The Power of Negative Thinking

Both ancient philosophy and modern psychology suggest that darker thoughts can make us happier

By GC based on article Oliver Burkeman for The Wall Street Journal

Considering the new year to come, it could be wise to give a boost to our way of thinking. Or at least reconsider this.

Especially in the year where new connections between government, citizens, society, the natural environment, economic development and the available financial resources (budgets) are critical and crucial – and we have to find new approaches to innovate and recover – it seems more and more important to be realistic, or at least not to be too optimistic in the way a think.

Fig. by Alex Nabaum, “Just thinking in sober detail about worst-case scenarios can help to sap the future of its anxiety-producing power.”

Or even – and that is where this article is about – choose the starting point of negative thinking. The art of negative thinking seems to be as old as the road to Rome or Athens. As the author cites:

“One pioneer of the “negative path” was the New York psychotherapist Albert Ellis, who died in 2007. He rediscovered a key insight of the Stoic philosophers of ancient Greece and Rome: that sometimes the best way to address an uncertain future is to focus not on the best-case scenario but on the worst”.

Power of Negative Thinking

Too often is negative thinking associated with pessimistic thinking and therefor less attractive for most people. On the other hand there could be a realistic danger in positive thinking, related to the actual situation we’re in. The positive approach even could be the cause of under estimating of realistic fact and figures.

In his article in The Wall Street Journal the British journalist Oliver Burkeman shares his light on the psychological factor of negative thinking.

“The holiday season poses a psychological conundrum. Its defining sentiment, of course, is joy—yet the strenuous effort to be joyous seems to make many of us miserable. It’s hard to be happy in overcrowded airport lounges or while you’re trying to stay civil for days on end with relatives who stretch your patience.

So to cope with the holidays, magazines and others are advising us to “think positive”—the same advice, in other words, that Norman Vincent Peale, author of “The Power of Positive Thinking,” was dispensing six decades ago. (During holidays, Peale once suggested, you should make “a deliberate effort to speak hopefully about everything.”) Read more >