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Characteristics of pessimistic people

Characteristics of pessimistic people

The well-being of the person lies in the balanceFor this it is essential that there is a certain degree of optimism, which is the "bright" part of the person, and perhaps on other occasions there is some pessimism, sometimes it can be based on the vision of an objective reality that is not very encouraging .


  • 1 Pessimism is not a continum
  • 2 How to recognize a pessimistic personality?
  • 3 Defensive pessimism
  • 4 Neurobiology of pessimism

Pessimism is not a continum

Being pessimistic does not mean that a person is necessarily "negative" or Toxic, it all depends on the degree, the background and the continuity through the time of the condition, as well as its effects, there is a degree of pessimism that can be functional and sometimes it is necessary to give balance to life, when there is a vision Inordinately positive and out of reality can be considered important aspects to move towards goals and achieve.

People can be optimistic in some aspects, but pessimistic in others, and among the latter we can distinguish a few that may fall into pathology, and may eventually lead to depression, some cases of extreme pessimism can end in suicide. For this reason it is important to identify its character, so that in case you determine that a friend, family member or yourself, have that overwhelming vision of life and carry great emotional suffering, it is advisable to resort to psychological assistance.

Individuals can change positions from optimism to pessimism, depending on the circumstances of life, we all have "happier" days and times, and there are also "difficult" days or times, where hopes can decline.

A certain pessimism can be briefly expressed as a state of mind, a temporary condition of the mind, as a continuous attitude or as a stable personality trait. Recent research shows that neurophysiology is involved. in this process. There is a wide range of psychometric tests that psychologists can apply to determine the degree and type of pessimism.

How to recognize a pessimistic personality?

1. Do you often expect the worst, even though sometimes the "wind" looks favorable to you? Pessimistic people have a particular style of cognitive attribution, their way of perceiving things usually includes a somewhat catastrophic and fatalistic view of circumstances, many of them tend to expect very little from situations and people, even if they seem “positive”, they may even have the belief that their Future may be bleak, they tend to focus more attention on negative aspects. Do you think you are "realistic" rather than pessimistic? So often do pessimists think of themselves, they may find it hard to hope especially when they are not based on what they call "reality."

2. Do you know someone who frequently finds a “but” to things? And when they offer a solution they often say and / or think: Yes, but…. Pessimists may find it complex to see "the good of things." They have an inclination to focus on the negative side and give it a lot of importance, some have low self-esteem and depressive moods. Many of them argue misanthropy as a philosophy of life.

3. The ability or inability to control important aspects of life is a crucial element that determines a person's attitude. Some pessimists believe that the events that take place in their lives are controlled by forces external to them, often the conviction that they have little or no ability to influence important situations in their own life and their environment prevails, positioning itself in an attitude of victims, thus limiting its own power to modify its reality. Pessimism facilitates a passive attitude that hinders and minimizes positive feedback.

4. To make a decision, do you carefully consider all the options and their possible outcomes? Excessive optimism can lead to impulsive behaviors, which can be risky and dangerous for the well-being of the person. Functional pessimists often make their decisions taking into account eventualities and details that can ensure success in some situations.

 “Vulgar men only think about how to spend time.An intelligent man tries to take advantage of it" Arthur Schopenhauer

Do you spend a lot of time thinking about how or how things could go wrong? Pessimists often experience anticipatory anxiety, their ideas regarding what might come can generate anxiety, stress and fear in them. They can be specialists in designing contingency plans, because they have good planning skills, since they spend a lot of their time thinking about what they would do if things got worse, so when some eventualities come to pass, they may be prepared, because in reality they were expecting the worst or not expecting much from anything or anyone, Buddha said: "He who waits, suffers", so in that sense it can represent an advantage .

Do you often worry about how things will turn out? Do you spend a lot of time thinking about what could go wrong? When the anguish motivates to manage the activities, prepare and take care, not only "worry", this may contribute to a certain degree of anticipatory anxiety

5. The Pessimistic information processing is selective and aimed at looking for possible threats and disadvantages regarding someone or something. This can be useful because they are detectors born of failures, dangers and threats, since they can assign a greater amount of attention to negative emotional signals and stimuli, while they tend to forget the positive aspects of a situation, due to attention bias. So a pessimist can be valuable in a team because they will generally be able to identify the negative aspects of something, because even your brain pays more attention to this, while a positive mindset could overlook this.

6. Some pessimists tend to remain passive in their comfort zone, when they encounter a challenge, anchored in the belief that their efforts are useless anyway. Worrying excessively about potential hazards and focusing your energy on what could go wrong leads to avoidance behaviors, passivity and exacerbation of moods of sadness, melancholy and an increase in vulnerability to depression. Therefore, the optimal balance is a cautious optimism that is firmly anchored in reality.

7. They tend to be more likely to believe they are vulnerable to future health problems. When taken to the extreme, it can fall into the hypochondria, where the individual will interpret minor physical symptoms as signs of a serious illness, can perform many unnecessary medical exams and express doubts and disbelief when notified of an improvement.

