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Thoughts On Positive And Negative

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Joan JacobsHave you ever considered how fast most people categorize things as positive or negative and how sure they are in what ever stand point they represent? Don’t you wonder about how things that were perceived at first as negative turn out to be a blessing in disguise?

Categorizing information is an automatic function performed by the information processing mechanism and is intended to help us deal with the vast amount of inputs we’re exposed to. Metaphorically speaking, the brain stores categorized information just like libraries and archives. In both cases this is intended to facilitate easier and more efficient accessing of information when we need it.

Deciding if a given input is positive or negative is one of the first distinctions the brain strives to make. This distinction is highly motivated by the pain & pleasure principle, which causes us to be attracted to things we associate with pleasure and avoid things that we associate with pain. This principle is rooted in primal survival mechanisms and is intended to preserve life by protecting us from potential danger.

Categorizing something as positive or negative reflects the way we perceive it and is what creates our experience of it. If we think something is positive, we experience it as such and vice versa.
However, the criteria that determine whether something is defined as positive or negative are highly influenced by past events and social conditioning.

For example; if an adult individual had an unpleasant experience with authority figures when he was six years old, and at the time this experience was categorized as negative, he will continue to regard authority figures as negative even though, as an adult, he has many other resources for dealing with authority. This happens because the initial categorization was imbedded into the information processing mechanism’s data base and is activated automatically. The evitable result is that we perceive and respond to things in the present as if we were in the past.

Once a categorization is imbedded and activated automatically, we create situations that prove that particular categorization as correct. This is an interesting phenomenon caused by the need for psychological stability. By creating situations that prove our perceptions as correct, we establish compatibility between our external and internal worlds. This fulfills the psychological need for stability.

Experiences that were categorized as positive or negative in the past continue to be regarded as such, unless an effort is made to change them. In certain cases, significant events can be turning points in the sense that they create shifts in perceptions and as such re-categorize relevant information. In most cases we continue to categorize by habit.

Another source for determining if something is positive or negative is social conditioning. Throughout our lives we acquire many perceptions, beliefs and norms by the power of social conditioning. Conditioning is achieved by the power of repetition and the psychological need for acceptance.

When you are exposed to something time and time again it is eventually imbedded and accepted as a truth. If exposure continues, it becomes a conditioning and is activated automatically. Some of the conditioning we live by serves us and promotes social order. However, there are many cases in which automatic categorization and the automatic responses it entails, can be a significant drawback, because they lock us into thinking patterns that undermine growth.

Believing something is true just because you were exposed to it many times, doesn’t mean that it necessarily serves or suits you. It also doesn’t mean that it carries any type of absolute truth. It just means that you were exposed enough to imbed the idea as true. That’s all.

If you were to examine some of things you automatically regard positive or negative, you will find that these unequivocal definitions don’t always pass the test of reality. In retrospect you will find that some of the things you regarded negative actually turned out to be a blessing and that some of things you regarded positive didn’t fulfill your expectations.

Why is this you may ask?

The so called advantage of categorization is that it rids you of the need to re-explore and re-examine things. Defining things as intrinsically positive or negative and categorizing them as such implies that they have only one aspect to them. They are either positive or negative and there is nothing you can do about it because that is the way they are.

However, these definitions only reflect the significance attributed by the information processing mechanism, which, as I have said is influenced by past events and social conditioning. There is nothing intrinsically true about any of these definitions. They reflect our subjective interpretation and understanding of them, based on our past experiences and social conditioning.

In practicality, there is nothing that is intrinsically positive or negative. The universe and everything in it is intrinsically neutral. We experience things as positive or negative only by associating significance to them. To a great extent, the data base we use to attribute significance is either outdated ( based on past events) or not our own (social conditioning).

Numerous examples demonstrate that what is negative for one person is the other’s blessing and vice versa. Nothing is intrinsically anything. It all depends on the significance we give things.
Another interesting point is that energy is a continuum. What this means is that positive and negative represent two polar aspects of a continuum. As such, the one always carries the potential for being the other. Things that we regard negative, intrinsically carry the potential of being positive because negative is the polar aspect of positive.

In practicality this principle becomes apparent when something is regarded negative in certain circumstances but the same thing can be positive in different circumstances. So is it positive or negative?

When you believe something is intrinsically positive you are liable to overlook drawbacks, obstacles and even dangers. Believing that something is intrinsically negative, usually implies that you will suffer through it.

Recognizing the fluidity of definitions such as positive and negative is essential for individual and global healing because it creates opportunities to view, understand and experience things in new ways.

Recognizing the positive aspects in what seems to be a negative experience reduces suffering. Awareness to the negative aspects of what seems to be a positive experience promotes caution,

Most of all, integrating a more flexible approach introduces tolerance, which is highly needed in today’s world. Realizing that anything can be positive and/or negative to various degrees enables us to see things from different perspectives. It facilitates better inter-personal communications and promotes personal and global growth because it expands who we are and what we believe is possible.






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