Convert the negative into the positive
Don’t let the enemy control you
The New Mindscape T3–1
I argued in Designing and Cultivating your Mindscape that the negative or positive energy that we get from our objects of consciousness comes from ourselves: we empower the objects of consciousness with our energy. As in the scenario of Jack punching you: he punched you, but the punch did not last long. The memory of the punch, on the other hand, stays in you for a long time. The object of consciousness — the memory — gives you negative energy in the form of resentment and desire for revenge. But you are the one who invests this memory with negative, neutral or even positive energy. You are the one who will make this memory stay alive and burn you, or simply dissipate or neutralize it. That’s why I say that the negative energy arises from you.
But let’s not take this idea to the extreme. I’m not advocating philosophical idealism (唯心主義), i.e. the idea that the only reality is the reality of our mind. The negative energy comes from within us, but it’s triggered by things that are outside of us. There was Jack’s punch, which left an object of consciousness in your mind. Jack’s negative feelings and intent toward you — his negative energy — transferred into you and triggered more negative energy from within you. There was a trigger and other external elements. Through the hitting, it goes into your mindscape triggering all kinds of reactions inside yourself. The object of consciousness is tinged with negative energy and triggers negative energy from within us, that further empowers that object of consciousness with negative energy.
We experience the external object or the material perception. It comes in, and we give meanings and energies to it. Our experience thus combines both the external and the internal. Your mindscape is never entirely based on external inputs. It’s not a blind slate onto which external things are reflected. On the other hand, your mindscape is not entirely made of internal inputs. You can’t completely clear it of everything, and build your own mindscape entirely out of your own ideas and thoughts without any outside input. You are constantly receiving inputs from outside.
You’ve been trained or educated to focus our minds on what’s happening outside of us, and most people aren’t aware of what’s going on inside our mindscape. How we perceive the world is something that happens inside our minds. You need to look more closely at your mindscape and understand the interaction between external and internal inputs.
So how can we eliminate or reduce negative energy?
Someone suggested that revenge is the way. “Jack beating me triggers my negative energy, which will lead to me wanting to take revenge on him. This will give me satisfaction and can neutralize the negative energy.”
So, you could hit Jack to send the negative energy back to him. This revenge gives extreme satisfaction and fills you with positive energy.
However, this type of satisfaction won’t last. After you’ve passed all the negative energy back to Jack, Jack wants to send it back again to you by taking revenge on you this time.
So you and Jack can keep taking revenge on each other for a long, long time, so much that your life becomes all about how to take revenge on Jack.
And the same goes for Jack; his life becomes focused on getting revenge on you, which provides him with much pleasure.
What happens then is that you become dependent on your enemy: your enemy becomes your primary energy source.
This is the root of what I call a “conflict system”, where two enemies are in a very special kind of relationship, in which they actually depend on each other for energy. Jack gives you so much energy because every time he does something bad to you, it makes you want to fight, and it gives you the energy to fight back. That’s exciting. And every time you do something bad to Jack, Jack gets more energy to fight back at you.
Even though you two are enemies, you are tied together in one relationship, a conflict system.
This happens in relationships between people, between communities, between political parties and movements, and in relationships between nations.
If the person, the community, the movement, or the nation has no other source of inner strength, no deeper motivation or positive sense of purpose, the source of its life becomes the conflict with the enemy. You end up depending on your enemy. The more you obsess about fighting the enemy, the more the enemy controls you.
But shouldn’t the bad behaviour be stopped?
What if Jack is an abusive person? If I do nothing, he might continue — harming me again, and even harming others.
Yes. His behavior has to stop, because he might do more harm. We have to protect ourselves and society from Jack if he’s doing this all the time. Measures need to be taken that will lead to ending the destructive behaviour.
But this needs to be done without anger, hatred or revenge. It’s to protect society, to protect yourself, and to protect him. Only without negative energy, without anger or hatred in our hearts, can we behave rationally and make the right decisions. Avoid having negative energies each time you think about him. And instead of complaining and gossiping about that person, which creates and spreads more negative energy, you move on with your life, move on to the positive directions of your life. Don’t let yourself be completely controlled and dominated by negative energy — which means, ultimately, to be controlled by the enemy.
But you can’t just say, “I don’t want the negative energy anymore.” Negative energy can’t simply be pushed out of your mindscape. It can only be dissolved or dissipated.
You can’t fight against negative energy, because by fighting against an object of consciousness, you’re giving more energy to it.
You need more positive energy to dissipate the negative energy.
You need to increase your positive energy.
As a metaphor, take negative energy as darkness and positive energy as light. The more light you bring in, the less darkness there is.
Similarly, if you bring out more positive energy, the negative energy will then be dissipated and reduced. You can’t fight against darkness. You can only reduce it with more light.
