Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue


Evangelical Pessimism?

posted by Beyond Blue

Psychologist Paula Bloom is always writing interesting blog posts over at PBS.org. Awhile back she asked the question, “Am I depressed or just deep?” and now she asks, “If I don’t agree with your pessimistic view on the world, why does that make me bad?” It got me thinking … because as a stage-four people-pleaser, I almost always agree with the person I’m talking to. I’m working on that … but it’s a hard habit to break. To read her entire post, click here. I’ve published an excerpt below:

There is a natural tendency in all of us to want to be validated. Feeling connected to others is a key to physical and emotional well being. We all want to feel heard.

Have you had the experience of someone telling you how bad his or her life is? You might listen for a while and then try to point out the bright side, silver lining or what is going right in their life, which is then met with “See, you just don’t get me.” Not only do they want to tell you how bad it all is they want to convince you to see it their way. Now, of course, feelings are feelings and it can be very liberating to share your feelings with others. As friends, colleagues, spouses and parents it is key that we have effective active listening skills so that the other person feels heard. This can go a long way into building relationships. However, there are times when helping someone see a more positive perspective can be very helpful.

I often encounter people who don’t just want to share with me how bad their lives are or the world might be. It is not enough that I listen and empathize. No, they want me to agree with them. They can almost be evangelical about their pessimism. Sometimes, I have a strong urge to just say, “Stop trying to convert me!” I get that it hurts. I get that you are struggling. But the idea that everything in this world is horrible and I am a jerk because I don’t agree; now that is a different story.

We all have a hypothesis for how we see the world and look for data to support. This hypothesis is often developed when we are younger. If you believe that the world is a dangerous place than of course you can find a lot of examples of that. Watch the local news on any given night and you will see all kinds of violence. Actually, you will be more drawn to stories that strengthen your view rather than those that conflict with it. Even if something is painful it is more comfortable for us to find things that agree. If you think you are a piece of junk then it will be far easier to believe those who agree with you. If someone says something nice to you, it won’t have any place to land in you and will more easily evaporate.

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  • Sue

    I read her post. And I agree that I don’t want to be evangelized by people hellbent on how bad a place the world is. I also don’t want to be evangelized by people who want me to see the world optimistically either.
    Right now, I am struggling with depression. I have read your book Therese, and other than being a moderate drinker myself, I could totally relate to your book and the whole bipolar II thing. And I could understand that part about thinking that the world and people in it would be better off without me when you talked about being suicidal and wanting the best for your kids. I’m not suicidal but I totally have death thoughts at least 4 days a week and I’m seeing my doctor tomorrow…
    I was crying at my desk at work this morning.
    So I don’t want to share all the gory details of what I think and feel with all my friends, but I do say I’m depressed–because I really don’t have the energy to fake NOT being depressed. And some of my friends, even those who HAVE depression, albeit milder in form, try to evangelize me out of it. I wouldn’t CHOOSE to feel this terrible, trust me. And it’s a crappy thing to say to someone “at least you don’t have cancer, try to think on the positive side”.
    So there are two sides to the evangelical thoughts issue.

  • Barb

    Sue, I have been there….and it is not a good trip or a place you want to stay but God can deliver you as He did me….call on Him to get you through this devlish attack…to make you whole…to lift this heaviness off you..I suffered with depression for over 30 years on heavy antidepressants and as I grew and matured in the Lord and learned to use His Word in regard to my life HE DELIVERED me from the depression,,,,there are still days that challenge me but now I have the tools to fight with, HIS WORD…dont give up …..trust in Him and stand strong. He is there for you, God Bless.

  • Barb

    Yes, the World can cause us to be pessimistic but God doesnt want us to be in that frame of mind. You can have God’s power in your life if you choose to follow Him…you can have His Favor on you in every situation and learning His Word and applying it to your life situations can bring Victory into your life…if you Love Him, put Him first, He will care for you always…it has taken my lifetime in knowing Him and His Word to bring me to the Peace that we all want in our lives…it is worth the effort.

  • Christine

    Dear Reader, Ours is not to question only believe. Ours is not to look outside ourselves but within. Ask the Holy Spirit for the gift of stillness in your mind. Ask the Holy Spirit for the gift of forgiveness in your heart. Take a few deep breaths and surrender to Him that surrounding you with Love, even if you don’t realize it!!!
    Peace unto You.
    With good intentions
    Christine

  • Jill

    I agree with this that there are two sides to whether someone is overly optimistic or overly pessimistic. However, I get my strength from MYSELF and no deity can ever replace that.

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