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 (283 Articles)
Victoria Sawyer is a blogger, author, 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.

5 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

    • Omg! Ha! Love it. You are so right. I like being pleasantly surprised rather than alway disappointed. Plus the milk example. .. that’s gold!

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      • I feel like optimistic people can come off as insensitive to a certain degree. They may tell you “It could be worse” when you are feeling worried sometimes. That is an indication of benefiting off someone else’s suffering to keep you upbeat about what is going on in your life. This is a dark side of optimism no one tells you about. I do not understand how someone else being worse off than you would keep your spirit up about your circumstances. I know I don’t have credentials to try to diagnose people or play psychiatric doctor but for the reason of some optimists telling you it could be worse off, I wonder if these optimists have somewhat sociopathic or psychopathic tendencies or something. They probably don’t have those traits but if I don’t know them, what their personality is really like behind closed doors remains a mystery. And the the most insensitive remark of all that an optimist can make that is sure to piss off disappointed or sad people” Well, it happened for a reason.” Are you f**king kidding me? For example, I just still failed the LSAT exam to go to the law school I’ve always wanted to attend after studying hard for this test for example. Or I just lost my mother to lung cancer/baby to miscarriage/SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) and you mean to tell me these things happen for a reason? Bullshit. What good reason can you think of why unfortunite things like this happened to people? Like honestly, have you failed an important test for your dream career field of choice or just lost a parent or child recently? If not, shut the Hell up talking about things happen for a reason and go away. Ole “It happened for a reason” my ass. Sure I can think late loved ones aren’t suffering anymore but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t experience emotions of grief and sadness/sorrow, the process of mourning a loss. Sometimes there really are No reasons why disappointing or sad things happen to people. They just happen with no external causes leading up to the unfortunate events. Of course the optimist’s knee-jerk response in the end is to say “Well it probably just wasn’t meant to be for you; just look at it that way,” and “If one door closes, another door opens.” These l responses seem to be a favorite among a chunk of optimists to say. Or they may try to put an optimistic spin on losing someone close to you and say “Just realize he/she is not suffering anymore.” Nobody is trying to hear that right now in the storms of these trying times. Even though the optimist may mean well in these times, sometimes they can come off as shooting down your goals of trying again for that dream job you’ve been wanting when they tell you to look at it another way of not being meant for you. Or come off as just telling you to suck it up and get over it in a nutshell when they suggest putting a positive spin on unfortunate situations that are happening to you. Or like telling an obviously hurt toddler who just had a nasty fall “It isn’t that serious so get over it and stop all that crying before I give you a reason to cry,” all the while ignoring the real problem behind the baby’s tears of pain and doing nothing to really help him or her. Sometimes other optimistic people even shame others for experiencing unpleasant emotions. They may say “Why are you so hard on yourself all the time?” Or “You need to stop being so negative.” Both of these is the equivalent to asking that same injured toddler “Why do you cry so much? You need to stop being such a crybaby.” Well intended optimistic advice is not a one size fits all. While one person might take heed to this advice, another person might be bothered by it. If someone is going through trying times that is getting them down, or feeling anxious, I think it is best for an optimistic person not to say anything to them at all because they really don’t know how they might take their positive advice to avoid hurt feelings and misunderstanding later.

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        • Not to mention being always disappointed can lead to depression, anxiety, apathy, and even insanity over time. Disappointment after disappointment becomes a vicious cycle. You can only experience an overabundance of repeated disappointments so many times in your lifetime that you can’t take it any more and reach the breaking point. Then an optimist in this situation would become one miserable son of a bitch every time reality does not comply and align to their perceived utopian idealistic outcomes.

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  2. Oh, I wanted to mention that I’m a Libra. We are supposed to want things to be fair. I have come to the realization that life really does not work like that. Imagine how boring life would be if everything was fair and people got every job they applied for because they or soneone else believed they would get the job, things always go according to plan, and nothing bad ever happens to “good” people, and new significant others always get married and live happily ever after. To the optimist, this would be Paradise. Then when harsh reality named Life catches the optimist off guard and kicks them out of this imagined paradise, the optimist is hit hard with disappointment when Real outcomes in life does not align with their precieved favorable outcomes. Telling someone you are sure they got the job is like trying to tell the hiring manager who they should hire and shouldn’t hire. Inside the optimist is an idealist striving for perfection that is, in reality, impossible to achieve. We are imperfect human beings living in an imperfect world. I do not gain anything by thinking positive. That is not how I cope. I stay aware that bad things do happen and there is no avoiding it. Relationships and marriages sometimes end in nasty breakups and bitter divorce. People die of terminal illnesses at any age, not just the elderly years. Drugs and their dealers infest neighborhoods. Terrors across the United States break out such as school shootings from the Columbine to Virginia Tech to Sandy Hook, the 9/11 attacks, scary high crime statistics and mortality rates in certain cities. St. Louis, to me, seems to be famous for its inner city shootouts. I have a cousin who survived a gunshot wound to the back from a drive-by shooting in the Peabody Projects area. I can also hear the firing of firearms near my neighborhood late at night. It’s like the wild west over here. People geget robbed or murdered over serious to trivial things from drugs, alcohol, sex, money, a pair of shoes that cost a fortune, saying something to someone else or looking at them a certain way, and sometimes for nothing. This puts already jaded local police to work. There is a lot of animosity from the community towards them now😞. I talked to a cop and he said at first he wanted to do policing at first and jadedly admits he doesn’t want to do it anymore because of what is going on now like heated altercations among protesters and the police and all. The list goes on but I will stop here for now. I still do have joining law enforcement under my radar, yet at the same time, I will not hold my breath for a favorably different outcome when I try again this October 2018 because I have already been denied for the psych eval in 2017 once. I do not think the same police agency would reconsider anyone who failed the psych eval before no matter how long ago it was since they last applied even if it was 2 years ago.

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