Reflection: No News is Good News
So I am back with my eighth of twelve posts exploring toxic behaviors listed in “Toxic People: 12 Things They Do and How to Deal With Them.” (https://www.heysigmund.com/toxic-people/) by psychologist Karen Young
Today I want to talk about the wet blanket. The pessimist. The discourager. The person who finds danger in every opportunity, and a loss in every win.
Pessimists abound in our stories: Debbie Downer. Charlie Brown. Eeyore. Grumpy the Dwarf. Oscar the Grouch.
They also abound in real life. Sometimes they are well informed, but poorly adjusted, and are experts in bad news. They can offer a potential negative outcome to everything you try.
They may spoil your new job by talking about the bad history of your company, or negative trends in your industry.
They may spoil your vacation by imagining the crowds you will encounter, or diseases you might catch.
They may spoil your new relationship by expounding on breakups.
They may dampen your engagement with reflections on their divorce.
To be honest, this one hits a little close to home.
I do my best to share people’s joy, but I also find myself researching risks.
At some point before any exotic vacation, I will Google the things there that can kill me.
When a friend with a history of impulsive decisions tells me they’ve found “the one”, I’m cautiously optimistic.
The interesting thing about the wet blanket in fiction, is a lot of stories feature them in communities that embrace them.
Nobody ostracizes Eeyore. They just let him be sad around them.
Oscar doesn’t get evicted from Sesame Street. And Grumpy doesn’t become the toxic ex-friend of The Six Dwarves. They just accept his personality, and don’t let it bring them down. In fact, they are so authentically themselves, that nobody else’s behavior changes them at all. Dopey stays dopey. Bashful does not enroll in assertiveness training. They are who they are, and it’s fine.
The other interesting thing about pessimists is that they are often right.
The toxic habit is not necessarily the pessimism itself.
It may be the insistence on sharing that pessimism during a toast, the injection of gloom into a moment of joy.
There’s a time for everything. And sometimes, the downer perspective is not needed.
I’d rather be a hope dealer than a hope stealer.
At the same time, I want to walk into new seasons with eyes wide open. And I want the same for the people I love.
Rosy optimism that leads to getting robbed is not good. It’s unfortunate.
And preserving someone’s innocence as they walk into the lion’s den is not loving. It’s despicable.
And here, as I think of friends, and parents, and siblings I’ve known, I need to ask another question:
Some people downplay your wins and celebrate your losses. You should probably get as far away from them as possible.
That said, who is more toxic, the person who dampens your success, but has your back in a crisis, or the person who encourages you to be the big dog, but bails when you encounter a bigger one?
Is the person who will party with you, but is an ever-absent help in trouble, better than the person who predicts the storm, but is then ready for it?
And is it toxic of me to see someone faithful in war, but gloomy in peace as not good enough for me? Or do I need to mature enough that I don’t look to them as my source of encouragement?
We should be wary of people who demand we shrink or point us toward our insignificance. It probably just serves their agenda.
Just so, we should be wary of our affinity for people who never speak cautionary words or note when we are being unwise.
And we should always watch for our own tendencies to think of relationships only in terms of what we need, or our tendencies to accept poison and call it love.
We don’t need to be gassed up, deflated, stroked, or struck.
We all get to choose who is close to us.