Pessimism

When comparing defensive pessimists to anxious people who do not practice defensive pessimism, the defensive pessimists show these benefits:

  • Their self-esteem and satisfaction increase over time.
  • They perform better academically
  • They form more supportive friendship networks,
  • They make more progress in their personal goals.

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Defensive pessimism or strategic optimism

  • Research found that defensive pessimists will do best when they can think through possible negative outcomes.
  • Strategic optimists will do best when they avoid thinking about possible negative outcomes.

Pessimism can have positive effects. If you are an anxious person, try both strategies and see what works best for you.

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Defensive pessimism vs pessimism

  • Pessimists only expect bad things to happen. And this leads to increased anxiety and decreased perceived goal importance.
  • Defensive pessimists tend to reflect about, or plan for, their performance. This leads to increased perceived goal importance, increased levels of effort, hope and personal goal initiative.

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Defensive Pessimism

Defensive Pessimism
  • While normally pessimism means blaming yourself for the negative outcomes, defensive pessimism takes this at a whole new level, harnessing the negative feeling and using it as a step...

Setting Low Expectations

Having a defensively pessimistic strategy can help one chart out a course of action to ensure that the mishaps that are envisioned do not turn into reality.

Example: Having a low expectation of an interview, along with brooding about what all could go wrong can help one practice harder and plan to avoid those outcomes.

Pessimism As Insurance

While waiting for a piece of important news, being pessimistic has better health benefits than being overly optimistic.

If the news is not in one’s favour, the optimists take a bigger hit on their wellbeing, experiencing great disappointment, while the pessimists do not suffer as much, as they were already ready to take the hit.

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Reconsider the positive thinking mindset

"Looking on the bright side" is advise that is seldom helpful.

When people think negatively, they can turn their anxiety into action. They take more time to prepare for the worst-c...

2 types of people

  • Strategic optimists: They will perform better if they do something positive before they complete their tasks.
  • Defensive pessimists: They are more likely to perform positively if they visualize failure before they complete their tasks.

These two groups succeed best under different circumstances. 

Positive and Negative thinking

Thinking positively can hinder people from realizing their goals.

At the same time, pessimists can become paralyzed by stress and fail to take action while those who are overwhelmingly positive are unlikely to experience stress or anxiety. 

Living in the future

Living in the future

We spend 30 to 50 percent or our self-generated thoughts (what we think about without trying to concentrate) thinking about the distant future. We feel happy to think of our future as full of possi...

Improving our ability to cope

While there's little we can do to change the realities of a global crisis we can change the mindset we use to face them.

  • Channel your inner lawyer. Verbalize the negative assumptions you make about the future, then dispute them with realistic facts, not mindless optimism.
  • Turn constraints into decisions. Examine every problem by listing the apparent limitations on your freedom and then considering how you can change them. For example, if you feel a dip in your productivity because of the lockdowns, change the definition of productivity.

The healthiest way to look at a difficult period in our lives is as an opportunity for improvement and personal growth.