The Power of Negative Thinking

People talk a lot about the power of positive thinking, and it does indeed have its benefits. I, however, often think I have gotten more mileage out of the power of negative thinking. Before you think I’m just being funny, let me try to put it to you from an Odinic perspective.

Life is hard, sometimes. Sometimes, it’s hard all the time. Occasionally it seems unbearable. Positive emotions such as hope can sustain you through these times, but the darker the times get, the more difficult it is to experience them.

Odin’s way shows another, surer, form of motivation. One of the paths that he teaches to his devotees is the path of the warrior. He is the god of war, and often gifts his followers with war-related skills and experiences. Another is the path of the ascetic. As his sacrifices at the Tree and the Well show, his particular type of mysticism utilizes pain and sacrifice.

Both of these paths make extensive use of negative motivation, negative thinking. Any fighter knows what it’s like to be knocked down, gasping for breath, vision a tunnel, stomach a hell of nausea, with the enemy still on his feet, strong, fast, closing in. It isn’t the power of positive thinking that comes to your aid then. It’s the cold, heartless voice from deep within, or far without, that says “Get on your feet, you pathetic weakling.” Any ascetic who has used the Fast Path, the Diamond Way, knows the point where all of your resources are gone, and all of a sudden you AREN’T resisting the pain any more, and there’s a moment of panic, and that moment’s enough to trigger a vicious cycle of doubt and fear. At that moment you are beyond self confidence. You are beyond hope. You are naked and alone before everything that ever hurt you. The motivation to hang on, re-establish the meditative state, and reach then end of the rite instead of giving up comes instead from sneering, mocking laughter at your failure. It comes from the fear of negative consequences.

This principle does not just apply to extremes of Odinic practice. Sure, use positive thinking, positive motivation, when you can. But do not neglect the power of negative thinking. Adopt the principle that “Everything furthers,” everything is useful when approached properly. Feel guilty about treating someone badly? Don’t just try to get over it, USE IT TO CHANGE YOUR BEHAVIOR. That’s what the emotion’s for, after all. Fearful of failing midterms? Don’t try to relax. Use that fear to drive you to go study some more, and increase your odds of passing. Feel a lack of self confidence? Don’t paint over the problem by learning to “love yourself as you are,” use the badness of that feeling as a goad to make yourself become someone with the skills and abilities to give them self confidence.

Negative thinking. Is it nice? Hel, no. But it’s damn useful.

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12 thoughts on “The Power of Negative Thinking

  1. Amanda says:

    I guess it depends on what you mean by positive vs. negative, which may be oversimplification. “Get on your feet, you pathetic weakling,” in the midst of battle implies that it’s even possible to get on your feet. What if, at that moment, you go, “No, I can’t. I give up. I’m just going to lay here and let the enemy kill me?” What if, in response to that mocking laughter, you say, “You’re right, I am pathetic?”

    I’ve never been in an actual physical battle before, but my family’s orlog contains alcoholism, abuse, and mental illness. So I’ve seen people close to me face the choice between, “I’m an alcoholic and can’t help it and won’t even try to give up drinking,” or “My father sexually molested me, so I’m just screwed up and there’s nothing I can do about that,” and deciding to actually try to get on their feet and change things.

    Not giving up seems more “positive” to me than giving up and accepting defeat, but maybe a more accurate description would be active vs. passive. Do you feel you actually have the power to change things, or are you helpless and have to just accept how things are?

    • How about you try to find the possible wisdom in what this man has written and figure out the details yourself rather than putting it on the author?

      Of course positive and negative are oversimplifications, they always have been: positive and negative are not traits of an experience but our labels to classify experiences. While watching somebody overdose and die might be “negative” for you because dying is scary and bad, it might be “positive” for me because it helps me remember that druggies are retarded nonpeople who prove through their actions that their lives have no value.

      “Positive thinking” refers to people fixating on the parts of life they enjoy, and this man thus calls it “negative thinking” to focus consciously on the parts of life you dislike and expounds on the benefits thereof.

      I of course insist on focusing on “reality,” which includes positive, negative and those things I have not yet made value judgments on, because failure to do that is called “delusion” and it is exceedingly popular.

      You’re welcome for doing your thinking for you, you herd animal.

      • Amanda says:

        I find it strange that you call me a “herd animal” for posting a comment that wasn’t completely 100% in agreement with this post. I just want to make it clear that I do respect this blogger, and figured if he didn’t want comments on his blog that don’t completely agree with him, he could disable comments or moderate them and take out the ones that disagree with him. I did try to make my comment respectful, but I suppose sometimes my intended tone doesn’t come across well on the internet.

        I also want to say that I would not have wasted my time commenting on this post at all had it not made me think

        I assumed he was referring to “positive thinking” as those shallow, self help type platitudes about how if you just tell yourself you’re good enough and smart enough then everything will magically be OK. I agree that type of “positive thinking” is completely worthless, and always struck me as coming from people who have never had real hardship in their lives.

        It’s also not quite the same thing as “people fixating on the parts of life they enjoy,” especially if one is incapable of enjoying anything in life already.