Someone told me that rationality can be a weapon against negative energy. This is because rationality allows us to step back from our emotions. Through our rationality, we can see our feelings, and to some extent that helps us, as the feelings will have less grip on us.
I agree to some extent, but rationality alone might not be powerful enough. Many people who are burning with negative energy and hatred can also be very rational, and devise highly clever and sophisticated schemes of revenge. Your rationality is as likely to be the servant of your emotions as their master.
A better way to deal with negative emotions is to transform them into positive emotions, or to dissipate them with positive emotions.
Where can you get more positive energy or emotions then?
Good things in our environment bring us good energies, and trigger positive energies within us. That’s why having a loving family, supportive friends, or a nurturing community is so important. The love and nourishment that comes from our family or our spouse is incredibly powerful, and it strengthens us. Our parents’ love is powerful positive energy transferred to us, and it nurtures the growth of positive strength and energy inside us. Having good friends is also essential for the same reasons.
However, not all of us are blessed with loving family, friends, mentors, or community. We don’t all live in a supportive and positive social environment. Even when we do, positive energy sometimes seems to be missing. Sometimes it might be due to arguments or tensions with your parents, your spouse, your teacher or your friends, which brings out negative energy. Moreover, the love we receive is not always unconditional; some parents make it feel like their love is conditional on meeting their expectations. Friendships fall apart due to small arguments, and so on.
For some people, their personality and disposition are more focused on negative things. It’s harder for them to focus on positive things.
Sometimes, mental illness makes it impossible or very difficult to generate positive energy; it goes beyond the person’s individual capacity.
Many of us have negative energies that are deeply embedded into our memories of trauma and bad experiences in the past. This is one of the main reasons why we have some negative energies buried deep inside our mindscape. These negative energies come up because of various traumas that we’ve had in the past, our relationships with our parents, and even our collective sufferings. The resentments and memories of past sufferings are negative energies buried inside of us. It’s difficult to simply fight alone against these negative energies.
Someone asked, “when we encourage a depressed person to think more positively, it’s more likely to make them focus more on the negative mental energy, which results in more negativity. So, how can we help those in need?”
Just telling people to be more positive is not going to help. You don’t want to make people feel bad by telling them that they don’t have enough positive energy.
For serious problems and issues, consulting a qualified mental help professional is essential. Here, I only talk about general approaches we can take in life, and see what insights we can gain from spiritual and religious approaches. That’s what I’ll discuss in the next essay.
Some people have mentioned how negative experiences can have a positive value. When we learn about the suffering of people in poor countries, about the cruelty of wars, about the loneliness and difficulties of left-behind children in rural areas, we might feel frustrated, upset, and even angry. But this is good because it leads us to want to change things.
Learning from others’ suffering is meaningful, and it’s associated with negative energy. We should not avoid the negative aspects of our life and of society. The world has a lot of negative things and we have to face them, especially if we want to be proactive in doing something about them. We should not be an ostrich that hides our head in the sand and tries to completely avoid anything that’s wrong or negative.
We have to face it. So the negativity that we see triggers a response. It might even trigger an angry response, that makes you want to do something about it.
But then the question is how to convert that response into a positive action, with positive results.
In other words, the issue is how to convert the negative into the positive.
One response when being faced with negativity is that you become discouraged and dejected. You get influenced by that negativity. You get filled up with a negative energy that tells you that you can’t do anything about it. That’s truly negative energy, in the sense that you will lose the energy or motivation to do anything at all.
Or, the anger, the negative energy, makes you rise to act. You want to fight for justice, to show your anger. But the action might simply be a performance of anger or revenge, without any positive results. It might be destructive, or amplify negative energies to trigger or fuel a conflict system.
You need to convert the negativity into a positive energy that empowers you to do something that positively changes the situation in your life or in society.
Another type of “positive conversion” of negative energy is when an authority figure — a parent, a teacher, or an official — tells you NOT to do this or that. You might feel this “NO” as a negative input from outside, that triggers even more negative energies within you. Even when you admit that the restriction is correct, you still have that lingering resentment within you. And all the more so when you don’t agree with the restriction!
If we lack positive energy, the restriction will overwhelm us with the negative energies of anger and resentment. Or, we might become afraid, oversensitive, and overwhelmed by the restriction, making us passive and discouraged.
How can we turn that negative restriction into something positive?
You are forced to change your behaviour. How can you turn this into an opportunity to do something differently, and positively?
How can you be active, move forward, without being afraid?
How do you turn the negative into a positive?
Overflowing with positive energy, you won’t be afraid of negative energy. It won’t strike you down. It won’t consume you with anger. You will adjust your course and keep going, fearlessly.
This essay and the New Mindscape Medium series are brought to you by the University of Hong Kong’s Common Core Curriculum Course CCHU9014 Spirituality, Religion and Social Change, with the support of the Asian Religious Connections research cluster of the Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences.