Negative Thinking

Negative thinking, in Burkeman’s sense, is not exactly the opposite of positive thinking. It involves turning toward our insecurities, flaws, sorrows and pessimism and finding ways of enduring those episodes by embracing them. We should acknowledge that because we are human, we sometimes fail. By admitting that we sometimes screw up and that some things really are impossible for us or are as inevitable as is death, we will feel more content. This is the basic premise of the book.

As someone who has a generally positive outlook on life, I think I could use a good dose of negative thinking every now and then. It’s so easy sometimes to say, “things are going to work out,” when it might be better to think, “why isn’t this working out right now,” and to work through those thoughts. Why aren’t we getting those jobs we want? Positive thinking is good (I truly believe that, which is probably me thinking positively), but it’s also nice to get a reality check.


8 Comments / Post A Comment

BornSecular (#2,245)

I’ve decided the reason I don’t get the jobs I want/apply/interview for is because the universe is telling me to start my own business! This may also be misguided positive thinking…time will tell.

WaityKatie (#1,696)

Aaaaahhh I am reading this book right now! It is so good. I come from a family that insisted on denying any bad things and shoving all negative feelings under the rug or behind a fake “happy” smile, so this alternative way of looking at things is pure therapy for me. Screw positive thinking, how about facing reality and finding ways to deal with it? I just think suppressing negative thoughts is so destructive and does not lead to positive results.

TARDIStime (#1,633)

The method of thinking you describe doesn’t sound negative at all to me.
If you’re not getting all those jobs you’re applying for and you ask yourself why, then work on a solution to the obstacle between you and all the jobs, that’s positive thinking.
Negative thinking is when you think you’re not getting all the jobs you’re applying for and you wonder why and then you decide to blame the world, rather than yourself, and you don’t change your approach at all, and you keep getting knocked back for the jobs; therefore reinforcing that you were right along and you’re just not meant to be employed because of the world being against you, *cue the spiral into self-pity*.

Stina (#686)

I don’t think that I am an optimist or a pessimist but a realist.

It’s not “everything will work out or nothing will work out so why even try” but “It doesn’t HAVE to work out, so what can I do to make it more likely that it will?” Life isn’t stacked against you but it can be unfair at times. (see: alzheimer’s, natural disasters, greater socio-economic forces etc.) So keep both possibilities in mind.

josefinastrummer (#1,850)

@Stina Yes! I enjoy being a realist as well. Sometimes I say that I am very lucky, but most of the time it’s because I made good choices. When things don’t work out, I evaluate and move on instead of just believing that the world hates me.

Stina (#686)

@josefinastrummer Absolutely. When I was laid off, my prior boss thought I was such a good employee she personally shopped my name around to other people and pretty much got me my new position. So part ability/part luck via having a very nice boss.

I just think of people on “Restaurant Impossible” who buy restaurants with no experience and expect gumption to somehow make up for a lack of basic knowledge. Like really? You thought that was a good idea? Optimism can only get you so far.

notpollyanna (#2,841)

My thinking tends to look negative, but it is realistic based on my life experience. I do think that experience has a lot to do with it. If things tend to work out well for you, set backs tend to be short-lived, you achieve the goals you work toward, thinking positively is going to be more natural and more realistic. If you have been abused by your parents, fought fruitlessly against poverty, or had a life of unending illness, negative thinking will be more natural and realistic. Learning from experience means that realism will differ based on your experience. If I started assuming that most things I do will turn out well, even when they depend largely on the decisions of other people, it would be delusionally optimistic given my life experience, but it might be realistic for others.

honey cowl (#1,510)

I am excellent at negative thinking.

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