Negativism, A Pathological Refusal To Be Distinguished From A Negative Attitude

Last updated by Lauren Hart

Sometimes I see the glass half empty. I grumble. I’m not happy with my life. Yes, it happens to me and it can happen to all of us. But is that what we call negativism? Well, no! It’s important to distinguish between negativism, which is more of a pathology, and a negative attitude, which is a behavior. Let me explain.

Negativism, A Pathological Refusal To Be Distinguished From A Negative Attitude

What is negativism?

In the article “History of Negativism in German-Language Psychiatry - 19th Century, Early 20th Century” published in a psychology bulletin in 1995, the author Michel Caux explains that the term “negativism” appeared in the history of psychiatry in 1874, with the psychiatrist Kahlbaum:

“This symptom refers to the generalized resistance of certain patients to encouragement and stimuli from those around them. From a psychomotor point of view, the author describes maximum resistance which responds automatically to any suggestion or injunction from a third party, in response to the simplest commands.”

👋 You may be interested in this article: What are the symptoms of depression?

A protection mechanism

Initially, negativism came from the psychiatric world. One of the definitions given by the Larousse dictionary is as follows: “All refusal and opposition behaviors that reflect a breakdown in contact with others in schizophrenia”. The National Center of Textual and Lexical Resources (CNRTL) refers to “a pathological attitude characterized by an individual’s voluntary or involuntary resistance to their own desires or needs and to the requests of those around them”.

In short, negativism is an attitude of denigration, refusal, or resistance that can be observed in two forms:

  • 👉 The passive form is one that refrains from responding: the person suffering from it will, for example, want to eat nothing, stay in bed or in an identical position for hours.
  • 👉 The active form, on the other hand, opposes and resists by doing the opposite of the action requested.

To a different degree, this behavior can be found at all stages of life, particularly in young children and teenagers. Without going so far as talking about schizophrenia or mental illness, it seems that negativism can just as easily appear from time to time in our lives, at difficult moments, for example when we’re going through the stages of bereavement.

This form of withdrawal into yourself then most certainly acts as a form of protection, through criticism and refusal of everything 🤕.

The difference between negativism and a negative attitude

While negativism is a psychiatric term and can prove to be a pathology that requires real treatment from a professional, having a negative attitude is something else. Although the two terms are similar, they don’t have the same meaning.

👉 Being negative is a behavior that makes us see things as black and the glass as half empty; it means not being able to be satisfied with what’s happening to us, leaving more room for negative emotions than positive ones, which of course makes us unhappy.

It’s therefore important not to confuse negativism, which is a pathology, with a negative attitude, which is more akin to a state of mind. However, we shouldn’t minimize the effects of the latter either, which can be a heavy burden to bear on a daily basis and can sometimes be difficult to get rid of once it’s well established 😥.

>>> Read; Why can I never see the positive in anything?

How to overcome the negative?

If this negative state of mind is spoiling your life, and you really want to give it up but can’t do it alone, consulting a psychologist can help you to set the record straight: start again and relearn, slowly, on a healthier basis.

We all have baggage in life, filled with things that are more or less heavy to carry. It’s not a question of being ashamed of it or feeling guilty about it, simply of knowing how to identify it so that we can move forward with it or, on the contrary, understand that it’s not useful and that we can leave it behind.

A few tips for changing your attitude

To conclude, and even if they in no way replace personalized coaching, here are a few tips for trying to start changing a negative attitude that’s bothering you. Ideas that, on a small level, have already inspired me personally 🤗.

  • The first is to remember that every day is a new day, a new opportunity. If I’m the one holding the pen that writes my life, then I can, to some extent, decide that tomorrow won’t look like yesterday if yesterday didn’t suit me.
  • The second is the famous quote from Seneca that says that "Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, but about learning to dance in the rain”. I find this thought very reassuring: to tell ourselves that life’s like the weather, changeable, and that we’re not condemned to live forever in the rain. A sunny spell is never far away!

Editor’s note - The need for treatment in both cases

You now know what negativism is and that it concerns a very specific pathology. So it’s crucial to have full treatment with a psychiatrist and a psychologist. However, if you’ve identified that it’s your thoughts that are causing you to be in the doldrums, you should also seek help. You can’t remain in this state of suffering, and only the support of a therapist can bring you relief. Don’t wait any longer to contact a psychologist and get yourself out of this negative attitude!

🤗 Understanding yourself, accepting yourself, being happy... It’s here and now!


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Article presented by Lauren Hart

Writing is a beautiful means of expression that I cannot do without. It has allowed me to channel my hypersensitivity, plus I love writing about psychology and personal development. For me, self-understanding is the best way to move forward!

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Wengood's favorite tunes 🎵

Wengood's playlist


  1. Only LoveBen Howard
  2. Invalid date
  3. Fix YouColdplay
  4. Beautiful DayU2
  5. Thinking out LoudEd Sheeran
  6. White FlagDido
  7. Lay Me DownSam Smith
  8. Nine Million BicyclesKatie Melua
  9. Put Your Records OnCorinne Bailey Rae
  10. Summertime SadnessLana Del Rey
  11. Imagine - Remastered 2010John Lennon
  12. Shake It OutFlorence + The Machine
  13. Space Oddity - Love You Til Tuesday versionDavid Bowie
  14. What A Wonderful WorldLouis Armstrong
  15. With Or Without YouU2
  16. HelloAdele
  17. Don't Stop Me NowQueen
  18. Skinny LoveBirdy
  19. WingsBirdy
  20. Californian SoilLondon Grammar

"Be yourself; everyone else is already taken." 

- Oscar Wilde

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