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The Power of Negative Thinking

This article was written by Keith Randolph on May 10, 2002
posted under Creative Visualization

So far we have been considering visualization as a technique that works because it forces us to concentrate all our energies, psychological and psychic, on positive images. We have seen visualization as a method of transcending the many negative forces that distract and bedevil us. But what about NEGATIVE imaging? Does that work too? The answer is yes and no.

Yes, it is possible to focus on a harmful or un-ethical goal and to bring that goal into material reality. But it is a dangerous business, because negative imaging unleashes the destructive elements of the unconscious. On the other hand, positive imaging draws forth the constructive elements. As we have noted repeatedly, once tapped, the powers of the unconscious can be overwhelming. Negative imaging can destroy you.

Some years ago a famous Hollywood producer made an appointment with a psychiatrist. He told the doctor that his life was in ruins, his career was going badly, he couldn’t sleep, he couldn’t think straight, and so on. Eventually the whole story came to light.

The producer had met an attractive young ac-tress who was struggling to get started in the movie business. Although married, the producer set about trying to seduce the woman, who had resisted his advances. The man, who knew about visualization, began practicing imaging exercises in which he imagined the entire process leading up to his goal of seducing the actress. Things turned out just as he had imagined them—up to a point.

The woman got pregnant. She thought that the producer loved her and that he would divorce his wife and marry her. When she came to him with the news of her condition, he was appalled. He ordered her to get an abortion. Instead she went back to her apartment, swallowed a large number of sleeping pills and died, leaving a note revealing just what had happened. The resulting scandal destroyed the producer’s career.

Positive visualization works because positive images seek out positive forces in the outside world. When the mental and physical worlds are in harmony, the results can be explosive. Negative visualization draws on negative forces, with predictably catastrophic consequences.

Positive Negative Imaging

It is possible to draw on negative imaging in pursuit of a positive goal.

One morning an alcoholic, unable to cure the disease that had broken up his family, caused him to lose his job and devastated his life in every way, awoke in Bellevue Hospital in New York City. He was sick and miserable. All around him were people whose lives alcohol had destroyed. The scenes of human wreckage all around him were horrifying.

"I’m in hell," the man thought. "If I could just remember exactly how I’m feeling now, how ashamed I am, how utterly horrible all this is, I would never take another drink."

Upon his release he kept thinking of the phrase "If I could just remember … " And so he decided to remember—every day. Every day he vividly visualized the scenes he had witnessed in the alcoholic ward and relived every terrifying, sordid detail. He was convinced that in so doing, he could get through the day without taking a drink. He was right and was permanently cured.

This story demonstrates the power of imaging in overcoming our destructive impulses. Happily, most of us are not in the grips of acute alcoholism, but we all have bad habits. We all do things that serve no constructive purpose, that at the least waste our time and at the worst keep us from doing what we need or want to do.

A writer who found the business of composing words and sentences a tedious, wearying process had an enormously difficult time disciplining himself to sit down in front of the typewriter and attend to his work. He was continually finding excuses not to work, and was always distracted by personal problems or by other, more pleasant pursuits. In due course, he became almost totally unproductive, and his professional life suffered accordingly.

Finally a friend suggested he try visualization exercises. The writer did some reading on the subject and, although somewhat skeptical, decided to give it a try. Several times a day he imagined a photograph of himself. In the photograph he was smiling, a man clearly at ease with himself and happy in his life. The writer mentally described the man in the picture (himself) as a fellow who worked hard as a writer and, what’s more, enjoyed working hard. The man in the picture was prosperous, successful and had reaped all due reward for his hard work.

Within a matter of days the writer was back at the typewriter. He found he wanted to work and only became impatient or distracted when he wasn’t working. His output soared. His writing improved and he was startled to find that he actually began to like to write. His career, which had been moribund during his long period of paralysis and inactivity, suddenly became very successful, with new opportunities presenting themselves at an almost dizzying rate.

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