Sarcasm Central

Preplanning for Disappointment with Defensive Pessimism

Disappointment bunny sitting on a bench overlooking the waterI’ve become so accustomed to disappointment in my life that I’ve actually started pre-planning for disappointment.

I’m assuming that almost everyone has disappointments, however I’m sure there are some people who experience more disappointments than others.  And I don’t believe that this is always due to the fact that some people have expectations that are unrealistic or too high. I for one, know that I don’t have really high expectations. My expectations are modest, so modest in fact that they may as well be the opposite of expectations. Say…despair? Maybe inexpectation?

Here’s the game I play with myself:

The Negatives:

I know never to assume anything. I’ve learned over the years that the bad thing seems to happen more than the good thing. (Remember my post about Looking Forward rather than at failures? I’m struggling with that one right now). And so since I know that the bad thing often happens, I prepare myself for disappointment, because it’s bound to rear its ugly head and I’d rather be prepared for it than blown out of my socks (weird saying, but go with it).

And when disappointment comes, will preparing make it any easier? Of course not! If anything it makes it worse initially because I’ve infused the potential disappointment with so much emotion already! I’ve beaten myself up for the negative outcome before it’s even happened and when it does, I’m prepared with an immediate double dose shot of soul crushing self-hatred! Kapow!! Take that psyche!! However, even though I may beat myself up over it initially, I feel I get over the disappointment faster because I’ve already processed it mentally, before it happened.

I think I take things harder than most though, because I’m emotionally fucked-up complex. (I’m a Cancer, it’s a beautiful disaster of swirling emotions inside my head.) I’m more prone to judging myself harshly or finding fault within, unlike people who always over-inflate their virtues whether it’s deserved or not.

I’m sure there are other people who play my pre-planning for disappointment game who are not so emotionally invested in the outcome and thus the results are not so emotionally destructive. I know for a fact there are actually people out there who have fairly steady emotional states and aren’t listing dangerously toward starboard then port, again and again.  It blows my emotionally shipwrecked little mind, but it’s true.

The Positives

But knowing that I’m headed for emotional shipwreck doesn’t stop me from engaging in a little pre-thought about what might happen if I’m disappointed because I can’t see deluding myself into thinking that life will spew out rainbows when I know from experience that it doesn’t ALWAYS spew that way. Sometimes it spews out trash. I’ve done the math people, despite the fact that I suck at probabilities!!

If I’m honest with myself (I always am!) I’ll admit that it doesn’t matter what I do, practicing negativity or attempting to be positive, I’ll shipwreck emotionally on the shores of disappointment because I’m so damn emotionally reckless. I play fast and loose with my emotions, like a bad girl from across the tracks (?).

But, this pre-planning actually makes me feel better because I have a plan, I’ve mapped out the worst. If I can look at and face the worst, then I know I can handle anything. Plus pre-planning makes me see a situation from all angles and gives me the opportunity to plan how to win ahead of time. I basically see problems and anxieties (like in interviewing for example) and I plan ahead and have answers prepared. I’m in CONTROL!! I’ve planned for EVERY eventuality! (I think my anxiety started all this, because anxiety forces you to plan for the worst and be pleasantly surprised if something good happens).

It’s Called Defensive Pessimism

Apparently this fun little game I play with myself is called Defensive Pessimism. It’s basically where anxious people lower their expectations and work through all potential scenarios in order to be prepared for the worst. It actually helps us preform better despite the fact that it seems depressing as hell (and yes, it can be somewhat depressing, but I guess being anxious and performing shitty at life is worse!).

The opposite would be a Strategic Optimist who does not look at all the scenarios and does not assume the worst or lower their expectations.  They set high expectations. These Optimists likely do not beat themselves up ahead of time, in fact they likely ignore all negative information entirely.

Now tell me…who is the more deluded party? The person who looks at all the options and sets lower expectations so that they aren’t crushed by life’s inevitable “bad things happening to good people” or the person who sets unreasonably high expectations that life can’t always deliver, refuses to see the negative at all and ignores the fact that they’ve ever failed. (How can I get invited to this deluded party, it sounds fun/easier.)

I’d say the person sticking their head in the sand is the less realistic…however…

Trashing Optimists Aside…but I Can’t Help Myself

I can’t completely trash them because…

Apparently BOTH are effective strategies for those that use them.

