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Doubts Are Not Your Enemies

February 3, 2011

I am strongly of the opinion that our emotions are one of the most fundamentally important parts of the human psyche.

Regardless of the strength of reason, emotions–feelings in general really– have been around for who-honestly-knows-how-long.

And we survived pretty well without the higher reasoning skills that are the hallmark of the frontal lobe in our brains.

(Note, I enjoy reasoning skills. I think they are incredibly valuable. I don’t advocate lobotomies or any other brain-killing activities. That ain’t what this is about.)

Part of our culture is the idea that we need to channel positivity, positive energy, positive attitudes. This movement has gained popularity in the past few decades, and remains rather strong today. There are books all about such practices, such as the succinctly named “The Power of Positive Thinking”, and other such inspirational/motivational books.

The corollary to the aforementioned power of positive thinking that these authors advocate is the banishment of negative feelings: worries, fears, doubts, etc. After all, if positive thinking empowers us, then negative thinking can only detract from our power and weaken us, right? We need to focus on joy, excitement, and optimism to achieve our goals.

Well, here’s a healthy dose of realism. Negative emotions came around in our evolutionary history for a reason, and they serve their purposes very well.

Yes, you’re right. It’s extremely easy to get bogged down in negative thinking. A surplus of “I can’t” thinking can lead a person down a power-stripping cycle of depression. That is not the norm, that is not helpful in our existence, and that’s not for what I’m advocating, here.

However, we doubt ourselves. Whatever plan it is that we’re making, an ambition we’re pursuing, not all of our mentality is convinced we can accomplish it.

That doubt is useful (when it’s not the chronic, unceasing doubt which comes from depression). Doubt focuses our minds, points out our flaws and weaknesses, and lets us know that all is not well. When you doubt yourself, you remove that idea that you are an omnipotent, omniscient being that has no way in which to improve. By allowing yourself to doubt, you plant the seeds of improvement, self growth, and humility. Being humble is slowly being lost as a valued trait– it’s seen as weakness, as a form of servitude. But I can promise you that the temperance between servile humility and unchecked pride is modesty. More on that in the “Balance” post to come, I think.

Fear is a signal. We fear what we do not understand, or that which has power over us, that which has ill intentions toward us. There is a fantastic book titled “The Gift of Fear” which is all about fear signaling situations in which people are in danger– even if it isn’t so apparent. A copy of “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin de Becker will highlight all the warning signs and precursors to violence that people will pick up, put together subconsciously, and feel as intuition; fear.

Our emotions evolved for a reason, and to discount them in order to live a life of only positive emotions is not only strange, but impossible, and (in the end) detrimental to our lives. Optimism and the power of positive thinking are real, true, completely viable concepts, but after all is said and done a healthy dose of realism helps one steer through the day.

As always, leave your comments, questions, and thoughts below! Have a great day.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Julia permalink
    February 3, 2011 12:11 am

    I agree… but I do think that the reason positive thinking is so important is because most people have enough negativity in their brain that they have to constantly remind themselves to think positive in order to not get bogged down or depressed. I understand that negativity could help bring about humility in some people but I think that negativity can exist without humility or reality for that matter… But that’s just me.

    • February 3, 2011 12:13 am

      I agree. We have a lot of negative influences, and it can be hard to battle those influences sometimes. Buuuuuuuut, I want to highlight the importance of our negative emotions. They are useful for something. Thanks for the comment! 😀

  2. February 3, 2011 2:05 am

    I agree, but you can’t factor out that the influences of positive and negative thinking varies person to person. Every person is different in their own way, thinks in their own way, and was brought up the way they were. These things can dramatically change the way people take in the positive and negative sides of a situation, and how big of a difference in reaction there can be.

  3. chris permalink
    February 3, 2011 7:16 am

    I agree, you don’t want your negative emotions to overwhelm you, but at the same time, don’t get delusions of grandeur because you feel like you can do no wrong, becausae we are not perfect. Negative emotions are our bodies warning hormones, and if we dismiss them completely, well, a lot more of us would end up dead.

  4. Kayla permalink
    March 19, 2011 11:58 pm

    Positive and negative emotions are definitely important for personal progression. If we didn’t have the negative emotions then we would not be able to be humbled and would become prideful. Miles I do agree with you. Humbleness is being lost and it is not a good thing. The negative emotions keep us in check and balance us out.

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