Monday, 20 August 2012

Negative musings on positivity, and vice-versa

After a two-week hiatus, I’ve returned with a critical eye focused on positivity and negativity.  What is it that leads people to encourage others to be irrationally positive?  Why is it that considering all of the possibilities makes one socially unacceptable rather than sensible and wise?
Contrary to the beliefs of some, critical thinking is not innately paired with negativity.  Simply imagining the negative outcome to a given situation before it occurs does not mean that you are encouraging that outcome.  The mission-critical planning for our societies are run by pessimists because these things need to be.  But too much negativity can lead some to engage in extremely self-interested or sociopathic behaviours.  Military leaders, corporate CEOs, politicians, and others navigate a fine line between reason and excess in their need to be swaddled in negativity due to the nature of their work.

Negativity exists to reinforce our natural suspicion of situations that are likely to produce less than optimal outcomes, based on learned behaviours.  But excessive negativity can lead to psychological disorder or even self-harm.

Positivity can have equally disastrous consequences if it is applied improperly.  A lack of consideration of possibilities leads us to reckless and self-endangering behaviours.  Crossing public streets becomes deadly, as do a great number of other equally mundane tasks.  Excessive positivity frequently leads to a lack of duty of care.  Simple failures that arise from a lack of attentiveness in our complex world can easily become fatal.  People who operate mass transportation, hospitals, and police officers know this all too well.  Positivists tend to inadvertently harm others and profusely apologise afterwards.

Positivity exists as an outgrowth of the desire to see the ideal possibility in the world around us.  Without positivity, we would not share or create.  Limited to simple needs-based imperatives, we would behave and react to our world like the lowly amoeba.  Positivity is the carrot reward to the eye-sticking of disappointments that we face in life.

How is it remotely logical to “choose” one over the other?  We all have the desire to be positive, but are faced with the harsh realities of less than optimal outcomes.  Choosing positivity or negativity exclusively is not optimal, nor is it meant to be.

Maybe the positivists cast aspersions on the pessimists to lend credence to their less-than-sane approach to life.  Even at the most basic level, a life driven by a positive or negative skew is going to produce less than desired outcomes.  It is hard to argue against the idea that the world could immediately benefit if people would stop to consider the facts when faced with difficult decisions, rather than just react.  Maybe the world desperately needs something in between the two poles of this extreme scale.  A true neutrality.

The world we live in is a complex place, driven by complex interactions that cannot be readily dealt with by a dichotomy of positive or negative worldview.  Just like salt and sugar, positivity and negativity both have their place, and should both be used in moderation.

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