Across the ages, humans have struggled with the duality of
life: light vs. dark; love vs. hate; truth vs. deception;
peace vs. war; health vs. sickness; good vs. evil, and
ultimately life vs. death. A type of duality is
ranking adults and kids between very negative (pessimistic,
cynical, and "bad") to usually realistic to very positive
(optimistic, idealistic, and "good"). Another type is
judging some normal emotions to be positive (love, joy,
contentment, happiness) and others negative (e.g. agony,
terror, frustration, sadness, despair, guilt, and shame).
People at each end of this spectrum can be difficult to
relate to and communicate with. Can you think of
examples of such people in your life? Where would people
rank you on this spectrum?
If you're a
realist or an optimist, why can "excessively negative"
people be hard to relate to? An answer emerges if you
consider how you feel around them: Concerned?
Impatient? Indifferent? Pitying? Scornful? Critical?
Annoyed? Frustrated? Gloomy? Do you feel the urge to "fix"
them - i.e. to persuade them to be more cheerful more often?
If so, that may really be about hoping to lower your
discomfort around them.
Several factors can shape your reaction to excessive
negativity: whether the person...
is openly cynical or
pessimistic or has traits you feel are "negative," like
"coldness," selfishness, egotism, greed, and dishonesty.
admits or denies their
is ashamed of it or defiant
is passive about their
negative views or imposes them on others (like you);
is negative about
"everything" or just specific people and situations;
is rigid and absolute
(generalizes), or admits "it's just my opinion on (some
topic);" and/or whether s/he...
can tolerate and discuss
other points of view fairly, or is rigid, closed to,
absolute (black/white), and critical of different
beliefs than theirs.
Note the difference
between the attitude of "excessive negativity" and
the way the attitude is expressed
covertly, imperiously, adamantly, disrespectfully,
deceitfully; manipulatively, loudly, obsessively, etc.
of this difference can make your responses more specific and
It may also help to be aware of
different forms of "negativity" - e.g...
commonly focus critically on the worst traits in people
people are apathetic, unresponsive, and low-energy. They
may feel that they are worthless unlovable failures,
nothing is worthwhile, and life is hopeless.
and pessimists dwell on or forecast unpleasant or
tragic outcomes to important situations ("AIDS is going
to kill off most Africans" / "We'll never be able to
protect our country from terrorists!");
Catastrophizers insist that the worst possible
calamity is certain to happen despite all contrary
evidence and attempts to avert it ("We WILL be destroyed
by a world-wide plague / nuclear war / overpopulation /
asteroids from space / the anti-Christ!" etc.)
and victims moan and complain about how badly
they're treated or how lousy their life is, while
avoiding responsibility for improving it. And...
are people who fear something.
They may or may not be cynics, skeptics, depressed, or catastrophizers.
Can you thin of
other forms of "negativity"? It's likely that when traits
like these are excessive, they are caused by the person
being controlled by a well-meaning false self.
How do you feel with such people? Does their
"glass-half-empty" attitude or their communication style
affect your respect and
for them? Your patience? .
Mentally review these
until they become automatic;
As a courtesy, ask if the
person is open to some personal feedback now. If s/he
says "No," you have a
If you need to vent (be
heard and accepted) or invite awareness, mentally affirm your mutual
dignity, gain steady eye contact, and
calmly say something like:
experience you as usually focusing on negative things.
Are you aware of that?"
don't see ________ the way you do."
you focus on unpleasant things so often, I get
discouraged / irritated / impatient / uncomfortable /
weary / distracted / ...."
you see yourself as a pessimist, a realist, or an
do you feel around people who mainly focus on negative
"(Name), when you need to
focus only on (the worst possibilities / one side of
things / failure / catastrophes / hopelessness /
cynicism / pain and fear / suffering / calamities /
etc.) I have a hard time listening to you."
You can stop there and see how s/he responds, and/or if
can add something like...
suspect a false
self is controlling you now. What do you think?"
"I need to let you know
when I'm uncomfortable with your negative focus / attitude /
outlook (... so I'm going to
put my fingers in my ears, OK?)"
If you need the
person to (want to) "become more positive," expect
mounting frustration. Excessive "negativity" comes from being
They are ruled by emotion (like
shame, guilt, and insecurity), and care little for "logic."
response, expect "resistance"
like denial, excuses ("I can't help it"), explanations,
whining, apologizing, silence, argument, complaints,
blame, etc. Use
to acknowledge the resistance, and calmly repeat your response
until you feel heard or your needs change.
Keep in mind
that your "negative" partner is probably unaware of or denying
psychological wounds, and can't voluntarily change it
and committing to