Reframing Negativity

2009-12-20 Update: You need some negativity in your life to balance out the positivity, so be careful so as not to reframe all your negativity. :smile:

At the college, we have a ritual each semester where we have to evaluate our professors. Student feedback, or so it’s called.

There are 14 categories, including things like “gives examples,” “answers questions,” and “is fair.” You can rate 1 to 5 on each.

This seems like a negative thing, because you have to rate your professor’s performance objectively. You have to decide how he’s done, evaluate him in many categories, and then write suggestions (most people don’t do this). It’s a big responsibility, because college administrators will be judging his merits, worthiness, and teaching ability based on your report.

But in my reality, this isn’t the case at all. If you have a bad teacher, and you give him all 1’s on his evaluation, do you know what happens? He gets worse. Usually it’s quite noticeable. The next class day he will be all flustered and confused. He will say things that make no sense. The grade you’ve given him will be confirmed.

If you give him 5’s, on the other hand, he will become far better. The coursework will just start making sense to you, he’ll be expalining concepts and formulas in a clear manner, and everyone in the class will seem happier.

This totally contradicts the common belief of reality. The common belief is that your opinion is independent of circumstances or facts. But common beliefs are common in common people. You can’t expect to be extraordinary if you’re doing what everyone else does. It’s extraordinary to go from a medium telephoto lens to an extreme wide-angle lens, because everything looks so different. So pick the extraordinary lens.

With your new lens, thoughts are inextricably linked to reality. They’re one and the same. If you think negativity, you’ll give more people 1’s, and then you’ll feel more negative and more negativity will come back on you. You’ll hope to find friends and a loving partner who bring positivity into your life, but all you’ll find is negative people. No one will rescue you from negativity. By waiting for a twist of fate to change your circumstances, you’re giving up control of your life. When you hand your keys over to some other person or group, the results are never good because no one else can manage two lives. You stagnate, contribute nothing to the world, and become a boring person in general. You won’t find the happy people, because they’ll all become like ghosts. You won’t even see them. The only way to attract others is to be attractive yourself, and the way to do that is through positive action. Writing this paragraph was a very positive thing to do. :grin:

A lot of people call this the law of attraction.

When you share this with others, you can expect criticism and unrest. Many people don’t want to believe their beliefs reflect on others. If you’re influencing everyone around you, you have a lot of power, and power is a scary thing. Wielding power is more scary than being subject to it, at least initially. That’s why 95% of people are afraid of public speaking. You have a lot of power when you’re addressing a large group. You can give them good ideas or you can give them bad ideas. What if you make a mistake and people start throwing food and sharp objects at you?

Most of us are not fighting wars or being stalked by lions or starving to death. All of the fear, stress, and uncertainty at work or at the mall or among friends is 100% phony. People are not going to start throwing knives at you or machine gunning you for mispronouncing a word. Sure, you could get fired from your job or kicked out of your apartment or ostracized by your friends, but that’s highly unlikely, and if it does happen, it’s positive because you’re completely free to meet new people and make new connections. You can easily go into betrayal / heartache / revenge mode instead, but then you become a more negative person. In negative mode, you build walls instead of bridges. Bridges are better, because they expand your intelligence and influence. You might lose a few cities to roving barbarians, but it’s much safer to expand your civilization into new territory rather than to relentlessly defend what you have. Walls feel safe and secure, but they make you a prisoner. Past accomplishments are decaying and future circumstances are imaginary—the only true safety is in continued expansion a.k.a. growth.

Fears of public speaking are imaginary, because the worst that can happen is that you’ll be boring. Usually, you become boring from worrying too much about the opinions of others. But it’s not even the average opinion of the group that you’re worried about—it’s the group’s most vocal, negative members. The critics. Don’t listen to the critics.

The critics tell you to bite your tongue. Don’t share your opinions with others—you might offend them. Not everyone believes what you do. Some might find you terribly offensive. Everyone is uniquely valuable—you have no right to encroach upon the beliefs of others. I have no right to go up to people and tell them how eating meat is sapping their strength or how cancer can be readily cured.

This is often called social resistance. We conform to the demands of the least intelligent people. This manifests itself through weasel words: we pad our sentences with terms like sometimes, likely, in most people, I think, in my humble opinion, and other nonsense, to demonstrate that we have no idea what we’re talking about and should not be taken seriously. Even if we have something powerful to say, we do everything we can to disempower ourselves by dilluting the message. We refuse to talk honestly with others, for fear of offending them. If I conform to social resistance, instead of writing great articles like Don’t Vote 2008 and The Cancer Myth, I might be writing nothing. Or fluff like “do what you feel” and “there are many factors in curing cancer” (when in fact there is only one). I couldn’t look in the mirror if I was writing that stuff.

