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    « Anticancer: A New Way of Life by David Servan-Schreiber | Main | Yama, Yoga Ethics -- Living the Good Life »
    Saturday
    Jan022010

    It's All Good, Even the Bad

    I recently came across some new research being done on the meaning and value of moods, and it got me thinking.

    The Lotus symbolizes purity -- the flower grows in the mud, yet remains untouched by it.For some time now, I've been interested in the conceptof dynamic holism -- the idea that the whole is more than the sum of the parts, and that everything in a system is a significant part of the growth of the system. Life evolves in cycles: hot/cold, feast/famine -- in general, better/worse, and everything contributes to the expansion of the system. For instance, food shortages lead to better agricultural methods, leading to increased populations, which leads to food shortages. Cycles help systems to grow.

    In the same way, being exhuberant can lead to recklessness, which leads to loss, which supports greater need for controls, which lead to stability, which foster interst in risk, which leads to exhuberance. I'm referring to the economy, but it could also describe human behavior in general.

    Our moods are part of the process. Loss leads to gloomy moods, which leads to being risk-aversive, more careful; gain leads to cheery moods, which leads us to be more open to risk, more experimental. Both are necessary.

    As it turns out, a bad mood can be, at times, a competitive advantage.

    Positive attitudes, good moods promote creativity, flexibility, cooperation, and foster more impulsive behavior, more reliance on mental shortcuts.

    Negative moods trigger more attentive, careful thinking, paying greater attention to the external world. They make us double check things, and think things through.

    And it seems obvious that both, in balance, are necessary for a person, and life, through that person, to evolve. Too much negativity, life bogs down. Too much positivity, and accidents happen.

    Pessimists and optimists are both needed for a balanced view of life and the world, like other dichotomies: liberal/conservative, introvert/extrovert, altruistic/self-interested.

    If I emphasize being positive with my clients, it's usually that I'm trying to balance out an excess of negativity. Negativity (meaning noticing what's missing) is a necessary part of growth and development. Our culture, particularly through the media, fosters an excess of negative perspectives -- more positivity is generally needed, for balance. But the truth is, every part of life, every emotion, serves some purpose, in the proper context.

    Too much darkness, and we want more light -- too much light, we put on sunglasses. In horticulture, dry soil fosters root growth. In sociology, crisis helps people come together. In life, distress pushes us to seek outside of our comfort zone.

    And our moods swing back and forth, the same way our breath goes in and out. I guess we're all sort of bi-polar, in a way. Our view of life is formed by our tendency to see in dichotomies.

    So where does anger fit in? I think it's often the feeling of bridging from fear (negative) to hope (positive). It's a fear-tainted way of trying to assert control, and make things better, a sort of panicky confidence, if that makes sense.

    Just some thoughts I wanted to share.

    Sent from my Sprint Blackberry

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