How to Become an Inverse Paranoid

I am a kind of paranoid in reverse. I suspect people of plotting to make me happy.

J. D. Salinger

I trust that you’re familiar with the concept of paranoia.  You know, always thinking that people are out to get you, worried about conspiricies that will end in your ultimate demise, that kind of thing.

Breaking down paranoia to it’s most base element though, it is simply always believing that something bad will happen.

Sounds a lot like a pessimist, not a paranoid, right?  Truthfully there isn’t that big of a difference.  Paranoia is usually characterized by the belief that even when nothing is happening in your life, someone is out to get you.  Pessimism on the other hand usually only rears it’s head when there’s some sort of action taking place.

Let me give you an example:

The pessimist loses her job.  Immediately after receiving the news, she tells herself how terrible it is that she’s lost her job.  She tells herself how hard it will be to find a new one, or that her next job probably won’t pay as well.  She immediately thinks that by losing her job, her entire life will come crashing down around her and that only negative, terrible things will happen as a result.

The paranoid is different.  The paranoid has a job but he believes that his employer is out to get him.  He’s pretty sure that all of his co-workers hate him and are sabotaging his weekly finance reports by hiding them in different places around the office.  He believes he’s always given the short end of the stick when it comes to equipment he has to work with and that everyone in the office is out to get him.  In the end, the paranoid quits of his own accord because of the imagined plots he believes all his co-workers are employing against him.

One isn’t really better than the other, but the reason I clarified is because paranoia is kind of like pessimism 2.0.  Instead of just thinking that bad things are going to happen as the result of actions or events in ones life, the paranoid believes that even when nothing seems to be happening, there are a large group of people maliciously out to get him.

Still with me?  So, optimism is that antonym to pessimism.  Believing that good will come from the situations, actions and events in ones life.  But for the most part, there has been no counter-part to paranoia.

And so I introduce to you The Inverse Paranoid.  Someone who believes that no matter what is happening, the whole world is plotting for their benefit.

Sounds too good to be true… sounds dangerous!

Okay, so I wasn’t exactly being completely candid with you when I said there’s no inverse to paranoia.  There is.  It’s called Mania and it is essentially paranoia in reverse.  Complete with all the mental instability of the original!  Joking aside, it’s not a very fun or funny condition and I want to be very clear that it’s not what I’m suggesting.

Bad things will happen to you in life sometimes.  That’s just part of being alive– not everything is roses and that’s a good thing.  If everything was great all the time, you would never know what was great and what was bad– just what was great.  Without something bad to compare something great to, you wouldn’t know that the great was so great in the first place.  You’ll notice that trait in people born into families with a lot of wealth; having never experienced poverty, they have no idea how lucky they are to have what they do.

But, I digress.  Mania is the refusal to see the bad in anything.  A kind of delusion– believing one can do the impossible.  Inverse paranoia, as I define it, is just choosing to believe that in a situation where there are many outcomes (Which is 99% of the situations you’ll encounter in life.) that whatever is best for you will happen.  It is not the belief in the impossible, merely the belief in the possible, biased from a positive point of view.

Why bother?

Becoming an inverse paranoid shares a lot of the same benefits as becoming an optimist does.  It enhances your mood, it keeps you prepared for the twists and turns life throws at you instead of keeping you down in the dirt like being pessimistic does and causes you to look for the good in every situation– the very act of doing which often causes the good in a situation to present itself when it otherwise would not have.

Let me give you an example.  They’re a lot clearer than I can be by just describing the benefits.

Let’s say you work at a company that sells paper supplies.  You don’t particularly like your job, but it pays the bills and it’s relatively stable so you tough it out.

One day you come in a little late and your boss is in a particularly bad mood.  It isn’t the first time you haven’t arrived to work in time– mostly because you don’t really like work and you have very little incentive to make it there on time other than your boss’ wrath.

Only this time, instead of chewing you out, your boss lets you go.  ‘There are plenty of other people who would like your job,’ she tells you, ‘and who will make the effort to come in on time.’

