Overcoming the Heart’s Protective Defense System
We have a friend who sees the world in a pessimistic light. This person is highly suspicious of people and situations, and sees, as well as experiences negativity at most turns. Why is this and what does it mean? What can be done to help?
Your friend has developed a protective defense system at seeing the world as a negative and unsafe place. Most humans are not born pessimistic, rather develop these tendencies as a result of early negative interactions, disappointments or trauma within their worlds, most likely in the immediate environment, i.e., family and/or caretakers. As a result, they find it safer to not have faith in things turning out right, or in believing that they will not always be wronged, struggle and suffer. This belief irrationally protects one from being continually disappointed. Unfortunately, these negative beliefs and feelings often attract negative energy from the universe, which in turn tends to reinforce their negative philosophy of life. These pessimistic feelings become so entrenched and familiar that they become like old friends. “Pessimism, when you get used to it, is just as agreeable as optimism.” –Arnold Bennet.
“These negative beliefs and feelings often attract negative energy from the universe, which in turn tends to reinforce their negative philosophy of life.”
Often, pessimists do not realize the impact that their negativity has on others: Friends, families, co-workers and on just how much their “glass half-empty” feelings fulfill the very prophecy that “no matter what I do, things will always be bad.” Your friend needs to first realize that they have a pessimistic view of life and then must work hard at re-framing how they look at the world and how they came to have these beliefs. Anything your friend can do to help restore their faith and belief in the goodness of others, including themselves, can be helpful. For example, volunteer work is often a great way to start feeling better about oneself and give one a sense of well-being and meaning in the world. As a friend, injecting humor towards your friend’s pessimism is a relief mechanism for you and might help lighten your comrade’s heavy load, even if just for a moment!
– Karen Binder-Brynes, Ph.D.
Dr. Karen Binder-Brynes is a leading psychologist with a private practice in New York City for the past 15 years.