We think we have to stick with ‘safe’ subjects. What if instead, you don’t look to others for approval? Even better, believe they want to hear you. That’s much more positive. You’ll taken negativity, and you’ll flip it on its head to create positivity. It doesn’t matter if it’s objectively true—if it empowers you, the belief has served its purpose. What you’ll find is that people will agree with you more as you state your beliefs on clearer and clearer terms. I believe that film photography has no intrinsic value—it’s a much better learning experience to start with digital photography. I believe abortion is murder. I believe factory farming of animals is wrong. I believe that college education is frivilous. I don’t believe in thievery. I don’t believe in having a job. I don’t believe in renting. I’m not afraid to tell people what I believe, and they either accept it at face value or run away. Not many people run away from truth, so if you speak your mind truthfully, most people will not be offended even if you’re clashing with their opinions. If instead, I tried to mirror people I meet, I might start drinking, smoking, taking drugs, or shoplifting instead (there are plenty of people doing those things). If you don’t set your beliefs, other people will set them for you.

Thusly, it is a very positive thing to have strong opinions and to share them readily. These opinions have to be based in fact or usefulness, of course, but as long as you haven’t become the slave of your beliefs (like many people do with religion), it’s fine to have a voice. Not only is it fine, but it’s the only way to go.

If you’re proven wrong or you find a better system later, there’s no shame in announcing a correction. Most people are so afraid of being wrong that they never say anything that can be disputed. They only make easy, obvious announcements that are clearly fact, much like a computer regurgitates information. The keys on my keyboard have no mind to type what I’m typing. Do you want to be the senseless keys, or do you want to be the smart brain? In any subject, you can’t be right without the risk of being wrong. You can’t have success without the risk of failure. If you have no risk of failing, any success you have is guaranteed. This means it is completely worthless. Your success is no more than normal and expected mediocrity. Raise the stakes, because you’re not trying hard enough.

When I believed that it was in my power to “offend” other people, I was subscribing to a very negative belief. Apart from physical violence, you can’t actually offend anyone else—only they can offend themselves.

Remember always that negative people defend what they have; positive people scout for new opportunities.

Going back to the example of evaluating your teacher with 1’s or 5’s: your teacher will always get better if you give him high marks instead of low marks. It’s an indisputable fact. This question is the downfall of objectivists: is the improvement “real,” or does it merely represent confirmation bias on my part (i.e. “imaginary”). Is change really happening, or am I just seeing what I want to see?

The truth is, truth is irrelevant.

The objectivists will say that it is not ‘fair’ to everyone else if you give ‘unfair’ ratings. They’re assuming that ratings are a zero-sum game. Your evaluations should reflect your professors’ showmanship, because when you give a good score, you’re effectively giving bad scores to everyone else.

This is baloney. If you’re going to be completely objective, you should do this: give really good scores to your bad teachers, because it will result in noticeable improvement. But if your history teacher makes the Vietnam War come alive, you should give him low scores, because that will bring him back from extraordinary to ordinary. Everyone needs to be in the safe and ordinary middle.

Of course, this is hogwash, no matter what perspective you have. Even my seven-year-old sister Rachel would agree.

Objectivism is hogwash, and realists aren’t objective at all. They’re negative. Being objective is useless, because all we have is negativity or positivity. You can’t choose between good and evil by splitting your time equally between doing good and doing evil. If you’re being neutral, you’re doing nothing, and doing nothing is always negative. Forsaking your human power and potential is never a neutral decision. It can only be negative.

Most people have negative belief systems. I could say this is a negative thing, but it is in fact quite positive because it means they have many opportunities for personal growth. Though I’ve written a book worth of articles, I’m just as much a beginner as you. The limit of our potential is only the limit of our mind.

It’s easy to become negative when all you’re doing is busywork. Conversely, it’s hard to be anything but positive when you’re working for the highest good of all. Negative emotions are a sign that you’re not accomplishing enough—you need to either change focus or work a lot harder on your current projects. For me, it’s inspiring greatness in others, which I do through artistic photography and writing articles like these. Sometimes I get tired of writing so I take or edit photos instead. Usually I’m not thinking about helping others while in creative flow, but everything builds on that, even if it’s not present every second.

Negativity is just positivity in disguise.

4 thoughts on “Reframing Negativity

  1. This article is so wonderful. You just gave me the best insight about criticism. Thanks for writing this. It has inspired me and encouraged me to push forward without being afraid of the opinion of the few vocal negative people.

    • Thanks! That’s where writing this article helped me, though I don’t get much criticism.

      Everything should be balanced… reading this might not be good if you have only positive influences in your life now, but if you’re going through a tough period this post could be helpful.

      • Well, I’m kinda going through both. I get a lot of positive feedback but I also get a few negative things and I find it hard not to take it personally. I’ve read the 4 Agreements and I always remind myself that it’s about them and not me.

        Also, as a writer, I’ve been at a crossroad and I’ve been trying to decide if I should stick to the “safe” stuff and get a more broad appeal or just stick to my guns and really say what I think because in both cases I won’t be able to please everyone anyway.

        Good stuff, Richard. Very insightful. I will try to read more of your blog. Thanks.

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