The Power of Negative Thinking


Of course I think its important to have a mainly positive outlook for your emotional well being. However feelings such as fear, greed and anger do have their place in our hearts. As the congregator said:

“To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven”

~Ecclesiastics 3:1  (Which inspired the classic 60s song “Turn! Turn! Turn!”)

I am sure you heard all about the importance of positive thinking, so I’ll talk about the other side of the spectrum.

There are two types of motivation best captured with the metaphor of the carrot and the stick. Often I only read and hear talk about carrots, but the stick is a far more powerful force. Once we become comfortable with a routine it is difficult to change our patterns. The thought of a better tomorrow is great, but if today was alright we’ll probably stick with what we are doing. It is when we are unhappy that we have the power to make changes in our routines. Ideally we have a positive vision in mind so we can direct these changes that will lead us to the carrot, however it is the stick that will get us moving in the first place.


At the gym when I am tried and not sure if I can get that last rep in or want to let off a bit on the heavy bag it is not the thought of winning that will make me give it my all but rather the fear of getting my ass kicked in the ring that will make me push for that last percent. When I am feeling tired and like I want to give up I always try to imagine an opponent who has me against the ropes. In such a situation I know its do or die and that no matter how tired I am that I will be swinging my hardest to get out. The fear of losing is far more effective at overcoming the discomfort of exertion more than the thought of victory.

I feel that I am not unique in this manner at all, I think its a universal trait in virtually all life. Getting a reward might be nice but its not a big deal if we don’t get it. Being able to get out between a rock and a hard place is essential for our survival.

This mind set should only be used rarely though. For getting you through that last rep or making you push the pace at the end of your cardio. Walking around with this attitude would make you unsociable and mean. For the most part we want a relaxed attitude that does our tasks with ease. Using this kind of thinking is a powerful tool however that can help give us an edge in our training.


In social situations anger can be an incredibly powerful tool. When someone expresses anger, and has means to impose his will, other people become fearful. They become compliant and will generally try to placate the angry person. Now obviously acquiring a reputation for being angry is not a good thing to have. People will not want to associate with us if we are always losing our temper. However there is a good reason why we evolved such a response. If someone fucks us over it is natural to feel and express our anger. If they themselves think they are being dishonest there is a good chance they will try to amend the situation to be fair.

Anger is a display that suggests we are ready and prepared to use violence to right a wrong. This is why it is such a powerful emotion. Most people, normal people, do almost anything to avoid a fight.  Road rage often turns into violence because someone is angry and acts out on that emotion. This is an improper use of anger. It is important to remain calm ourselves when dealing with an angry person and to humble ourselves. We must take their complaint seriously and demonstrate Aristotle has an excellent explanation, although his encyclopedic style is difficult, there is a reason he has been read for thousands of years.

In Nicomachean Ethics he describes that there are proper times and reasons to get angry, but it is better to err on the side of too little anger when in doubt.

Generally we want to avoid being angry whenever possible and to avoid acting out on it. Although if someone is blatantly ripping us off then anger is the correct response. When in doubt do not get angry.


In [amazon text=Rich Dad Poor Dad&asin=1612680011] Robert Kiyosaki mentions that a little bit of greed can be a great motivation to acquiring wealth. Generally people do no make all the random little products we use because they love making random products. They made them to get money so they can buy what they want. I doubt my key board manufacturer’s employees dreamed about making key boards, they made them to get paid. While it is often said greed and being selfish is bad, a little bit of these traits are essential for making our economy work. Without people wanting money I wouldn’t have the tools I need to write out these blog posts for example. Again in excess these traits are harmful. If people are so hungry for money that they are willing to screw over others to get it this is not helpful. Again this comes back to Aristotle’s idea of virtue being in the mean.


I hope you found some new ideas in this essay. As humans we are subject to the full spectrum of emotions. Instead of denying the negative ones any place and suppressing them we can harness them and use them for our advantage. While it may be fashionable to be dark and edgy we must remember why these emotions have a negative connotation in the first place. They are for the most part destructive and will harm us if we abuse them.

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