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Post details: In Defense of Negativity

In Defense of Negativity

Negativity gets a lot of negative reviews these days. But despite its tarnished rap sheet, negativity has so much to offer to our mental well-being that it would be foolish and counterproductive to toss it into the dumpster of history, alongside with chastity belts, leeches and shaman sticks.

1. Negativity provides contrast. Without it, positivity would lose the backdrop against which it can so brightly shine. Without it, we'd amble through our lives in a twilight daze of never ending days, whose jarring monotony would soon burn a gaping hole in our sanity. Even the most outgoing of us need a spell of negativity, just like Summer needs its Winter break and white dress needs its black accessories.

2. Negativity is conducive to honesty. Let's face it, this is not a perfect world, and even if it was, it has been subsequently populated by pretty sketchy life forms. Embracing negativity gives us an incentive to reflect things as they really are - which means sometimes good and sometimes bad. The moment we start censoring negative thoughts, we are not voicing the true state of our mind and that is but a step away from an outright lie. Sure, it may be a convenient one, but it is still a lie.

3. Negativity is a safety valve. It lets steam off in small manageable doses, preventing unwanted explosions in the engine room. I know - it would be nice if there was no steam to let off in the first place, but sadly that is not how human psychology works. We get both positive and negative thoughts and venting the latter before they get out of control is in our best interest. And if it involves occasionally raising our voice or banging the fist on the table, so be it.

4. Negativity is the main ingredient of healthy skepticism. If we lost our internal doubt generator, we'd turn into malleable yes men that could fall easy pray to assorted scam artists, whether they be chicken entrails readers, overlords of obscure cults and ideologies, or your friendly pushers of toxic mortgages. I sometimes wonder how Stalin and Hitler would fare if human race was more skeptical in general. I bet they'd have much less arable land for sowage.

5. Periodic exposure to negativity makes us more immune to life's little adversities. If we live in a glass house of perpetual sunshine, the moment we get exposed to inclement weather, our pampered life support systems suffer an inevitable seizure. Not so long ago I saw a bevvy of teenagers walking away from a movie theater genuinely upset that someone on the screen dared to give Brad Pitt a little push. I dare not surmise how they would react should life dare to give a little push to them.

6. Negativity is an integral part of a conflict. On the surface, disposing of conflicts would seem like a great idea, but it is negotiations that conflicts engender that lead to optimal solutions. In a world devoid of negativity, there are no conflicts - we simply sweep the problems under the rug, etch a permasmile onto our faces and then, when no one is looking, keep happily pulling in the opposite directions.

7. Negativity gives life its depth. It is sadness and sorrow that makes us profoundly human. It is at the bottom of a dark abyss where we find who we truly are. Without an occasional journey through the valley of tears, we'd become laughing monkeys. Bubbly, but shallow.

8. Negativity is instrumental in recalibrating our internal compass. It gives us a sense of perspective and scale. In a permanently positive world our decision making processes would become biased.

9. Negativity makes arithmetics possible. Otherwise subtracting larger number from a smaller one would get you in a heap of trouble.

Of course, the real problem with negativity is excess: people who constantly frown and who say preemptive NO to every suggestion that comes within their yelling distance. Instinctively, we seek a nurturing environment in which most of our activities are supported. How much of that support is healthy and how much should be replaced by boundaries and discipline is a somewhat subjective matter. For me the optimal balance between the positive and negative follows the ratio of our waking hours and sleep, which is roughly 16 hours to 8, or 2 to 1. So my recipe for a hearty realism would read like this: Take 1 cup of negativity, 2 cups of positivity and empty them into a mixing bowl. Add a grain of salt, stir well and live happily ever after.


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