Oct 01

Negaholism, Negative Dispositional Attitude, and Debbie Downer

Negaholism: A persistently negative or pessimistic outlook. (Wiktionary)

You’re enjoying your day, everything’s going your way
Then, along comes Debbie Downer!
Always there to tell you about a new disease
A car accident or killer bees.
You’ll beg her to spare you, “Debbie, please.”
But you can’t stop Debbie Downer!  Saturday Night Live

Hi, my name is Debbie Downer and I’m a negaholic.

Hi Debbie, members of her Negaholics Anonymous meeting would then say—if there were such a thing.

Though there may not be such a group, there is such a thing as negaholism. And Dr. Chérie Carter-Scott is a Negaholic Specialist. She helps people who are addicted to negativity.

What is negaholism exactly? States Carter-Scott: “Negaholism is a syndrome in which people unconsciously limit their own innate abilities, convince themselves that they can’t have what they want, and sabotage their wishes, desires, and dreams. Negaholism manifests itself daily in the lives of normal people. Self-imposed limitations on happiness, joy, and fulfillment contaminate the consciousness of the majority of the population in subtle ways. The beliefs, attitudes, and perceptions that keep us restricted, constrained, and curtailed have reached epidemic proportions.”

The first step toward recovery? Allow feelings. “Remember, all addictive behavior is motivated by either the pursuit of or avoidance of a feeling. All addictions are geared to relieving, avoiding, or anesthetizing a feeling. So being aware and monitoring your feelings is fundamental to overcoming negativity.”

So. Are you a negaholic? (Or a Debbie Downer or wet blanket or “hater”?) Someone who’s developed a negative outlook?

Or do you have a negative “dispositional attitude”?

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Illinois recently interviewed people about things they might like or not. Julie Beck, The Atlantic, gives a summary of their findings:

The lovers loved and the haters hated, as they are wont to do. A positive dispositional attitude was associated with higher openness and curiosity, and feeling more positive emotions (the things they liked were making them happy I guess) and a negative one was associated with negative emotions. What’s more, people’s general tendency to like things or not like things was a pretty good predictor of whether they would like something new, in this case, the microwave.

Implications: If you’re cranky and you hate everything and everyone, chances are, if presented with a mystery item, you won’t like it. If you are infectiously, virally happy, if you are a meme of happiness and liking things, you’ll probably like any new thing you come across, too. And in your heart of hearts, you already know which one you are.

Cognitive behavioral therapy could probably help with this.

Is negative dispositional attitude a trait from birth? Or might it be developed along the way like negaholism? Could they basically be the same thing?

I don’t know, but bottom line: Whether you’re a negaholic or in possession of a negative dispositional attitude, there are always ways to get better.

However, I can almost guarantee you won’t like any of them.