Nihilism is more powerful than optimism

A few weeks ago, I landed on this tweet.

It criticizes the naive optimism of the quoted tweet. Life is often harsh, out of our agency and control. Felix is rationally right. We don’t have full agency over our life. Ask someone suffering from illnesses and born to an unstable family.

Typically, optimism is seen as the opposite of pessimism. That creates a symmetric perception. But, pessimism is vastly more powerful than optimism. You see this phenomenon everywhere — negativity bias.

even when of equal intensity, things of a more negative nature (e.g. unpleasant thoughts, emotions, or social interactions; harmful/traumatic events) have a greater effect on one’s psychological state and processes than neutral or positive things

Negativity bias expresses itself in relationships and tribes like companies, countries and institutions . In a marriage, it takes about five good interactions to counteract a negative interaction. Ever wondered why you obsess over the one nitpick from your friend than the dozens of compliments they throw everyday? Yup, that’s negativity bias.

So, what do we do here? I think relentless, boundless and somewhat naive optimism is a good recipe. We’ve seen this work before. Take the American Dream, for example. Any rational analysis will quickly conclude that the American Dream is a false myth for a large section of Americans. But, the collective myth also propelled the country to do unbelievable and irrational things — create the world’s biggest economy, go to the moon and a create forward-looking civilization that’s innovative, thriving and self-critical.

Optimistic belief might actually yield a way. Nihilism is always a self-fulfilling prophecy

Think optimistically all the time? You might just succeed. Lean towards more pessimism? Your predictions will always be true.

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