From Pessimism to Optimism 2: Change your internal dialog

One of the things I found I did was employ catastrophic thinking when things went slightly sour. My emotional reaction to smallish painful events didn’t square with the reality of the situation. Let me give you an example.

A few weeks ago, I got some numbers in the mail. Numbers are just numbers, right? They corresponded with my book sales, which didn’t bode well for my author heart. Instead of thinking, “Well, you win some; you lose some,” and moving on to the next thing, I wallowed there. I focused on catastrophe, thinking what my life would be like when I no longer could be an author. I pictured myself cooking taco meat at Taco Bell, or greeting folks at Stuff Mart. I walked down a long alley of fatalism.

I’ve realized this kind of thinking is not healthy.

Because the truth is, other books of mine are selling well. And publishers still want me to write for them. And, slowly, methodically, I’m building a readership. My publishing sky is not falling. It’s simply there, to be interpreted correctly.

So a better way to rephrase my thoughts would be: “Yes, my sales weren’t good on this book. That’s reality. But that doesn’t define my worth as an author. It doesn’t mean I’ll be greeting people at Stuff Mart. It just means that particular book didn’t resonate. That’s okay. My job today is to write the next thing, then the next. My vocation is to write for the sheer joy of the process and for the sake of those who may need to read those words. My worth depends on Jesus, not sales.”

I’m trying to catch myself now when I start walking the fatalistic, catastrophic path. Sometimes I tell my husband because he’s really good at helping me see the good in a situation. He is much more optimistic than I am, thankfully. I’m learning to step away from my immediate emotion and not let it inform my internal dialog.


What about you? How do you respond to small bits of bad news? Do you have catastrophic thinking? Have you overcome it? If so, how? (I’m asking both for my sake and for all the readers out there who struggle as I do.)



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  • Gmpresley

    How true.

  • tonychung

    Sweet! More free stuff! I love the Michael Hyatt network!

    • Mary DeMuth

      glad to help!

  • Anonymous

    As someone who lives under the description of bipolar disorder I’ve had to learn and apply mental astuteness. To capture the thoughts (both manic and depressed) and categorize them into healthy categories. I found the most effective way to that is 20 minutes of centering prayer everyday.

    • Mary DeMuth

      Kudos to you for such hard work! Wow. I’m impressed!

  • steve4040

    You responded to catastrophic thinking by focusing on past success as well as the fact that the numbers were neutral and not personal. Most people, including me, have a harder time dealing with the personal negativity that leads to deeply held catastrophic thinking. If you give a great speech, but one person says they didn’t like it and 99 say they did, what do you focus on? How do we overcome the personal negativity without learning something from it, yet not being overwhelmed by it. 

    • Mary DeMuth

      please know I still struggle with this. I still hear the one negative in 100 positive comments.

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  • Lanita

    I think that every adult tends toward optimism or pessimism. There is an excellent book, however, *Learned Optimism,* by Dr. Martin Seligman, which gives strategies for suppressing pessimism in favor of a more optimistic outlook. The strategies you offer, such as “…sales aren’t good,…but that is just one book,” are typical of what he suggests. Basically, an optimist sees bad events as temporary and a pessimist generalizes bad events to everything permanently. This book helps to turn thinking around to help you be less pessimistic and depressed.

  • Josey bozzo

    Oh Mary!
    I do NOT handle bad news well. It effects my mood and my outlook on everything. I can get into such a funk when I’ve heard bad news. Sometimes it can last for days. Sometimes it spills over into my relationship with my kids and husband. I’m not proud of it. I know I need to work on it. Quite honestly, I haven’t really come up with a good way to handle it yet. Most of the time, I just retreat and spend time alone so i don’t take it out on everyone else. Usually after sometime I am able to get past it.

  • Anonymous

    None of us likes bad news. But those kinds of discouraging things show us how much we love our life. If the life drains out of us when disappointment comes, our life is still our own. But then also, sometimes the news isn’t really bad and we just perceive it to be really bad. Thoughts “exalt” themselves. I rely on that scripture “casting down imaginations and everything that exalts itself above the knowledge of God.” His knowledge says that he uses all things for our good. He sees the road ahead and may not want us to get to the place we desire too quickly.

  • Reagan at Hidden No More

    I absolutely have catastrophic thinking – it’s all black and white for me! I feel like there’s something literally blocking me from seeing around it though and am always afraid what I’m thinking is true because there isn’t specific Scripture to help me understand my ways of thinking in that instance. I think if you see it, calling it out has to be one way of starting to defeat it. Anxious to hear what you come up with!

  • Lisa Smith

    God is transforming my thinking right now. I constantly beat myself up over things. I shouldn’t have said that leads to I am such a terrible person. I need a job leads to I’ll never be a published author who can make money because I’ll be too tired to write after working all day. (I really identify with the StuffMart job!!) Those thoughts lead to who would want to hear my story anyway and before I know it I’ve traded God’s glory in me for filthy rags!

    I am now asking immediate forgiveness for my transgressions without replaying them in my head a billion times and getting up from my knees forgiven and covered by grace. Never to think guilt inducing, fatalistic thoughts again. (at least about that particular incident.)

    Thanks for always spurring me to think, Mary. Your writing inspires me.

  • Anonymous

    I am guilty of this!!! I’ve had to really talk myself down from disaster on several occasions! My motto is now “this too shall pass”…what seems like a disaster today is not the end of the world or of my life. I think maybe it ‘s some kind of self defense mechanism, we prepare for the worst because we think it feels safe, secure, and keeps us from enduring imaginary pain, heartache and disappointment should things not go our way. But I don’t think it works that way!

  • Rachel Olsen

    Ahhh, I can relate. And I wholeheartedly agree we have to find a way to reframe our fatalistic all-or-none thinking with true reality and an eternal perspective. But for the record, should both of us lose are jobs as writers, I’d be happy to cook 40% beef product or greet people in search of stuff if I could do it alongside of you.

    • Anonymous

      Ah, shucks. I agree, Rachel. We’d be the best fake beef cookers and stuff mart greeters known to man!