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Pessimism is generally considered to be an undesirable trait, even though at times having a pessimistic outlook can be prudent. When you are planning important financial decisions, for example, it’s sensible to gravitate toward the lower end of a given range of numbers. It’s always more gratifying to be pleasantly surprised when things work out better than you anticipated than to feel dismayed because your expectations proved overly optimistic. It is not so much the concept of pessimism that is problematic as much as when the concept manifests as a more or less consistent character trait. Particularly when the trait is encountered in your spouse.
Having a pessimist spouse is problematic only if you yourself are not pessimistic. Then, it can become a real stumbling block. The same ideas that seem plausible and exciting to you will seem very risky and fraught with peril to your spouse and the relationship is liable to feel the strain. What to do, what to do?
You have probably already tried reasoning with your spouse, pointing out how in past similar circumstances risks were taken and worked out well. And while taking this tack is a good idea, it represents only one aspect of the best likely approach to dealing with the issue.
Think about it for a moment. Why would someone come to adopt a pessimistic view of life? While there are probably several good answers to this question, the one that jumps out at me would be that the person must have either had or witnessed (or both) painful disappointments in their life. Picture someone reaching up high for a prize, missing it and then falling hard to the ground. If this happens often enough and in important enough situations, the individual tends to become wary of reaching high. They will feel safer and less prone to disappointment if they maintain a low center of gravity. Over time the prize becomes perceived only as a potential threat to their tenuous sense of balance and well being. Not reaching up for it becomes the most likely prospective path to safety.
While approaching the situation with rational logic is a good idea, it is incomplete in that it fails to address the emotional element of the situation. Things such as making major financial decisions, or any major decision we may face, always contain an emotional as well as a rational component. And while many of us (read guys) prefer not to deal too deeply with emotions, it is going to be very difficult to arrive at consensus without taking them into consideration.
The emotional element of the conversation is frequently limited to feeling angry and resentful when not getting your way and being reduced to alternating between pleas and threats. This approach rarely leads to satisfying outcomes. This would be a good time to use your head and say to yourself: If my spouse is really reacting to his/her own sense of fear or insecurity, how can I help them feel safe and more secure? This is an ideal opportunity to make an acknowledging statement like Yes, it is a little scary, isn’t it? Conveying acceptance of how your spouse is feeling even while disagreeing with them is much more constructive than glaring at them from across the room threatening I’m not going to let you hold me back anymore!
By noticing and attending to your spouse’s fears and insecurities you table the matter at hand for the moment and address the deeper underlying issue. Ideally, your motivation comes more from a desire to promote support and understanding than it does from simply wanting to get your own way.
Once your spouse’s fears have been acknowledged and addressed, anxiety levels drop and the stage is set for a rational, constructive conversation. Try to be considerate and thoughtful and not push your views too forcefully. When we push too forcefully we engender a defensive response that often takes the form of the other pushing right back. Rather then getting caught up in trench warfare, it is better to bear in mind that acceding to our spouse’s emotional state is not the same as caving in on the point at hand.
Recognizing the value of and practicing these skills will not only result in greater consensus in decision-making, but will also result in fewer explosive arguments and generally help promote trust and closeness between you. People generally aren't pessimistic because they really want to be. In their pessimism they are simply trying to preserve a sense of safety and relative security for themselves. Once you recognize this vital piece, you can choose to apply yourself to helping them feel safe and secure. To the extent you are successful, the pessimism and any other defensive strategies your spouse may employ will begin to break up and eventually dissolve.
Being supportive in this way is often confused with coddling or giving in, but nothing could be further from the truth. Using your insight, experience and maturity to see into the problem at a deeper level is reflective of higher psychological functioning and constitutes a rightful goal of our overall personal and spiritual development.
Helping a pessimistic person become optimistic
Has the person always been this way? If so, you aren't likely to change them. If this is a recent thing, then there is probably something going on in their life that is causing them pain. Maybe it is a job, their financial situation, a family problem, or a self-esteem problem.
If such a problem does exist, it should be dealt with first. This alone might reverse the condition. If everything seems to be going right for them and they are still pessimistic, then there are other things to consider.
How did they become pessimistic?
Many people don't understand the massive affect that thoughts have on your day to day life. The very things you say to yourself sliently greatly influence your self-esteem.
People around you also have a great impact on how you feel. Pessimistic people have a way of dragging those around them down to their level.
Some people lack direction in life. A person may feel that their life has no real meaning. This would certainly result in developing negative outlooks.
People get overwhelmed and stressed out due to a lack of organization. In today's fast paced life, it is easy to become unorganized. Being unorganized is a major source of stress.
How to become of an optimist
Count your blessings every single day. Take just a minute every day either at night before bed or first thing in the morning. Everyone has some good things in their life.
Pay attention to your self-talk. When you catch yourself belittling yourself mentally, put a stop to it.
Just quit complaining. Complaining about things, almost without exception, gets you nowhere.
Surround yourself with happy positive minded people. Pay compliments to those around you. Become an air clearer not an air polluter.
When a friend starts to complain about something, help them to see it from a better perspective.
Every morning, do one little thing that you will later be grateful for. For instance: do 10 situps, 10 push ups, spend extra time cleaning your teeth, spend extra time on your hair, wear clothes you know look great on you, quick pick up of one room in your house, leave a little love note for your spouse, etc...
Constantly work on getting your personal and professional life more organized.
Take more time to think about your life goals. What are your most important future accomplishments?