        I think I was referring more to the “hope” he mentions in his post. It just seemed to me that the very idea that you’d be capable of getting up after being struck down means there is still some hope left in you.

        But that’s just my perspective. Your mileage may vary. Sorry for assuming this was an appropriate place for having a respectful conversation about this subject.

        • Yes, my phrasing was a reference to those cheap, worthless self help slogans. And I do not need everyone to agree with me, no. I am trying to pass along information and/or spark conversations, not create a personal echo gallery.

          Re: your point concerning hope: I suppose that is one of those differences in language use that arise in fundamental differences of experience. To a berserker such as myself, and many Odinists who are not berserkers, the experience of spiritual/psychological death and rebirth is a common, familiar, even useful phenomenon. I do not mean some spirit work weekend seminar thing, I mean like in the movie The Wall. It is not uncommon to be beat to nothing, to have nothing left at all, even hope. It is in the nature of Odin’s gifts that his people will, when pushed further in such a state, respond by remaking themselves from the ground up, putting themselves back together in a way that creates new functionality.

      • While I thank you for coming to the defense of my words, surely it can be done with respect? We are polytheists. There are many different paths in heathenry, and one of its chief delights is learning about those other paths that are not one’s own.

        • Why is respect necessary or desirable?

          • So that people actually listen to your words, for one thing, instead of dismissing them as the ravings of a miserable git. Are you interested in actually engaging in debate? Changing people’s minds? Or are you just really impressed with yourself and looking for an excuse to throw your weight around? The former is the mark of an intelligent person worth listening to. The latter is the mark of a rather tedious bully.

            For another thing, isn’t this world an awful enough place without actively going around and making it worse?

            A heathen believes in personal responsibility. This is the kind of mark you wish to be responsible for leaving on the world? A heathen also believes in honor. Where is the honor in mindless antagonism?

          • So, long story short, respectful mannerisms are good because they are good marketing. What if we don’t all want to be marketable to a general audience? Not everyone liked Cannibal Holocaust, but some loved it.

          • That is a rather drastic oversimplification of what I said. However, I am not going to take the time to correct you. I have no interest in bandying words with bullies. Nor do I have any interest in debating a topic with someone who oversimplifies their opponent’s words in order to score debating points and avoid engaging on issues they cannot actually respond to. Such BS is why I no longer run any forums.

            Politeness has its proper place, and for far more than just marketing. So does plain speaking. So here’s some plain speaking for you: you are in my house, here, virtually. I run a respectful establishment. Keep it respectful or hit the pavement. This is your one warning. If I wanted to play interpersonal politics, I’d still be running my old forums. This is a place for adults.

          • As on forums and as in real life, everyone thinks owning a venue gives them authority to tell others what to say and what to do.

            As a child I read of ancient Greece and hoped that since that was thousands of years ago we had improved on their intellectual tradition immeasurably, only to grow up and realize that every moronic child on the playground flinging dirt clods grows up to become one of millions of little tyrants of their half acres, and sincerely believe that being the proud owner of a mortgage made their beliefs any less idiotic.

            Many people seem to believe that they genuinely get to decide how reality works within the bounds of their private wombs, and as you demonstrate many of them buy servers and pull the same Daddy Tyrant act en masse on internet forums

            Of course, being semi sentient food tubes with fragile egos, most idiots would never consider such behavior to be objectively appalling, so they always invent some mythology of the wrongthinker committing some kind of aggression so they can feel like a valiant avatar of justice instead of the truth, which is closer to a blue collar stepdad reeking of beer and trying to show the kids who’s boss.

            What I’m trying to say here is fuck your house, I hope for nuclear war so everybody dies. At least among the ruins, the cats and cockroaches won’t be hitting each other with sticks and trying to control each other’s opinions.

            This kind of shit is why I meet with my friends out in public; even if they themselves are real people it serves as insurance their families won’t attempt to enforce ideological purity.

            P.s. if Egil were around to witness your moralistic white knighting he probably would’ve thrown something at you in disgust.

          • Another entitled child who thinks that while he has no need to respect the rights of others, his egocentric views must be bowed to by all. Real impressive, E-Man.

            TROLL BEGONE!

            Blocked.

    • “What if, at that moment, you go, “No, I can’t. I give up. I’m just going to lay here and let the enemy kill me?””

      Then you die.

      Odin’s way is hardship, and the key to many of his gifts is crisis. Some people respond well to that. Personally, when I hear that mocking laughter, hear those words of derision, something in me rises. My nerve steels. My lip curves in a sneer. I react to the sting of the emotion by using the adrenaline it gives as energy. I say “Oh yeah? Well fuck you. I’ll die someday. Maybe today. But when I do it will be on my feet, not on my knees.” I remember that everything furthers, including pain, including fear. Pain and fear are great sources of power.

      Other people freeze. That is a matter of genetics as much as upbringing. Some people’s ancestors survived because they fought. Other people’s ancestors survived because they hid. Fighters need a fighter’s god, and a fighter’s motivation. Other people have other paths, and there’s no shame in that. That is what polytheism is for.

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