If you’re like me, you may have struggled with the idea of being positive at one point or another.  My philosophical pursuits have taken me through the various major eastern religions; Taoism, Hinduism, and Buddhism.  One of my biggest fascinations along these journeys was the principle of non-duality.  Non-duality states that while opposites may seemingly be two separate entities they are in reality, one.  The reason we say non-dual though is because anytime you think of one, it’s always in reference to many.

Now what does this have to do with positivity you might ask?  Good question.  If you are a “positivist” or “think positively” and also hold a non-dualistic philosophy, these two paths seem to conflict with each other.  If positive and negative are merely opposites, and they are in fact one, how can you say that being positive is any better than being negative.  This always caused a great deal of conflict within me.  I always thought, I can’t be positive, or strive for goodness, or happiness (what I classified as a positive trait) if it’s a delusion.  I should be striving for nothing, because positivity isn’t necessarily real, it’s just one side of the same coin.  It’s like trying to find the beginning of a circle.  You’ll end up like a hamster on a never-ending wheel.  There is no end.

The whole problem with this thinking is a widespread assumption that positivity equals desirability.  In other words positive=good, wanted, desirable and negative=bad, not good, undesirable.  But what are the definitions really of positive and negative?  To posit something is to assert it, to affirm it.  To negate is to deny.  I think this is the source of a lot of confusion.  In reality, something is not necessarily bad if it’s negated.  You can negate fear, negate anxiety or you can posit despair or weakness.  You can also posit strength and joy, or you negate abuse and addiction.  These terms are not meant to imply a value, they simply describe a state of a given value.  Now, I’m not sure how positive and negative started to be interpreted as good and bad, but for logical people, it can be very frustrating trying to make reality fit into positives and negatives.  In reality there are things that are good and bad, positive and negative aside.  But good and bad are not necessarily precise enough words either.  When it comes down to it, what really matters is desirability.  Desire is independent of being positive or negative, good or bad.  Desire comes from our integrity, desire is what fuels our existence.

The real lesson here is that positivity and negativity don’t really matter so much.  They’re not an accurate way of describing our feelings.  What really important is your level of authenticity.  Your so-called “negative feelings” about the job you dread going to everyday, turned out to be signs that you needed to change course, that your life wasn’t going in the right direction.  Your negative thoughts about obese people, turned out to be inner signs that you had unquestioned assumptions that you needed to examine.  Maybe you even have a fear of becoming obese.  Your positive thinking about your car going to make it all the way to your 3 hour drive to Vegas when the check engine light was on the whole way, turned out to be denial and it cost you $800 instead of $120 if you would have been honest with yourself.

I know I’m not going to change everyones thinking just by writing this article.  My intent is only to better explain the true nature of positivity and negativity to those who are striving for an accurate model of reality.  When you have an accurate model of reality, one that is driven by desire, not division and duality, your life will start to become much easier.   You won’t be striving to “stay positive” or “stop thinking negatively”, you’ll be living authentically.  And that’s what it means to live with integrity and awareness.

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Comment & Add Your Voice

Silicon Prairie February 17, 2008 at 11:52 pm

This is an interesting post. I think the key lies in two ideas – there are distinct things, but it’s also important to consider their similarities.

For me positivity means actively trying to be happy, even if it sometimes means giving up on other things I would like such as being right in an argument. It’s pretty clear that this is distinct from being unhappy. Negativity could be anything with a different expected outcome, or it could be someone who actually likes being unhappy. When it comes down to it, there’s little chance that happiness and unhappiness are the same thing – and I think the one that you work towards is a distinct choice.

Positivity and negativity really touch on a lot of different areas – from how we interact with other people to how our mind interact with the physical universe we perceive. As far as something is subjective, positivity is distinct from negativity and important because your interpretation of something changes what it is. Everyone agrees that if someone is trying to be nice to you but you see their communication in a negative way that will alter the relationship. Other applications are less clear, but you can still influence your emotions about things.

That said, there is a lot of non-duality. I found the link to your blog on Steve Pavlina’s forums. If you read his articles on “lightworkers” and “darkworkers” last year they’re a perfect example. He makes a convincing point that people who are completely consumed with either making their own lives better or making the lives of others better tend to come to the same conclusion because you can’t have that level of focus on improving one life while ignoring another. Even if you accept it morally the person experiencing a “bad” life will act in ways that can disrupt the balance.

That’s an example of where non-duality makes a lot of sense, but it still doesn’t have to apply to everything. Regardless of the conclusions you come to though, the excercise usually improves your thinking.


Jonathan February 19, 2008 at 1:15 am

Silicon Prarie:

Thank you for your feedback. I have to agree that non-duality doesn’t essentially “apply” to everything. It doesn’t really have to apply become non-duality is the ultimate reality. Duality is inherently illusory, but it is a real illusion.

I also agree that positivity and negativity are distinct from each other. I also have to say while explicitly they are two, implicitly they are one, because each one implies the other.

As far as positivity being translated as good and negativity as bad, I think this is rooted in people general desire to be the same. Like likes like. If I agree with you, you are going to have a better response than if I disagree, generally speaking. People also like it when other people follow along, they’re being positive or agreeing. People generally don’t like it when people disagree or stray from the norm, they’re being negative, they’re negating everyone else. I think that’s generally how positivity and negativity began to be seen as good and bad. In reality though, there is no such thing, there just is. Perception is really what makes the difference though. Perhaps I’ll write my next article on this subject.


beautyscientist February 22, 2008 at 10:50 pm

I am a fatalist. But there doesn’t seem to be anything I can do about it.


Jonathan February 23, 2008 at 12:27 am


Haha. That gave me a good chuckle, thanks. =)


Adam September 17, 2009 at 9:34 pm

I am also a fatalist.


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