People who suffer with depression tend to see much of life through a 'dark' lens and are prone to doomful sounding predictions and beliefs. Another reason why people worry and may be pessimistic is because they believe that worrying or imagining negative outcomes will prepare them if and when their negative predictions come true. In an article written earlier (see "Worrying") I suggested that when people are negative in order to prepare or be ready for a presumed negative occurrence, all that really happens is that they make themselves miserable and are no more prepared for hurt or disappointment than if they had found a way to be hopeful, instead. In fact, they probably would have been better off since we know that optimism – as opposed to its opposite outlook – is associated with general well-being and better overall mental health.
A major problem associated with treating fearful predictions or worries as though they were facts is that the person might be prone to conduct themselves as though the feared disappointment or rejection had already occurred and they then behave accordingly.
A former client's experience illustrates this phenomenon. Linda, an unemployed elementary school teacher, was asked to try out for a new position by subbing for the regular teacher who was on a two week long sick leave. While believing she did reasonably well, Linda expressed certainty that she did not get the job: "I KNOW I did not impress them and I KNOW that I will not get the job…I just KNOW!" Unfortunately, Linda found ways to feed her pessimism. She was told she would hear within a week or ten days. By day three, she was further convinced: "if they really wanted me they would have called immediately and not waited." She was treating her fear like a fact and, therefore, handled matters as though she had already been rejected for the position. I discovered in a subsequent session that she was slow to submit additional information requested by the school and managed to "forget" to write the thank you note she had promised herself to send, and more…good examples of acting as though it no longer mattered what she did or did not do since, as far as she was concerned, she had already been rejected for the position. Need I say how pleased I was when she won the position fourteen days after her try out; pleased not only because she needed the job in order to support her family, but because it was a powerful life lesson for this individual who learned a great deal about herself and her self-defeating proclivities, when this one actually worked out in her favor.
Obviously, whether you are an optimist by nature or a pessimist instead, it is important to keep perspective – especially under stressful circumstances – and differentiate your fears and beliefs from presumed reality, so that you do not act in ways that are self-defeating or, worse, self-destructive.