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Negativity/Pessimism Schema

Updated: Mar 3, 2022

Individuals who experience excessive vigilance, restrictions, inhibition or achievement pressures may develop one or more of these four schemas: negativity/pessimism, unrelenting standards, emotional inhibition, and self-punitiveness.

We may all occasionally have a negative outlook on challenges we are faced with or feel pessimistic about things. If you have developed a negativity/pessimism schema, you may experience a pervasive focus on negative aspects of life to the minimization or total exclusion of positive aspects. It is linked to the expectation of negative outcomes, catastrophizing, and general disaster as a result of making wrong decisions or “bad things always happening to us”. This schema is often perpetuated by a confirmation bias whereby the continuous focus on negative aspects leads us to confirm our pessimistic worldview.

When activated, this schema may understandably trigger anxiety, complaints or chronic indecisiveness. The true need behind this schema is to feel safe and capable of handling downs when they occur as well as increasing awareness of positivity.

Here are some questions to think about if you are considering whether the negativity/pessimism schema resonates with you:

Do you generally jump to negative expectations when thinking about the future?

Do you believe that wrong decisions may lead to disasters?

Do you worry so much about potential negative consequences that you find yourself unable to make decisions?

Do you believe that things will go wrong if you are not always careful and vigilant?

Do you tend to see the negative side of things?

Do you like to predict worst-case scenarios to feel that when things turn out bad, you will not be caught off guard?

Do you limit the amount of joy or carefreeness you permit yourself to feel?

If you generally answer no to most these questions, you are unlikely to have developed the negativity/pessimism schema. If you think the negativity/pessimism schema applies to you, start observing how it manifests in your daily life. Recognition is key to changing patterns that stop you from achieving your goals.

To find out more about your own personal schemas, book a consultation with psychologist Dr. Esslin Terrighena, please contact (852) 2521 4668 or

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