8. Some have low self-esteem, insecurity and a negative attitude towards what they project; the body image It is a factor that in turn can influence your self-esteem. Consequently, the implication of the tendency to see more imperfections of the body (real or imaginary) and to exaggerate its meaning is also associated with more activity in the right hemisphere.

9. Your coping strategies In the face of anguish, they are mainly based on the use of avoidance behaviors. When faced with obstacles on the way to a desired goal, the pessimist will generally give up easily, or from before starting a task. "They lose more to fear failure" because doubts may limit them in their behavior, rather than due to a real disability of the subject.

10. They can establish a thought pattern of learned helplessness and a depressed mood. They can settle for reality, sometimes because they learned to ignore their own needs, even basic ones such as hunger and sleep, sometimes from very early stages of their development, can be victims of abuse and violence constantly, as they tend to easily get used to bad treatments.

11. Personal growth and success, having significant achievements requires take risks, that is, leave the "comfort zone". The pessimist may have a reduced tolerance for taking risks, associated with a motivational deficit and a sense of hopelessness. Preventing risks, passive rather than proactive attitude and caution are also linked to increased activity in the right hemisphere. Risk aversion was positively correlated with cortical activity in the right prefrontal cortex. Escape and avoidance behaviors minimize possible positive experiences and their reinforcing effects.

12. Self-improvement, the aspiration to improve our skills and abilities may be aspects for the benefit of the person's development, however, when the belief of "not being good enough" is what motivates the search for a "unattainable perfection”, Can condemn the individual to frustration, lack of acceptance and seriously deteriorate their self-esteem. The high standards pursued by perfectionists may be impossible to realize, so that repeated failures reinforce the belief in their personal incompetence or their supposed inferiority, so they find themselves condemned to constant frustration, anger and dissatisfaction in their lives.

This vicious circle further exacerbates negative thinking patterns and can lead to a sense of hopelessness and self-punishment, which can end in severe depression.

Studies showed that unhappiness, low self-esteem, pessimism and depression are correlated with the pursuit of perfection.

Defensive pessimism

It is a strategy used to manage anxiety, it helps them to work more efficiently, cognitively reducing their expectations to different particular circumstances that distress them and think and imagine possible solutions or ways to deal with it, that way they are getting ready", not only "pre-taking care", but taking care to get ready for the worst, through planning and reducing anxiety levels at the end of the "mental exercise."

Neurobiology of pessimism

There are underlying neurobiological mechanisms that can explain why some people are pessimistic or have a tendency to see the "half-empty vessel." The investigations of David Hecht (2013), clearly demonstrate that certain thoughts, attitudes, moods and much of the behavior of both optimists and pessimists can be explained by the differentiation, predominance and functionality of the cerebral hemispheres and in that sense, these states Moods are governed by different neurophysiological processes.

The mediation between a more realistic and less exaggerated evaluation of oneself, the concern for an uncertain future, contain significant elements of fear, anxiety and stress, emotions that are mediated primarily by neural networks within the right hemisphere. At the same time, the cerulean locus is an anatomical region in the brain stem that is linked to the responses to stress and fear, the highest cortisol levels induced by stress and anxiety were correlated in Hecht's study with greater activation of right hemisphere.

Is it people's pessimism that makes things go wrong for them or have they learned pessimism as a product of their repeated painful experiences sustained for a long time?

The investigation showed that patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), in which the event that caused the trauma, "can be experienced again and again", through sudden memories or "flashbacks" and nightmares, physiologically activate the responses of coping with fear and stress, they observed an increase in activity in the right hemisphere. Panic attacks and social phobia were associated with hyperactivity on that side of the brain.

The main role of left hemisphere is to maintain relaxation and homeostasis, maintaining physiological activity within normal levels, while the right hemisphere works as the "alert system", because it identifies possible threats and prepares the body to deal with dangerous situations through sympathetic nervous system (SNS)

In our two cerebral hemispheres mediation of the fundamental functions for life is involved, they share information with each other, through the corpus callosum. The "pessimistic vision" and its particular characteristics are generally mediated by the right hemisphere, while optimistic attitudes are regulated mainly by the left hemisphere.

Greater physiological activity in the frontal parts of the right hemisphere that is associated with an increased risk of feeling hopeless about the negative events in life and a greater chance of falling into depression, as shown by David Hecht's research (2013).

You may be interested: Arousal or cortical activation and the Yerkes-Dodson law

When the attention on the positive side of life is not something that is given in the person in a "natural" way, it can be achieved through a conscious effort of the will, it is possible to give some relief to the body through the mind and to the mind through the body, many ancestral techniques such as Vipassana, Yoga and mindfullness to name a few, provide simple techniques for self-observation, the focus of attention, promote states of relaxation and provide techniques for anxiety management, stress and to balance pessimistic thoughts. When such efforts are not enough it is recommended to seek the help of a psychologist.

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