Positivity, Negativity or Equanimity?

I’ll make a statement to kick off:

We live in times where black and white thinking is common, and where thought is polarised.

I’ll raise a question:

Can polarised thinking ever be entirely accurate?

A long while ago when I used to do small group personal development facilitation, I was more than a little surprised at the levels of negativity in young capable Ph.D. students. These were able to find holes and faults in just about anything, there was also a high level of cynicism. They were young, smart, healthy and yet they were largely negative. They had loads of reasons why not and not many why to. From one particularly negative group I got my favourite piece of feedback:

“Alan’s ability to find a positive from and in any situation began to get a tad irritating.”

This cloud of negativity seems to be the human default. It seems people prefer to complain about everything. Many moan about prices, lock-down, the government, the weather. Not many of the moaners live in Gaza in the sights of Israeli jets, nor in a Syrian refugee camp, or in Dafur. This negativity saps the will to joy. Few realise just how good they have it, they take so very much for granted. People feel entitled and somehow owed by the universe or society, they believe in the notion of “rights”. Ask a starving refugee what non-binary gender means…it would prefer a bowl of rice.

If one has the negativity virus then one needs a positivity antidote. But one might be careful not to overdose otherwise one ends up in hyper over hyped bullshit land.

I used to advise Ph.D. students doing job applications to be a little more American in their approach but not to go too far as that would not be palatable to British tastes.

To be overly positive can set oneself up to fail, because over positive is idealistic. When ideals are not met one can crash and burn. It is easy to see the positivity-negativity yo-yo in action. We have oscillating quasi bipolar behaviours.

What then is the answer? To gently strive for a balanced objective and non-partisan perception. A perception not coloured by emotions or prejudices, a perception not overly up or down, a state of equanimity.

“Just like this.” Is a notion in Zen but it does not pertain only to Zen, it is accepting reality as actually is. Strangely to my eyes humanity often struggles with the simplicity of reality and rarely has emotional equanimity. Humans are hooked on what I call the heroin of complexity. Humans have a lot of preferences and when these are not met, they get to whinge, moan and complain. It would be rare for someone who likes to complain to imagine that the luxury they are complaining about might be taken away. Balanced perception would recognise that they are pretty damn “lucky”, a bit of frustration is a whole lot better than starvation.

The mid-point between polar perceptions is often more accurate, there are shades of grey. The world is more nuanced than the adamantly held and professed views of many.