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Lessons from a Pessimistic Aspie

Hey all. My name is Max, and I’ve been asked to talk about “pessimism in adults with Asperger’s.” So, I will be using myself as an example here (see if you can relate):

Pessimism was part of a defensive posture I used to take to protect myself. It was usually triggered when I feel hurt by something someone said or did. Instead of dealing with the hurt directly, I would allow it to gnaw at me and blur my outlook.

To make matters worse, when I grew pessimistic toward one thing in my life, it wasn’t long before I became pessimistic about a lot of things going on in my life. Pessimism was like a cancer for me in that sense. Have you ever had something go wrong, and then that one event colored the rest of the day such that it felt like EVERYTHING was going wrong?

I’ve discovered that when I get pessimistic about something, I’m usually just indulging in a self-righteous attitude, and have formed some expectations that people “should” behave a certain way. Pessimism often surfaces when I direct my own negative perceptions that I have toward myself outward onto those around me.

Many of my pessimistic emotions come about when I’m feeling vulnerable. In those moments when I’m feeling disappointed in something or somebody, I’m far more likely to react by getting defensive (i.e., asshole syndrome). An increased vulnerability to pessimism is usually a sure sign that I’ve turned on myself. When I enter this mindset, I begin to view those around me through the same critical filter through which I see myself. 

This judgmental self-talk tells me that I’m not good enough or that I don’t “fit in.” Yet, this inner voice is projected outward onto the people around me. I start seeing others solely for their flaws - and fail to have empathy for their own challenges. When I’m in my pessimistic mood, I’m indulging in a "me versus them" mentality that pins me against a certain person (or group).

Ultimately, it’s always in my own self-interest to be open and vulnerable rather than to be cynical and write people off. The only person I can control is me. When I get pessimistic, I’m the one who suffers. Why make myself suffer over the flaws in others?

Avoiding pessimism is about alleviating my own suffering by dealing with emotions directly without letting them color the lens through which I view the world. Instead of getting defensive toward someone I feel provoked by, I can think about what is triggering my pessimistic reactions. Have I possibly slipped into a point of view that is not my own? Am I projecting my self-attacks? Am I experiencing hurt?

Fostering an attitude of empathy (in which I’m curious, open and accepting of myself) is crucial to fighting pessimism. When I’m able to feel secure in myself, I’m better able to have empathy toward others. I can start by recognizing that everyone has issues. Often, when people do something that hurts me, they are acting from a place of defense and hurt themselves. Some people may have worse characteristics than others, but everyone has weaknesses.

We each have independent minds that think differently, but at the same time, we are all in the same boat, and we are all hurt in our own unique ways. Empathy counters pessimism by allowing me to feel my pain and frustration without taking these emotions to a dark place that end up hurting me and those close to me.

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