1) Power to Affect Circumstance
When faced with a challenge, optimists tend to believe that they can find a way to overcome their setbacks. Pessimists tend to feel that nothing they do makes a significant difference.
Optimists tend to believe that setbacks are temporary, whereas pessimists tend to believe that their setbacks will last for a long time, perhaps even for the rest of their lives (“You never change”; “It will always be like that.”)
3) Apportioning Blame
Pessimists tend to blame themselves for any and all setback, even when they’re not at fault (“It must be my fault that I didn’t get the deal closed.” “I must’ve done something wrong to upset him.”) Optimists tend to apportion blame to outside cause (“It was just bad luck.” “Wow he was rude. He must’ve been having a bad day.”)
4) Perspective on Life Areas
Even when experiencing difficulty in one area of their life, optimists tend to be able enjoy other areas of their lives. Pessimists, on the other hand, tend to have their problem bleed all over their life areas (e.g. they can’t enjoy their meals or being with their spouse because of a problem at work), unable to have a good day until the problem is solved.
5) Generalized Self Image
Generalization is when we think in terms of always or never. Pessimists tend to generalize toward the negative (“I’m no good at sports”, “I’m unattractive to the opposite sex”, “you never listen to me.” etc.), while being specific about the positive events (“I happened to prepare well that day”; “It must’ve been my dress that night that attracted him/her.”)
Optimists, on the other hand, tend to generalize toward the positive (“I’m effective.” “I’m attractive to the opposite sex”), and be specific about negative events (“I’m not so good at tennis.” “I guess I wasn’t his/her type.” “You seem preoccupied today.”)
Both groups generalize, but in a different direction.
Some Astrological Measurements That May Pertain to Optimistic/Pessimistic Tendencies
Let me begin with a caveat: Studies show that optimism or pessimism could be learned or unlearned, so we need to be a bit careful not to make the following into a rigid interpretation.
1) Saturn – Mercury hard aspect (conjunction, square, opposition, quindecile) has been linked with depression. When the mind is presented with seemingly insurmountable obstacles for a prolonged period, a “learned helplessness” could develop, resulting in severely diminished perception of one’s power to affect circumstances. Along the same line, we can check for strong tension in the 3rd house or its ruler.
2) Aspects to the Sun affect life outlook as well as self image. Jupiter-Sun aspect has been linked with optimism, due to the elevated expectation about life and self.
3) Idealism is prone to be turned into disappointed outlook: Sun-Venus aspect, or Sun-Mercury aspect are both linked with strongly idealistic outlook, wanting life to be beautiful, “the way things should be.” When this outlook is not strengthened with achievement (I can make a difference, to make the world more beautiful), again learned helplessness could result.
4) Jupiter enlarges and expands whatever it touches – a strongly placed Jupiter (Angular, unaspected, or linked to the Sun or the Moon) will give the mind a tendency for sweeping generalizations and exaggerations. With enough positive reinforcement about the self, this could turn into strong optimism (“I’m competent” “I’m born to succeed” “I’m irresistible”) – but the converse is also true, that a strong pessimism could result if no encouragement was given about one’s innate good qualities.
5) The ruler of the Ascendant being retrograde suggests difficulty with ego development. Ascendant ruler under heavy tension might suggest the ego’s vulnerability to being prey to the negative generalization about the self.
6) Neptune has been linked with a sense of guilt, and so has the sign of Virgo. Perfectionism and introspection might make one vulnerable to blame the self even when others are at fault.
7) Pisces’ negative potential as a martyr suggests that this archetype (as well as Neptune and 12th house) could be twisted into attitude of learned helplessness. Many Neptunians turn to spiritual inspiration, as a way of believing in positive outcome while accepting ego’s powerlessness.
Conclusion & Further Questions
By understanding the components of optimistic vs pessimistic tendencies (power to affect circumstance, timeframe, perspective, generalized self image), we could examine corresponding astrological measurements that may indicate vulnerability within our mind.
Are you more optimistic or pessimistic? Have you always been that way or did you have to work toward becoming more optimistic? How does your horoscope reflect such process?
PS: As an extra credit, I’m curious if Jupiter retrograde tends toward more pessimistic tendencies – if you have natal Jupiter retrograde, feel free to share your opinions and experience!