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Being Positive and Avoiding Negativity: Management challenge of positive vs negative


Being Positive Avoiding Negativity
Interpersonal games
Denial of the negative
Unchallenged dangers of positive thinking
Vulnerability to disaster
Concrete situations
Testing the boundaries of "being positive"
Interrelating positive-negative hybrids
Systems management: value of both positive and negative feedback
Dependence of system operation on contrasting modes
Dualistic games
Reductio ad absurdum?
Dangerous associations
Uncritical thinking
Management challenge: positive vs negative
Embracing error
Leadership and "negative capability"
Relating to the unknown -- beyond denial
Dangerous consequences of ignoring the cycle
Symbolic relationship between positive and negative
Cognitive singularities
Autopoietic systems

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For western cultures, the term "positive" derives from a Latin word signifying "settled by arbitrary agreement" or imposed, rather than a natural expression. The term "negative" derives from a Latin word signifying negation or denial. The formal mathematical and scientific senses of both terms originated in the 18th century. Philosophical use of both "positivism" and "negativism" originated in the 19th centuries. It was only at the beginning of the 20th century that "positive" was used in the psychological sense of "concentrating on what is constructive and good" -- as with the corresponding sense of "negative". The hard sciences have frequently deplored the tendency of other disciplines to mistakenly endeavour to mimic their formalism in the psycho-social domain.

The relation between such moral and ethical implications can therefore be understood as relying, questionably, for some of their significance on the binary formalism introduced by science, notably though the work of mathematician Gottfried Leibniz. His work was however strongly influenced by the ancient notation used by the Chinese for the 64 hexagrams of the I Ching, which he claimed demonstrated the universality of the binary system. The I Ching however encodes a philosophy that is at the heart of Chinese cultural beliefs and based on the dynamic balance of opposites such as positive and negative. It provides a richer articulation between opposites by exploring 64 possible combinations with which moral and ethical connotations are associated -- thus extending connotations of "positive" and "negative" (cf Discovering richer patterns of comprehension to reframe polarization, 1998).

Exhortations and injunctions to "be positive" are a common feature of some religious groups, in the development of selling techniques, in self-help therapies, in work group development, and in living with potentially fatal illnesses. These are seen as a means of avoiding or defeating negativity in those different contexts [more]. Misguided justifications of negativity are a particular concern [more | more]. Recommendations may even be made to avoid negative people, especially those framed as "losers" -- to reduce the possibility of being entrained by their mindset.

Whilst there are numerous web references in support of being positive or avoiding negativity, there are very few resources that challenge the uncritical judgemental attitudes which evoke such injunctions. This is curious because the consequences of "being judgemental" have long been a concern in many of the above contexts. The implication is then that "being positive" is an absolute good, and "being negative" is an absolute negative -- to the point of being recognized as sinful by some religious groups.

The issue is explored here from a variety of perspectives. It is effectively the introduction to an associated paper (Cardioid Attractor Fundamental to Sustainability: 8 transactional games forming the heart of sustainable relationship, 2005) that highlights the existence of a set of games, rather than a single game, that potentially are all aspects of a sustainable cyclic system that merits further attention.

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