According to the findings of a recent study, it seems that overly positive people don’t care about your problems. In fact, it’s best you seek out the gloomiest person you know.
I recently learned a truth about myself via an emotional brick, hurled through a chat window. It seems that I’m heartless. This hurt. While the label may have been valid in this particular circumstance, as a stamp to be slapped upon my greater personality, it seemed to be a bit, you know, heartless.
I may be apathetic, but I still care.
As a long-time owner of a gloomy disposition, piled on top of hereditary introversion, I’ve long-fought the collective assumption that I’m a self-centered isolationist, happy to keep my own problems to myself, on the proviso that you keep your problems away from me, thank you very much. Well, allow me to very subtly click my tongue in glee and let me raise my eyebrows, in particular to the shiny, happy people among you, because science believes that you in particular are the main culprits in being unable to handle OPP, or other people’s problems.
You see, the problem stems from your belief that you’ll be able to help. That everything can be solved by the rays of sunshine imbued in your veins. But it is your innate self-belief that is the crack in the concrete you stumble over. A recent study saw a sunny person stationed next to an Eeyoreite in a room to watch a video of people recounting their life stories. The subjects were prompted to measure the level of positive or negative sentiment the speaker was feeling. Alex Fradera, speaking in the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest, explained the results thusly:
“Participants with a more upbeat personality believed their accuracy on this task to be higher than others. However, the speakers had conducted an identical rating process on their own videos, and it turns out the happier participants were no closer to the true feelings than the more downbeat participants. In fact, happy participants found it harder to judge the emotional tone of a highly negative monologue, in which a participant described the death of a parent.”
Other than validating my toxic personality, this information speaks loudly in dulcet tones of truth. In times of crisis, such as losing someone dear, you tend to gravitate toward the people who walk daily through the black forest of emotional detritus, as they know the path through it; the appearance of the candy-striped gingerbread house of positivity a threshold your misty eyes would rather not pass. I mean, if you did, what would the advice be? The saccharine morsels of “Yes, Mum’s dead. But smile, for life is great”?
I suppose conversely, when you hit the lottery, the first person you’d tell would be the most vibrant person you could muster, to share in this piece of wondrous astronomical luck. But how many lotteries does one hit in one’s lifetime? Expanding on the argument put forward by the study, you could say that the worst of us are those truly fit for the conditions of life. We know that denial is not a river in Egypt, but that you can still easily drown in it.
But to assume we gloomy people don’t care is a rather galling misstep. We do, ever so much, but we see things in their proper context: a bruise on a smashed mirror that has repeatedly fallen on us since birth. As the poster boy for the empathetically gloomy, Albert Camus, pointed out: there is no love of life, without despair of life.
And that’s what I care about.