Defensive pessimism: what it is, its characteristics, advantages and disadvantages

When a person is faced in the near future with a complicated activity (for example, examining an opposition, a sports competition) or a situation that is compromised (for example, giving a public speech) to have an optimistic view or, on the contrary , defensive pessimism.

When a person has a defensive pessimistic view of a future event, the person tends to think that something is going to go wrong when that dreaded moment arrives, so they might suffer from anxiety about a future event. anticipation and have negative expectations about it.

In this article, we will take a closer look at the concept of defensive pessimism., what are generally the consequences of having a pessimistic view and also how it influences people’s self-esteem.

    What is defensive pessimism?

    When we use the concept of defensive pessimism in the field of psychology, we are referring to the mechanism of action used by people on these occasions seeking to protect themselves from a certain future situation, so that they are placed in the worst-case scenario and so, in case that happens, or things do not go as well as you would like, the person feels that he had previously prepared to take on this negative result.

    There are people who face certain situations that they find complicated or compromised in some way (for example, a sports competition, an exam, a job interview, etc.) out of defensive pessimism. . to avoid being disappointed and disappointed if everything did not go as planned, then they assume that things are not going well for them in a situation that requires some effort so they commit less than necessary.

    When a person uses the mechanism of being pessimistic about a future event to avoid disappointment, as we said, they usually put less effort than they should to make things happen. arrange. It is then more likely that his prediction that this situation will not succeed will not come true, so that what is often referred to in psychology as a self-fulfilling negative prophecy will come true. This can fuel pessimism about similar situations in the future.

    It is common for a person to often hide in defensive pessimism. using excuses to justify not trying or not having taken the time necessary for this dreaded situation to go well, because in his mind he might feel a kind of cognitive dissonance because what he is doing does not correspond to the goals he had set himself for a long time .

    Here is an example to better understand the notion of defensive pessimism, and also the excuses that the person makes to break with this cognitive dissonance that has formed in his mind.

    Imagine the case of a student preparing for a very important exam, like the opposition to take place in a public place. When you start to prepare for it, it’s common that you have an optimistic outlook and good intentions; However, over time a defensive pessimism can surface, then thoughts will arise telling you that it is very difficult for you to pass, that no one will object to the first and many others of the style.

    At the same time, it is likely that he will work less and less, while his defensive pessimism increases. So when he takes the exam, in case he doesn’t have room, he will feel that his pessimistic thoughts were true and, when a mental dissonance arises in his mind because deep down he knows he didn’t try as hard as it should.square, will look for any argument that justifies its drop in coconut yield which was very difficult, that it was not worth wasting time, and so on.

      Relationship between defensive pessimism and self-esteem

      In most of the cases, defensive pessimism is often closely linked to low levels of self-esteem.

      Therefore, people who choose to focus on the negative and pessimistic side of a future event tend to despise themselves, so that they come to not face a series of situations that require attention. certain degree of effort and courage. afraid of eventually failing. This puts the person at a disadvantage compared to others who are more optimistic.

        Defensive pessimism and optimism

        The opposite pole of having a vision of defensive pessimism in the face of a situation or a close objective, would be to have an optimistic vision. Although it should be noted that people are usually not completely on one side or the other and these perspectives can change throughout life depending on the lived experiences and the effort that the person has been able to To do.

        It may also happen that the same person has an optimistic outlook in some areas (eg in sport) and pessimistic in others (eg in academia).

        Unlike the pessimists, optimists tend to see things from a more global perspective, so that they always have in mind the virtues that they possess and which will enable them to achieve their goals and also be aware that they have certain limits, and may not reach that goal towards which they are heading; however, they don’t throw in the towel and try to focus only on what is the only thing they can control, their daily actions.

        For example, when faced with a situation where an optimistic person is preparing for the consideration of an opposition, they will try not to lose sight of their goal and will try to maintain their positive outlook because they are aware that they have possibilities. . , while knowing that there is also a good chance of not having room. However, he prefers to choose to think he can do the job and what can bring him is to have an optimistic outlook and focus on the day to day work, without ceasing to advance the agenda.

          The useful side of defensive pessimism

          A completely optimistic view and a view of defensive pessimism in most cases could be detrimental to people.

          Too much optimism could lead to overconfidence, so you feel very little pressure and exert yourself less than you should, so the results could be worse than expected leading to great disappointment.

          On the other hand, having a predominantly pessimistic view would result in low motivation to face any challenge that the person would face in their life, so that they could not strive enough and hence the most. current is that it would fail.

          However, in fair measure, while there is a lot of disparity on this subject, it should be noted that there is research on this subject which has found that a certain degree of defensive pessimism it can be a personal protection mechanism against deception and, by preparing in advance for possible future failure, the person can also move forward to prepare for the failure and find a way to move that situation forward.

          Seen this way, a defensive pessimist tends to be prepared for the worst outcome, he may even have experienced higher levels of anxiety before the event than when the failure of the actual encounter had imagined.

          Also, a vision of defensive pessimism, allowing the person to anticipate a possible failure, so that this tension that can generate it would lead the person to be on alert at all times, this would encourage him to use all kinds of strategies to avoid this possible failure and devise an alternate plan that we could choose from when things don’t turn out well. We could call it adaptive defensive pessimism.

          Bibliographical references

          • Fernández, E. and Bermúdez, J. (2001). Cognitive strategies, situational controllability and affective state: the case of defensive pessimism and optimism. Journal of Psychopathology and Clinical Psychology, 6 (2), p. 71-89.
          • Fernández, E. and Bermúdez, J. (2001). Defensive pessimism, optimism and difficulty of the task: an analysis of the role of expectations. Tower. From Picol. Gral. and Aplic., 54 (3), p. 371-388.
          • González, M. (October 9, 2020). Defensive pessimism: why some are preparing for the worst. ABC Well-being.
          • Navea-Martín, A. and Suárez-Rivero, JM (August 1, 2016). Study on the use of automation strategies among university students. Educational Psychology, 57, p. 1-7.
          • Rodríguez, S., Cabanach, RG, Valle, A., Núñez, JC and González, JA (2004). Differences between the use of self-handicapped and defensive pessimism and the relationship to success goals, self-esteem, and self-regulation strategies. Psychotheme.

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