Michelle Rupp: Hello and welcome into this week’s edition of AFMC TV. We’re so glad you joined us today. We’re talking with our friend and therapist, Ken Clark from Chanel Family Therapy. Hi Ken, how are you today?
Ken Clark, MA, LMFT: Good to be here. Thanks for having me.
MR: Ken. I’m really excited to get into this topic because we are talking about pessimism and, being pessimistic and kind of all of the negative that comes with that. So, I think as we dive in, I’ll first start by just asking you what does it mean to be pessimistic? I kind of think of Eeyore from Winnie the pooh days.
KC: Yeah. I think when we think of pessimistic, which isn’t a psychological diagnosis, right? It’s, it’s probably a state of being and it’s probably got different definitions for different people. But I think generally what we think of is somebody who can’t pull themselves out of a loop of seeing negative outcomes in their life, right. Whether it’s from, you know, nothing good ever happens to me to all the bad stuff happens to me, but they’re caught in a loop and, and that’s how they see the world. And then they pick up what we call confirmation bias, which is sure enough when some of the bad things happen, not even all of them, uh, their brain kind of confirms ah, see I knew it And uh, and that reinforces that loop and they get stuck in that because of that. It becomes a very limited in existence when we think bad things are going to happen to us continually or good things never happened and we don’t take fun chances. We don’t expand our horizons. We don’t grow, we don’t strike out into the world. So pessimism definitely holds back everything from personal growth to the growth of businesses and organization. So how is there a way to break that loop, first of all? Yeah. So, I mean, the hard part, right, is our brains tend to run fairly automatically. Our thought processes seem to run automatically unless we do something different. So, when people are struggling with pessimism, we probably do two things. One, we do some cognitive challenging, we call it whether it’s with a therapist or with yourself, you sit down and kind of inventory. What do I believe? What have I believed in my life? That was going to be the, the, the outcomes, the way things turned out, all that kind of stuff. And does my pessimism really match up to it? Right? Like if we can just help people see that, Gosh, only a third of your time. Do your fears come true? That means two thirds of the time they don’t. Right. So that’s cognitive challenging. We’re challenging the automatic program number two. Um, the very deliberate attitude and uh, process of, of fostering gratitude, of sitting down and seeing what is good in our life and learning to ruminate and hold those images and hold those thoughts in our head makes all the difference.
MR: Is there a difference between just being negative all the time and actually complaining or are they kind of went in the same?
KC: Well, I always think of and I we wrestled with this raising kids right? And they get in those kind of negative cycles. Um, one of my favorite sayings is you never learn something until you have to teach it right? Like you never fully know something until you have to teach it. And we know that when people have to explain things out loud, when they use their mouth, when they hear themselves talking those things in bed differently and deeper in our brain. And so somebody who is constantly vocalizing the negative really does train their brain to see and predict the negative. And so in the same way that positive affirmations can help build this up, can give us confidence, can calm us down, constantly reminding ourselves of negative possibilities. Uh, definitely re wires the way that we see the world and experience the world.
MR: So obviously, I would think all this negativity and uh well, I won’t say depressing thoughts, but maybe in some cases would tend to build up and could lead to a real toxic environment.
KC: Sure, yeah. When you get multiple negative pessimistic people kind of feeding off each other, it sure can write and ironically their own behavior that kind of shut down or that fight flight and freeze that kicks in when we’re in that negative mode it becomes the thing that proves to the other person that something bad is happening, right? So we get stuck in loops that feed off each other, which is why there’s a huge value to teams and families and couples and friends centering on the good and rebooting together and having these moments where we remind ourselves and each other of all that there is good in our lives.
MR: And I want to drill down a little more in that if you are in a household where there’s the negativity or the pessimist pessimism or you’re in an office space either instance, how can you begin to break some of that? Um, how do you recommend people who typically are more optimistic not to get sucked in to the negative thoughts?
KC: Yeah, I think one of the things that we see a lot, which is seems really ineffective is people try and remind the negative people or the pessimistic people of all that is good only to hear why that’s not true. We won’t apply to them or whatever. Right? So it becomes very frustrating for the encourager if you will. Um, so you’re probably not going to change it by pointing out to them something that that has, has goes against everything that they’ve come to believe, what we do think is important is that you do allow yourself distance from those folks. You find ways to bow out to take space. It doesn’t mean you have to end the relationship or cut it off, but it also doesn’t mean you have to sit through it. You know, it’s a perfect time to go get coffee or go walk the dog or whatever, right? Um, maybe even more boldly though. Sometimes it’s important to tell people like this negativity is affecting me and if it doesn’t change, it may affect the relationship. And that’s an okay boundary to draw as well to tell people that this is overflowing and it doesn’t feel good when it lands on me. Um, so we would encourage that to maybe that’s something to do with the help of a therapist or a coach or mentor is figure out how to get those words right. But telling somebody like that’s too much. That’s a-okay to do.
MR: No harm there in setting that that boundary definitely. So is, and as we kind of bring this to a close is negativity really, um, are we seeing more of it? Are we becoming more aware of it? It seems like as culture kind of ebbs and flows and spirals and then stabilizes and then spirals again. Uh, there’s an awful lot where people could get negative.
KC: Yeah. You know, I think it’s very different than 20 or 30 years ago. I don’t know that it’s, it’s continuing to increase at a forever rate, but the social, the introduction of social media, you know, it used to be watched the nightly news, there wasn’t even midday news, you know, now we have 24 hour news cycle and you’ve got social media and that can even be curated. You can find other negative people to feed off of. So, it has definitely increased. I do believe as we cut down on our media usage, social media, everything, It doesn’t matter what your sources, you will also probably feel less negativity. So, it’s definitely increased as we continue to innovate how we connect with each other over the internet and things like that. There’ll probably be some more growth in that. But Covid sure didn’t help the, the state of affairs of the world. Sure, doesn’t help. There’s a lot of people right now who, and if you’re one of them, you are normal to feel overwhelmed and a little bit hopeless. And some pessimism again, that’s where we become very deliberate and try and reboot our brains and our hearts and our minds. So.
MR: And the best news of all is that you don’t have to stay that way.
KC: You don’t, you don’t uh, and even if you wanted to stay that way, life is going to continue to give you opportunities to see that it’s not all negative, that the pessimism is not true. The good news is that life keeps giving us chances to reengage. Um, so even if you don’t have the energy to figure it out today or you missed your opportunity to be positive today, another one will circle back around tomorrow and maybe then you’ll have the energy and, and that’s a perfect time to try.
MR: All right, ken, Clark. Always great advice. Thank you so much.
KC: Always honored to be here. Thank you.
MR: And thank you so much for joining us. We’ll see you back here next week for more AFMC TV.