In Praise of Being Bad-Tempered and Pessimistic! by Peter West
Everyone knows that I am the bad-tempered and pessimistic one at this site. But is that necessarily a bad thing? Could this entire self-help cult of positive thinking actually be wrong?
An article by Zaria Gorvett, “Why it pays to be Grumpy and Bad-Tempered” August 10, 2016, puts the case against the self-help ideology. Cynics actually have more stable marriages, higher earnings and live longer. Cranks turn out to often be superior at negotiating.
Good moods and optimism comes at a cost. It can make one gullible and blind to problems that the pessimist, one who is sceptical about human goodness, will pick up on in a flash. The fact is, our emotions, including the so-called negative ones, evolved with mankind, and have survival value. Anger, even hatred, can in various circumstances, save one’s life. Psychological experiments testing the ability of anger versus sadness in creativity have found that anger wins hands down as it “prepares the body to mobilise resources.”
But are such negative emotions actually bad for your health, increasing your stress? Even this had been tested by looking at patients with coronary artery disease, to determine levels of suppressed anger. It was found, after controlling for other factors, that anger did not lead to an increased risk of heart attacks, while suppressing anger actually did.
Happiness actually has risks. The state of happiness usually is produced by the “cuddle/lovey-dovey” hormone, oxytocin, which reduces the ability of people affected to perceive threats. Happy caveman would not have been happy for too long, being made prey. Today, happiness often reduces men to “beta men,” vulnerable to all those who would prey on the weak. Happiness can take the hard edges off of a man, making him less of a man.
Psychologists have found that those in states of happiness were less capable of judging material and thinking sceptically.
Hence, don’t criticise me for my pessimism – it’s a survival instinct encoded in my genes!