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 | By Cathie McDaniel

The Slippery Slope of Pessimism

Dear Cathie: I am having difficulty with negative thinking. I find it hard to stay positive with all that is going on in the world. Any suggestions?

This is a slippery slope, and it is common for most of us in this world today. There is a great deal of unrest in the world. However, it does not benefit our peace of mind or soul to focus on the negative, forgetting about our blessings and the beauty this world has to offer. Sometimes, being optimistic takes practice and perseverance. People can change. If we allow ourselves to wallow in negative thought, it will not change the past, present, or future. It can be difficult to be around a person who constantly focuses on the negative, so how can we change our mindset? One skill we can practice is “radical acceptance.” (Linehan, 1993a) This skill can be practiced every day, and it will help us stay focused on the present moment. Radical acceptance trains our minds to stop dwelling on past mistakes or negative thoughts. Instead it helps us to refocus on the present. If we are overly critical about situations, the attitude can prevent us from enjoying the moment and appreciating the positives that are surrounding us, leading to anger and hurt. Being angry will not improve the situation or change the outcome. Using radical acceptance does not mean we condone or agree with a situation; rather, it just means we stop trying to control something that may be out of our control. Here are some radical acceptance coping statements that can be used to keep ourselves in the present moment:

• This is the way it has to be.

• God is in control.

• It is what it is.

• It’s a waste of time fighting what has already occurred.

• Fighting the past only blinds us to our present.

If the coping doesn’t work and the worst is still anticipated, consider talking to a professional counselor or a priest. Depression and anxiety can foster a negative outlook on life, and the individual who presents as being a pessimist may have deeper issues and concerns. If it is hard to set aside negative thoughts, perhaps counseling is required.

Cathie McDaniel is the director of Catholic Family Services in Huntsville. She has a master’s degree in clinical counseling from Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, and is a licensed professional counselor in the state of Alabama.