Negative thinking can be very harmful. A comment, a gesture, a news, an image … All situations are subject to multiple interpretations. Reality is not unique, but passes through the prism of our expectations, desires and way of understanding the world. Some people, however, often look for splitting hairs, are constantly inclined to think badly of what others are doing or distrust their intentions.
Life will give you what you expect, neither more nor less
Diffident people often expect negative things from the others. They believe that everyone will betray them, that the others always act driven by double intentions or that they will seize the slightest opportunity to stab them in the back.
The problem is that, in the end, that distrust materializes. As a self-fulfilling prophecy, when diffident people distrust the others, that distrust ends up affecting their relationships. In fact, they are likely to maintain more superficial relationships marked by suspicion. And it is also more likely that they themselves are not sincere in their purposes and that it is difficult for them to share their ideas and emotions. That lack of authenticity and sincerity will make a dent in the relationship.
If these people prepare constantly for the worst, the worst will come, because if they continually misunderstand the words and behaviors of the others, it is likely that those around them end up getting tired and, indeed, abandon them.
There is no doubt that sooner or later someone will fail us. But someone is not everyone. It is important to notice the difference not generalizing. We should not anticipate the facts thinking that everyone is going to fail us because we will only end up misunderstanding their comments, attitudes and behaviors, seeing threats where there are none. And living like this is not living.
Where does negative thinking arise?
Being diffident and suspicious may have different origins, but its function is the same: to prevent someone from hurting us. If we have suffered disappointments in the past, we are more likely to become a diffident person. We begin to distrust the others and their intentions as a mechanism to protect ourselves. Obviously, the more disappointments we have suffered and the deeper the emotional wounds they have left, the greater our distrust.
That tendency can also have its origin in our parents. If they have conveyed to us the idea that the world is a hostile place, where everything can happen and nobody cares about us, if they have repeated us until wearyness that people will deceive us as soon as they can, that friends are not so friendly and that we always have to sleep with an open eye, we are likely to grow up being distrustful and diffident, although we havn’t had a direct experience that confirms those fears.
In fact, a study conducted at the University of California revealed that people with a paranoid tendency, prone to distrust the others and believe in conspiracies, experience more feelings of alienation and hostility, in addition to thinking that they are disadvantaged compared to the others and perceive that have no control over their lives.
That means that expecting negative things from the others can lead to greater suffering and anxiety, and it does not always help us to protect ourselves better since these concerns are often maladaptive and do not give way to an action plan, but keep us in a vicious circle of negativity. And, incidentally, they also make suffer the other.
How to deal with diffident people?
Those who live or interact with diffident people every day will need an extra dose of patience and tolerance. Often these people make us feel as if we walk on crystals, forcing us to be in a state of permanent alert because we do not know how they will interpret our comments or attitudes.
It is also important to try to understand why that person is diffident. Did he suffer many disappointments in life? Relating from empathy can help to soften the friction, put ourselves in that person’s place and be a little more understanding. If a person fears that we will harm him, it is normal for him to try to protect himself.
In our day-to-day life, it is also essential that we avoid be drifting by misunderstanding, excessive mistrust or even cynism. The negative thoughts about the others will generate tension and lead us to loneliness.
We need to understand that every person we know deserves a treatment that starts from scratch, he/she does not have to carry the burden of our past on his/her shoulders. There is a middle ground between being prudent and being diffident or distrustful. It is not about giving the keys of our house to a person we just met, but also not testing him continuously thinking that is a bad person. In the long run, the main beneficiary of this change of perspective will be ourselves.
Abalakina, M. et. Al. (1999) Beliefs in Conspiracies. Political Psychology; 20(3): 637-647.