When Negativity Pulls You Through

June 4, 2012 § 22 Comments

When you’re lost in the rain in Juarez

And it’s Eastertime too

And your gravity fails

And negativity don’t pull you through.

Bob Dylan, “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues”


From countless sources, again and again, we are told that we should seek positivity.  Be optimistic.  Find joy in all that you do.  Surround yourself with positive people.  Positivity will extend your life and make you happier.  On and on.

I seek the positive, of course.  But I also need the negative.

I need to experience weakness, sadness, and despair- full bore.  I need to experience those terrible feelings because without them, what would it mean to feel strong, happy, and hopeful?  Only when you’ve been to the depths of despair can you experience fully and truly the rapture of those moments of strength and hope.

I also need the negative in another way.  Some of the most important people in my life struggle with dark thoughts and self-doubt on a pretty regular basis, as I do.  I couldn’t imagine a life where I would turn away from them because they were not “positive people.”  It’s not just a feeling of empathy for those exceptional friends and family members.  I learn from them; I draw strength from them.

Much that is beautiful and moving in our world came from the wellsprings of darkness.   Mozart, Van Gogh, Matisse, Pollock, Tolstoy, Styron, Plath, and countless others labored to create their magnificent art through a lens of despair and darkness.  The absence of their work would impoverish all of us.

So, yes, embrace all that is positive in the world.  But keep also the space for the negative.  If you open yourself to the negative, in yourself and in those around you, it can help pull you through.


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§ 22 Responses to When Negativity Pulls You Through

  • Renato says:

    It can be tough to write about this topic. I think you did an outstanding job though!
    Thank you for this!

  • nyparrot says:

    It’s like silence – it only exist in relation to sound:-)

  • jadethestone says:

    Goosebumps – I completely agree. What a gutsy and honest piece. It’s dangerous to expect everything coming up roses. The only thing that is certain in life is change. It’s still a work in progress but I am trying to remember that nothing is good or bad it just is. That will be a life long practice. It’s funny, I kind of wrote the same thing this morning, prefaced a little differently but in order to be happy acknowledging and accepting that if life is going well, it will eventually be rough and vice versa. This world and nature is all about cycles, circle of life, birth and decay etc. etc. Just adored this – thank you!

    I’ll tell you a secret. Something they don’t teach you in your temple. The Gods envy us. They envy us because we’re mortal, because any moment might be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again. – Achilles

  • I was about 38 before I started purching all the negativity in my life, and when it wants to creep back in, I just step aside and let it pass. The place where I had been blogging from July 2007 to January 2012 became so negative that I shut my blog down and moved to WordPress.

  • […] is with sincere and joyous gratitude that I accept this award from OnlyHereOnlyNow (who I’ve put as one of my nominees…because really, I’m not that into following […]

  • bipolarmuse says:

    The darkness helps us to appreciate the light that much more. I find… even in happy moments… that most of my poetry and writings are drawn from the sadness that is familiar for me. I may not be unhappy in the moment, but I find most of my creativity is drawn from the “dark”.

    • Thomas Ross says:

      Yes, this makes a lot of sense to me. The moments when we are stuck in the grip of negativity, we can’t write. But when we pull through, we draw on the struggle to find what it is we want to say.

      Thanks for the thoughtful reply.

  • dadirri7 says:

    well said thomas … makes me wonder about the shades of our experience … in the whole we feel everything … it all just is .. nothing rejected or grasped …. sadness and joy the same …. not judged or measured 🙂

  • jennlaurent says:

    I love that you brought this to the point of standing by those in our lives who are going through negative times. I think having gratitude for simply being able to feel can help us to allow negativity to exist within and around us. Great post Tom!

    • Thomas Ross says:

      Jennifer, I’m so glad that you could see that I was trying to respond to the notion that we should try to fill our lives only with “positive people.” I honestly draw much of my inspiration precisely from my own struggle and those of my friends. I treasure those folks- whether they’re up or down- as I treasure your generous and careful attention to my work.

  • Arjuna says:

    Hi Thomas,
    I am nominating you for the Beautiful Blogger Award. If you choose to accept the award, please go to my post for details. Congratulations!

  • colourtheday says:

    Positivity is overrated? 🙂
    I think it is very important to identify negativity as a feeling to be aware of, instead of BEING negative. That’s where so many struggle, when identifying with the feeling you experience. You ARE depressed, but in the somatic meds, you HAVE the flu, or cancer, or HIV.
    Some of the artists you mention created weird stuff, that we now value as beautiful. And some of them unfortunately lost it all, searching for something inside incredibly dark matter.
    I think (hope) my experiences has taught me to see myself as a new day comes, as OPEN, and feel feelings, but not be them. (This got complicated!)
    That way, I can use both positivity and negativity as creating feelings.
    However, positivity might get overrated… with mindfulness, being in the moment, zen etc having as such a great influence on people and healing. Some time from now, we will see loads of those who halfheartedly got into this as a final solution.
    “I tried that happy positive stuff, now I’m back to an old fashioned depression…” 🙂
    Sorry, this got long:)

    • Thomas Ross says:

      Yes, complicated- but I think simple too. I am mostly trying to say to those who are struggling in those dark and negative moments that it’s not just okay, it is something that each self-aware and thoughtful person experiences. Also I’m offering a cautionary note to the message that we should surround ourselves with “positive people.”

      Anyhow, I appreciate so much your thoughts and attention to this post.

  • DIRNDL SKIRT says:

    Beautiful point well made.

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