Pessimist Reaction: Devastated.  It’s not just pessimists who are devastated to be fair, most people would be.  All they can think about is the loss of security.  With no money coming in, how will you pay for your food, your rent?  You’ll have to start looking for a new job and who knows how long that will take.  Plus, you were fired!  How will you explain why you left your last job?  Who will they be able to call who won’t give you a bad reference?

Essentially, what the average Joe does when they lose their job is panic.  They panic and they think about all the terrible things that are going to happen because they’ve lost their job.

Being an inverse paranoid, or an optimist, things take on a very different slant:

When you lose your job, your first thought becomes ‘Somehow, this is going to work out in my favour.’

You start to think about how you didn’t really like your job with the paper company in the first place– you did it because it was convenient and easy.  Not because it was what you were passionate about.  It paid pretty well, but it wasn’t fantastic.  Really the only reason you took it was because you needed an income.

But while you were working for the paper company, you never had a chance to follow your dreams and start your dream career, because all of your time was monopolized.  Now you do. Suddenly you’re free, and the jump that you were too scared to make has been made for you.  If you’re already working somewhere, how can you work your dream career?

And even if you don’t get your dream job, who’s to say you won’t find a better job where you’ll actually care about the company and want to go into work every day?  The potential is there for you to be earning better benefits and more money.  It’s entirely possible that losing your job could be the best thing that ever happened to you!

It could go either way, and that’s the point.  When life hands you a coin-toss, as it very often does, you can either expect it to land heads up or tails up.  And if you’re an inverse paranoid, that coin is always going to land on whatever side you want it to.

So how do I become an Inverse Paranoid?

Start with becoming an optimist.  Once you’ve become optimistic about most things in life, you’re already 3/4′s of the way towards being an inverse paranoid.

As with anything, take small steps.  You’re not going to be able to change your attitude in a day, a week or even a month.  If you’re used to looking for the bad when major events in your life happen, it’s likely a habit you’ve been building all your life.  To deconstruct that habit and build a new, better one takes time.  But it is time well spent.

Start with small things.  If someone pulls into the parking spot you were just about to nab, instead of getting upset about it, look on the bright side.  If you park farther away from the building, you’re going to get some more exercise.  (Most people are probably muttering ‘Yeah, right…  Just means I waste more time.’ but I’m serious.  How often do you really get exercise these days?  With so many jobs requiring the incumbent to sit at a desk or in front of a computer for 8 hours a day, exercise is rare.  Nonetheless, you need it to remain healthy and believe it or not, it often makes you feel a lot better and more energetic.)

It will likely take a year or two of constant practice before you really nail looking for the positive in everything, and expecting these supposed catastrophic events that happen to you to end up culminating to your benefit but once it happens there’s no better feeling in the world.  Your whole life seems to change although usually that’s not the case.  The only thing that’s changed is how you look at it.

How you look at it, in the end, is all life is.  There are people out there with millions upon millions of dollars to their name who aren’t even half as happy as the guy working for their company making $30,000 a year and being grateful for his comfortable life.  Being an inverse paranoid means that everything that happens to you is good.  It always works out in the end, just like those cheesy movies.  The good guy always wins.

And the real secret, in my experience, is that when you become an inverse paranoid you do always win.  You ever notice the lucky people, who seem to have everything work out in their favour no matter what happens to them?  Those who seem to be floating through life on a cloud of gold?  I used to look at those people and think: ‘No wonder they have such a positive attitude…  Nothing bad ever happens to them!  Not like me.’

I was mixing up cause and affect.  Don’t make the same mistake.

One Response to “How to Become an Inverse Paranoid”

  1. Dani says:

    I loooove this article. I grew up with a mom who took every chance to be depressed and dramatic and upset over everything. I’ve fought off a lot of this so I don’t become like her, but I still do it. I love your parking analogy because it’s something I already do. I didn’t really think about it when I started doing that, I just did it. Now that I’m conscious that I do it, I can try harder to do it in other places.

    I’ve been so angry and depressed lately since we can’t move out of this town yet, but I hope pursuing thoughts like these can help preserve my sanity until we leave, and help me get started on the right foot in our new home.

    Wonderful article!

Leave a Reply to Dani