The Worst Case Scenario

When you’re faced with a challenging and stressful situation, some social scientists believe there’s a better strategy than thinking positively. Defensive Pessimism challenges you to imagine worst-case scenarios in order to manage your anxiety. The Atlantic’s Olga Khazan describes the upside of pessimism: “When people are being defensively pessimistic, they set low expectations, but then they take the next step which is to think through in concrete and vivid ways what exactly might go wrong. What we’ve seen in the research is if they do this in a specific, vivid way, it helps them plan to avoid the disaster. They end up performing better than if they didn’t use the strategy. It helps them direct their anxiety toward productive activity.” (I actually doubt my ability to be appropriately pessimistic. That helps me sink to the occasion.)

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