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The Power of Negative Thinking from Shawn's blog

(Post originally published 5 years ago at the original SIN.)


From "Reversal Theory: The Dynamics of Emotion, Motivation and Personality"


Chapter 6 : The Experience of Rules


Negativistic and Conformist States
...Another important component of the experience of motivation ... concerns whether one sees what one is trying to do as in accordance with, or contrary to, some rule or set of rules to behave in a certain way. The term “rule” here is to be understood in the most general sense as any pressure to conform.It should be taken to include not only explicit rules or orders, but also conventions, routines, customs, habits, expectations, rituals, and so on.The issue here is whether one wants to be compliant or defiant, docile or rebellious, malleable or stubborn, easy or awkward. Is one following the rules or breaking them, being “good”or being “bad”? Is one doing what one is supposed to do, or not?...


The Power of Negative Thinking
On the face of it, negativism is liable to cause nothing but disruption, destruction, and distress. So where did it come from? Why do human beings appear to be programmed with the capacity to spend periods of time in the negativistic state and to display such behavior? Presumably it must serve some personal and social functions, otherwise it would not have survived the exigencies of natural selection during evolution. 
In fact, if one considers the matter, one can discern a number of invaluable advantages which flow from the ability to be negativistic. One of these is the continual dissatisfaction—the “divine discontent”— that appears to be part of human nature. The unwillingness to accept old ways of doing things without regularly re-examining them, the eventual defiance of any dogma, the restless quest for improvement, the intolerance of unnecessary rules, indeed, all those psychological qualities which lead to progress, both social and material, appear to be tied up with the rebellious spirit of negativism.No society or organization is likely to continue for long, let alone evolve, without the internal dynamic for change which negativism provides.


And it would seem that those in the forefront of change—the scientists, artists, engineers, architects, and pioneers of all kinds—particularly need to spend periods in the negativistic state of mind if they are to overcome the inertia of old ideas and ways of doing things. As Picasso once said:“Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction”(May 1976). It is no surprise, therefore, if time and again one finds that the most creative and inventive people are also among those who are the most awkward,“impossible,”boorish, eccentric, and anti-social. (Note: Holy Shit! The author must know J6K! )


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Shawn
Oct 3 '15
And sort of: there's no change without discontent -- and that's why I don't ever want to be a lotus eater.
Padowan
Oct 3 '15
:) alright you-with-a-hat. I have a vital flaw in my argument above anyway. See if you can find it. I need to reexamine my basis.
Shawn
Oct 3 '15
I thought I addressed the vital flaw. :) And this may help: comfort is stagnation = negativism.
Padowan
Oct 3 '15
That was low.
Shawn
Oct 3 '15
How so?
Shawn
Oct 3 '15
Imagine that you're afraid to step out of your comfort zone, that wouldn't be negativism. That would be the merry go round song.
Padowan
Oct 3 '15
If you're theory were wrong (negativism) I would have been unable to 'negate' it.
Shawn
Oct 3 '15
Are you so sure?
Padowan
Oct 3 '15
Well, I suppose if your were holding a gun to my head or threatening me with blackmail/extortion I would hesitate to cross your tyranny. Negativistic attitudes does require some element of free expression.
Shawn
Oct 4 '15
"The only rules that matter are the rules I can't break." It doesn't require free expression, it requires free thought. Elmer Fudd is an authoritarian.
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By Shawn
Added Sep 29 '15

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