Tag Archives | Negativity

A Sad Fact of Life: It’s Actually Smart to Be Mean Online

Or do they? Jacob Bøtter (CC by 2.0)

Or do they?
Jacob Bøtter (CC by 2.0)

Is this why I have no Twitter followers? I’m too nice?

via Wired:

I’m generally upbeat on Twitter. Many of my posts are enthusiastic blurts about science or research in which I use way too many exclamation points!! But I’ve noticed something: When I post an acerbic or cranky tweet, it gets recirculated far more widely than do my cheerier notes. People like it fine when I’m genial, but when I make a caustic joke or cutting comment? Social media gold. This is pure anecdata, of course. Still, it made me wonder if there was any psychological machinery at work here. Is there a reason that purse-lipped opinions would outcompete generous ones?

Indeed, there is. It’s called hypercriticism. When we hear negative statements, we think they’re inherently more intelligent than positive ones. Teresa Amabile, director of research for Harvard Business School, began exploring this back in the 1980s.

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The Wisdom in the Dark Emotions

eclipseMiriam Greenspan, writing in the January 2003 issue of the Shambala Sun:

I was brought to the practice of mindfulness more than two decades ago by the death of my first child. Aaron died two months after he was born, never having left the hospital. Shortly after that, a friend introduced me to a teacher from whom I learned the basics of Vipassana meditation: how to breathe mindfully and meditate with “choiceless” awareness. I remember attending a dharma talk in a room full of fifty meditators. The teacher spoke about the Four Noble Truths. Life is inherently unsatisfactory, he said. The ego’s restless desires are no sooner fulfilled than they find new objects. Craving and aversion breed suffering. One of his examples was waiting in line for a movie and then not getting in.

I asked: “But what if you’re not suffering because of some trivial attachment? What if it’s about something significant, like death?

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The Power of Negative Thinking

Deep Thinking by Wissam Shekhani, ink on paperOlivier Burkeman uses his new book “The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking” as the basis of this essay claiming that ancient philosophy and modern psychology suggest darker thoughts can make us happier, writing in the Wall Street Journal:

The holiday season poses a psychological conundrum. Its defining sentiment, of course, is joy—yet the strenuous effort to be joyous seems to make many of us miserable. It’s hard to be happy in overcrowded airport lounges or while you’re trying to stay civil for days on end with relatives who stretch your patience.

So to cope with the holidays, magazines and others are advising us to “think positive”—the same advice, in other words, that Norman Vincent Peale, author of “The Power of Positive Thinking,” was dispensing six decades ago. (During holidays, Peale once suggested, you should make “a deliberate effort to speak hopefully about everything.”) The result all too often mirrors the famously annoying parlor game about trying not to think of a white bear: The harder you try, the more you think about one.

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