In praise of negative thinking

A little too literally translated, I think. How about “It is all my fault, and only my fault!”

In my circles at least, “positive thinking” is accepted as a good thing. It is believed that some mysterious “law of attraction” will bring you the positive things you think of.

I, on the other hand, have found negative thinking to be quite useful. Not negative thoughts about others, but about myself.

You may want to skip this if you are vulnerable to depression, either from your personal history or family. Although I personally don’t find it depressing, but who knows. I am not you.


What I mean by negative thinking is not a vague and general feeling that “you can never do anything right”, “you’ll never amount to anything” or the more hardcore “why don’t you just die”. That’s not how the thoughts in my head go. I am not quite sure how much this comes from your parents speaking to you as a small child, or whether it is a biological tendency or even a spiritual one. In any case it is unfounded, as anyone can achieve at least something in the future if they choose to stay there.

No, what I call “automisanthropology”, the study of why I of all people am up to no good, is more concrete. Why did I make that careless mistake? Why didn’t I do anything while I still could? Why did I wait for someone else to help? Why didn’t I learn from last time I was in the same situation? Why did I think my own whims or wishes were more important than the needs of another? Why did I forget what I had promised to remember? And so on and on.

There is, I guess, an underlying optimism that allows me to think like this. An assumption that I could have done better, that at some point I will learn from my mistakes, that there is a fundamental will to do the right thing, deep down. Very deep down. Extremely deep down. That “original sin” is not the true original, but smeared across something even deeper, more primordial: The primordial spark of Light by which we can even receive Light. Even if that spark is no bigger than a mustard seed right now.

But exactly for this reason, I don’t hold back when I talk to myself. I tell it as I see it, and it is not pretty. I don’t want to just forget and put it behind me. I want to learn and change, even if it takes seventy times seven tries. I am not fine. I am not OK. I may have that potential, but mistakes were made, and by me. If I excuse myself, I will never change. And I must change. That is why I live, isn’t it? Not just to avoid death as long as possible, although I’d rather do that too, but to become more me, more the me I want or aspire to be.

And when has blaming others ever made anyone improve in any way?


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