Despite the fact that both are valid, this is still amazing news for me. I’ve spent a lot of my life hearing from people that I should stop being so negative, that if only I looked toward the positive side of things than good things would happen in my life. Everyone has always wanted me to change and disliked my penchant for preparing for the worst. Guess what positive people….BULLSHIT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Apparently we all have different (BUT EQUAL) ways of dealing with our lives and both are successful ways to manage our life-anxiety. The article also states that if you try to be the opposite of your natural inclination, you will have even more anxiety and perform like hell.

Optimist: photo: pigs in party hatsWhat I love is how smug optimists are! They always feel that they’re the best and that only good things happen to them because they’re optimists! American society at large also seems to think that only optimists are truly happy and the rest of us are miserable and depressed (seriously look at all the articles written by optimists out there, telling you how to think/feel).

It seems to me that optimists feel that everything goes well for them because they TEND to look toward the positive and ignore the negative. So everything is rosy!

Well…if I ignored the negative, my life would look like Barbie’s Dream House too! But instead I look toward the negative, so that’s what I see. But seeing the negative also propels me toward achieving, because if you’re never good enough, you need to work HARDER and I feel that I have a fairly realistic viewpoint on how life works. I know that I’m not perfect and I know I’m not total shit either, I also know that good things can happen and that bad things happen to good people, a lot.

That all said…these optimists that refuse to see the negative…do they ever get shocked awake by bad things happening to them? I.e. how can you possibly go through your life always assuming the best will happen? Isn’t there a point where your belief in the positive gets crushed by that asshole called real life? What exactly do you do when the best DOES not happen? When something really terrible happens to you and it didn’t matter whether you were positive or negative?

I guess it doesn’t matter because the optimist will just refuse to see the negative thing at all. It can’t destroy them if they ignore it or minimize it and keep looking at the positive. (Look at how I’m trying to understand! Be PROUD of me! Natural optimists stop hating…admit you do get a little smug and superior!!)

This Blog Post Has a Life Lesson

So what have I learned, boys and girls? I’ve learned that life doesn’t give a rat’s ass if you’re positive or negative. Life doesn’t give a shit what you’re thinking in your head. It’s irrelevant! Good things will happen sometimes, bad things will happen sometimes, life isn’t fair, wah wah wah.

So think however you want! Use whichever of these methods that comes naturally to you and you’ll live your life with less anxiety and perform better than trying to trick yourself into being something you’re not. So Optimists, STOP TELLING ME TO CHEER UP or that I’M WRONG AND NEED TO CHANGE or that YOU ARE THE ONLY HAPPY PEOPLE ON EARTH!!

That’s the best advice I’ve EVER heard!! I’m FREE TO BE ME!! All five foot five inches of sarcastic negativity on a collision course with life! BEEP BEEP!! Get outta my way Optimists!

Additional Reading (cause I roll like that):

The Upside of Pessimism via The Atlantic “Optimism does have its health benefits, but according to Julie Norem, a psychology professor at Wellesley College, trying to force positivity is a bad strategy for the truly anxious.” “There’s this idea that there’s something wrong with you personally if you see problems in the world.”

How Negative Thinking Can Pay Off via Oprah

Photo Credit: Gratisography

About Victoria Sawyer (282 Articles)
Victoria Sawyer is a blogger, author, aspiring graphic designer, social media enthusiast and mental health advocate. Shocking, honest, sarcastic and humorous, Victoria aims to make readers feel tangible emotions and physical sensations through writing that brings you into the mind and body of someone suffering from panic attacks, anxiety and this strange often darkly hilarious thing we call life. She published her novel Angst in 2013, which realistically and often graphically depicts life with mental illness. Along with crazy blogging, Victoria enjoys reading historical novels, playing with her naughty cats, engaging in rants and metaphysical existential meltdowns and using punctuation to excess in everything she writes.

2 Comments on Preplanning for Disappointment with Defensive Pessimism

  1. Pessimists are better because they can see through the bullshit. That doesn’t mean we are always doom and gloom. We’re just realistic. And like you said, when something good happens, what a pleasant surprise! I don’t understand those relentlessly optimistic people. If you see the glass as half-empty, you know to go buy some fucking milk. If you see it as half-full you’re like – eh, I can wait a while. And what happens? Snow storm. Now you’re out of milk, Mr. Positive. Good job.

    Liked by 1 person

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