The awesome power of relentless negativity

By Matt Perryman

If you ever want to achieve anything in your life, don’t go anywhere near Youtube comments.

I did this the other day and boy was it a mistake.

Comment sections are where the worst people with the worst attitudes congregate to live in misery with each other. You see the same thing on all social media platforms that allow replies. The internet really has brought out the darker and dimmer side of human nature.

I realized something important though.

Reading the comment section is like having your worst critical-voice brought to life in reality.

It’s like reading through a checklist of negative self-talk.

Every fear, doubt, anxiety, worry, nagging, second-guessing guilty thought you ever had about yourself is right there in front of you in glowing letters.

I don’t wager many of us need the help in finding reasons to criticize ourselves.

You might have picked up that I’m a cynical sort of personality. If you imagine a dial with one end set to smiles and rainbows and sunshine, and the other end set to “Thomas Ligotti”, I’m leaning to that side for sure.

I have a dark view of human nature and a dim view of our prospects. But I’m no full-on pessimist.

A few days ago I found this line in one of Iris Murdoch’s lectures:

Plato temperamentally resembles Kant in combining a great sense of human possibility with a great sense of human worthlessness.

I like that. That really sums it up.

A great sense of worthlessness combined with a great sense of possibility.

I am continually disappointed in people because I expect so much more, starting with myself. Even with full knowledge that our wretchedness is built right into us.

We each have a shadow inside of us no matter how good, pure, holy and virtuous we try to be or believe we are. But we can try, and that’s just as important. Even if the archer never hits the bullseye, the magic is taking the shot.

That one idea has so much to chew on that you almost can’t imagine it.

This goes way beyond “positive thinking”.

It’s about negative thinking. With full awareness of human flaws, you don’t have to pretend that people are anything more than what they are. With that comes great relaxation and acceptance, starting with your own flaws.

All that negativity you hear in your mind, acted out in the comments and replies, is real. And not one word of it excuses you from aiming at higher targets.

You don’t have to believe it, or disbelieve it, or do anything whatever about it. It’s there and so what? Trying to control your bad-thoughts only feeds them.

Replies on Twitter, bad reviews on a book, or the critical voice in your own mind, it’s all the same. Give it attention and it grows.

This isn’t some idle feel-good point about mental well-being. Stress in the mind is stress in the body. There’s no difference. People that insist on living in this shadow-world of negative thought are doing their bodies no favors.

Plato, by the way, recommended that we acknowledge our dirty animal natures and rise above them by transforming our inner vision. A sense of what is truly worthwhile can lift you right out of the shadowy gloom.

Plato doesn’t get near enough attention these days.

Turn your thinking from those wretched thoughts and put your mind on what matters.

Nobody can demoralize you if you stop demoralizing yourself. And that’s the first step to doing anything good.

Matt Perryman

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