An Antidote For Pessimism


The Pessimistic P’s are the three central traits that we can label situations with. Applied pessimistically, and we can feel hopeless, useless, and worthless. Considering their antidotes can turn that pessimistic outlook into a more hopeful and motivating optimistic mindset.

The Pessimistic P’s classify a situation in terms of it’s:

Permanence — Relating to our perception of time — events are perceived as permanent or temporary.

Pervasiveness — Relating to our perception of space — events are perceived as global or specific.

Personalization — Relating to our perception of causality — events are internally or externally caused.

The difference between the Optimism and the Pessimism is how we consider these traits or their antidotes to a situation.

A piece of (Battenberg) cake? You might find it easier said than done, so here’s a tip to help you apply the antidotes to pessimism when you’re facing a tough situation: Question the validity of the Three P’s of Pessimism! Ask yourself:

    1. “Am I really to blame, or was it just bad luck, the situation, or other people?
    2. “How long will it last; i.e., will it always be like this or will it pass?”
    3. “What does this really affect in my life and what will remain unaffected?

P.s. If any chronic pessimists are reading this dismissively as a temporary solution to isolated situations that can’t be controlled by you anyway, I have just recorded this video just for you!

P.p.s.  For the sceptical readers, it’s important to remember studies have linked optimism with higher exam performance, success in their chosen profession, and in their relationships, living longer lives and in better health, enjoying a better chance of surviving postoperative shock, and with being less prone to depression and suicide. [M.Seligman, Authentic Happiness]. In one 30 year study of 900 people admitted to an American hospital, optimists lived on average 19% longer than the pessimists, which for the Octogenarians was an additional 16 years of life [T. Maruta et al., “Optimists vs Pessimists: Survival rate Among Medical Patients over a 30 year Period” Mayo Clinic Proceedings 75 (2000)].  Furthermore, Martin Seligman’s research claims that poorer performance at school, sports, and most jobs than an individual’s talent would suggest, was directly linked as a result of pessimism, and was not necessarily a cause of pessimism. [M.Seligman, Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life, New York: Free Press, 1998]


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