I’ve always believed in the wisdom and power of positive pessimism. Over the years, I have adopted it as something of a creed, a belief system, a world view, and a healthy approach to life. Plan for the worst and you will never be disappointed. If all hell breaks loose, you have the satisfaction of having been proven right, of having had the foresight and wisdom to correctly predict the outcome. If things go better than you expect, you will be relieved at the very least, or even possibly made happy that the disaster for which you had planned was averted.
Note that I said, “plan for the worst” and not “expect the worst.” I want to prepared for the worst, because that is something I can control, and because experience tells me this strategy is effective. When things turn out as I had planned – that means, for the worst – then I am mentally prepared. I have already reconciled myself to that outcome. It’s worked for me most of the time, and those who are close to me have watched it play out and have variously drawn their own lessons and strength from this approach.
But even positive pessimism, as I call it, caught me up short when it came to the COVID-19 pandemic. The power of positive pessimism was useful for dealing with the onslaught of everyday frustrations and the occasional more serious disappointments that life brings your way. But not even in my direst imagination did I fully map out a situation like the one we’re in now – of global pandemic and the threat of infection, suffering, and death that comes with it, as well as the economic devastation it has wrought in its wake, taking our already shaky economy of gross inequality and plunging us into a bath of recession and depression the likes of which probably haven’t been seen since 1929 and the early 1930s.
This was not a world I dwelt upon for any length of time in my imagination. Sure, I casually saw and laughed at occasional evidence pointing to apocalypse, Armageddon, and the End of Days. I do dwell upon the fact that our global climate emergency will indeed bring about wholesale disruption and disaster to parts of the world and then all of the world over the next few years. But even this positive pessimist didn’t quite engage in the full-on mental preparation that might have been helpful in meeting and greeting and coping with the current crisis situation.
And coping, in the end, is what it’s really all about. Coping with life’s everyday ups and downs, coping with life’s extremes, and in our case today, coping with the greatest threat to the world and life as we know it in our lifetimes. We all have our own ways of coping. Some work better than others. As for me, I refuse to go down the road of painting a mental picture of the absolute worst outcome. No matter how pessimistic I may be, I believe that pessimism at its best is a tool for survival and not surrender. So hang in there, my friends.
Seth Rogovoy is editor of the Rogovoy Report, available at rogovoyreport.com
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