Disclaimer: the following information was deduced from my own self-exploration, and while I aim to be honest, there are things I just do not know, or have trouble expressing. This information is here to help you solve your internal difficulties, and if it does not help, please seek help elsewhere, or within yourself. It is my experience that it is in your own difficulties that you can gain the knowledge of how to overcome that difficulty. In the end, stay true to yourself. This is only my perspective.
Definition of Negativity
The general feeling of seeing nothing or very little good or worthwhile in a given situation that is nevertheless there. Often seems difficult to get out of, because the reasons for negativity are easily justified.
Symptoms of Negativity
- Hatred towards others, situations, emotions, or self
- Lack of Enthusiasm for life
- Feeling drained or depressed
- The presence of violent impulses towards other people
- Lashing out at others
- Trying to control things, or other people telling you that you are being overly controlling (you might not be aware of it yourself) – this one can be caused because a person who feels negative about things might try to control situations in his or her life so that he or she can avoid those negative things.
What causes Negativity
The main cause of negativity is disliking something that is nevertheless present in one’s life. The object of dislike can be anything – a person, an idea, an emotion, yourself, etc. Often there is a distinct and vivid reason why something is worthy of dislike, but because dislike stops momentum and restricts flow, excessive dislike can cause a person to lose their enthusiasm, because they’ve shut down directions for themselves – the things they are focusing on they do not like.
What to do about it
Short answer: Look for an empowered way of responding to or looking at everything that you feel negatively about.
Since negativity persists while a person is in a state of dislike and in the presence of the object of their dislike, the general solution is to find things that a person can like even in the presence of what is disliked. Essentially: what likable way can you respond to what is disliked?
Example: Someone, walking outside, gets caught in a rain storm. They could focus on how much they hate the rain and getting wet, causing negativity until they are free from that situation. Instead, what are some empowered responses that they could have to the situation? Here are a few examples:
- They could think about how they’re getting a free shower
- They could think about how at least they have shelter to go to (if they do)
- They could think about how at least they have a change of clothes (if they do)
- They could think about their present situation as more of an adventure, that doesn’t happen too often (makes it into more of a pleasant surprise)
- If something irreversible has happened, like their electronics getting water in them, they could think about what they could do to protect them, and worst case scenario what they could do (like buy a new one)
You’ll notice first that these are all changes to the person’s way of thinking, rather than specific actions. This is because the way of thinking is usually where the negativity occurs, as a precursor to action. By seeing a way forward that one can feel good about, they can then naturally choose those actions from there.
To a real person in a real situation, these positive approaches of thinking might only incite more negativity or anger from the person, until, that is, the real cause of negativity is addressed. In a similar fashion, one can work through one’s own negativity, getting deeper and deeper into the reasons causing the feelings of negativity, until at last the deepest issues are addressed, and a feeling of true resolution surfaces.
Negativity, can, of course, come back at any time, but usually each time is different than the last, and negativity can come up in response to different situations. Furthermore, working with negativity in a deliberate fashion can bring about a feeling of inner strength or resilience that comes from a new mindset that allows a person to deal with tough situations without becoming negative.
Here is an exercise one can do to work through their own negativity in their own time, when they feel it:
- Take a piece of paper or open a text document.
- Make two columns, or, if a text document, a table with two columns and many rows (maybe 20 to start, you can always add more)
- At the top of the first column write “Negative”, and on the other, “Empowered”
- Begin by writing ANY negative thought. Basically anything that you don’t like.
- In the “Empowered” column, write an empowered, but truthful, response. Find another way. The truthful part is the most important, as you want to make sure that you’re lifting yourself up using reality and not being fake or using false bravado. Also, if you don’t understand the negative statement, you can write a clarifying question like “Why do I feel that way?”. Just make sure that the “empowered” side has a “never give up” mentality and energy to it.
- Write down the next negative thought and empowered response, and continue like this until you feel better. This part is important: allow your negative side to be as negative as it wants for as long as it wants to. In this way, you honor your negativity.
Warning about False Positivity:
One of the most tempting solutions to the presence of negativity can be to cover it over with false positivity. False positivity is basically the approach where you try to convince yourself that you don’t really feel bad about something that you actually do. This only confuses the issue and, more importantly, detaches yourself from your true feelings, causing you to become more of a stranger to yourself and become fake and more damaged than before. It’s like covering up a gaping hole in a concrete wall with a sheet of rice paper. Fake. Ignoring the problem at hand with a solution that ultimately harms you.
How do you best avoid false positivity? Always allow yourself an outlet to be as negative as you can possibly be. You don’t have to express this negativity outwardly to others – it can be in the privacy of your own room on a sheet of paper (in fact, this may protect other people from the effects of negativity). But always give yourself the space, if it’s there. The same is true for any emotion, to any extreme, always. It’s more important to be aware of your emotions than to have different ones. Become aware first, respond and attempt to transform later.
Benefits of working through negativity
- Greater happiness
- Greater ease of being
- Feelings of being comfortable and self-assured
- Overcome obstacles with greater ease
- Cultivate the ability to remain positive even in difficult circumstances
- Greater enthusiasm for life
- Knowing your own power
- Allowing life, and other people around you, to be as they are
- Inner strength
- See things more clearly and with an open, examining mind
- A greater sense of being empowered