Rowanto Luo


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How Positive Thinking and Negative Thinking Could Go Wrong

Pretty much every people who I met understood the concept of positive thinking wrong. Usually what happens is, they are confronted with a problem, and they will say, "Don't worry. Everything will be fine". Afterwards, they said it's positive thinking. The problem here is, we have a problem in front of us, so how is everything fine? The problem will not magically go away. We have to deal with it. Let's have another example. Deadline is in one week, and there's still three week's worth of work. One of your colleague said, "Don't worry. We will make it.". This might sounds ok at first, but it's actually denying the truth, and it's giving false hope to the other colleagues.

There's a very fine line between denying the truth and thinking positively. So how can we differentiate between them? Let's take an example again. You work for company A. Company A changed its management ranks. Positive thinking is when we think the new management will be better than the last one. Here we don't know about the new management, and we have the choice to think positively. Not so positive thinking is when we think that since the last management is bad, the new one will most likely be not better.

The reverse also applies for negative thinking. Just by saying something negative does not count as negative thinking. When done correctly, it can increase your and other's awareness which might change the result. Besides, most likely, other people will also realize the problem even if you hide it. If there's someone you know which forbids you to talk about negative truth, he/she is just denying the truth and it will most likely not solve anything. In order to fix problems and improve ourselves, we need to know negative facts. It's always better to know and accept the truth than to live in lies.

Automatic Meaning Injection

Maybe now you will ask me what an automatic meaning injection is. You're here to read about positive and negative thinking, but now you're seeing the automatic meaning injection? Well, if we're talking about positive and negative thinking, usually we're also talking about people's reaction, and when we're talking about people's reaction, we will most likely talk about the automatic meaning injection in human's reaction. So what does the automatic meaning injection means? If you're familiar programming you might know about the "dependency injection". It's basically the process to (semi)automatically inject a concrete stuff into an empty stuff. They actually works pretty well for the most programming system. We, human, also have the same process. When something happens to us,-- it can be anything, when we see something, hear something, or feel something--, we will automatically react to it, we will automatically interpret it, and we will automatically give it a meaning. It's the automatic meaning injection of human being. The only bad news is, it doesn't always work that well, which might cause you to automatically think in negative way.

When your wife/husband give a flower to you, you will automatically think that it's a sign of love. An event happened and we interpreted it, and hence a meaning is automatically given to an event. It's all fine. But if someone doesn't say hello/good morning to us in the morning. How do we interpret that? Well, let me tell you, most of my friend will think it's totally rude. But the thing is, in some country people don't think it's rude. At this point, you might said it's culture. Yes, but it's not just culture. In my opinion, it's more about the paradigm. Let's say you saw a teenager running, then he fell down and he started to cry. Maybe you will think he's a crybaby. BUT! If I tell you the doctor just announced his father death in the hospital 15 minutes ago, you will inject an entirely different meaning to that event. There are some people I knew that when people reject their ideas, instead of giving the meaning "maybe my ideas need improvements", they will give it the meaning "all of you disrespect me", which in most of my cases is totally wrong.

On a side note, this story also made me remember a funny case when a friend of mine thinks a woman likes him because the woman added his Facebook before he added hers first. He was totally dumped of course. :)

This automatic meaning injection is really happening to us all the time. Something happens, we interpret it, we give it a meaning, and based from this meaning, we take an action/think more. Depending on the result, we might choose to respond/think positive or negatively. That's also why you will hear some sayings from people like, "You are how you react" or "You can't change what happens to you, but you can change how you react". This is true, and IMHO one of the key factor which decides how you react is how much you're influenced by this automatic meaning injection that took place, and whatever gets injected is also heavily influenced by your paradigm.

There're many ways to fix this so that we can make ourselves able to react better/think positively in the correct way. There're many books from many amazing authors, but here're the two most important points for me:

  • Don't trust your automatic meaning injection too much, especially the negative ones. Try to think logically in a different perspective. When you are angry or bothered by something, think again about what you have just thought, regain your composure and discard all the wrong automatic meaning injection. Stop being impulsive. Stop and think! Don't just go autopilot every time :)

  • Change yourself. I read somewhere once, if you want to change the world, then start from yourself. I think this statement is really true. We tend to think in a conscious/unconscious way that everyone else is similar to us, and that they share the same value. If we hate some people, there's a pretty high chance we will also inject "hate" meaning into some meaningless situation. If we lie occasionally, there's a pretty high change that we will think that some people are occasionally lying. By removing all those negative traits from ourselves, we will be able to automatically think in a more positive way.

That's it! I hope you find this interesting. The content of this article is the things I learned from my experiences in life and what I learned from various books and speakers in the past years.