Lint-Trap 2/2/01: Negativity




What a wonderful entry Viv made recently, all about saving time, hurry, and being alive in the moment rather than rushing to the next thing. As I've struggled to find time to make entries this week, the entry is, er, timely. When I experience how long it is, and how well written, I begin to wonder if I'm wasting my time...

I've been very aware of my negativity this week. By the time I've gotten to my mid-fifties, and especially after doing a lot of work on myself, I've become pretty comfortable with who I am, and, more importantly, who I am not. This is not just resignation that the Nobel prize or the Baseball Hall of Fame are forever beyond my grasp. It's really even coming to like myself, to respect the choices I made, even when they were huge screw-ups.

But still I have a deep well of negativity, and when it has come to the surface this week, I really don't like the 'me' that shows up then. Finding fault with everything. Placing blame. Seeing the worst.

In NLP, they call this 'mismatching'. Think of the most irritating person you know--they are probably a mismatcher. You say it's a nice day. They think it's too hot, cold, wet, dry, or sunny. You rave about a movie--they grumble about anachronisms and poor secondary character development until you feel a fool for ever having cracked a smile at the flic.

If you write computer programs, you had better be able to put on a good solid negative skeptical attitude or your programs will be so full of bugs you'd think they were written by Microsoft. The computer is far too dumb to find your errors--you have to do it yourself. And it's much harder finding your own errors than writing the program in the first place.

To succeed in most engineering jobs, you need to have available as part of your psyche a bitchy, suspicious, picky, and disagreeable persona. You let it out of the cage at times and let it run free over your code, snarling and spitting and sniffing and growling at it, like the pit bulls let free at the used car lot after 5 PM.

Some people in software are so identified with this part of themselves that they treat people and things and animals and their parents the same way as they treat computer programs. Nerd is too nice a term for these few, considering the damage they can do in a company. Most programmers are at least partially housebroken, and, like the dog doing it only on the newspaper, they keep their beasts confined to the vicinity of their code.

I've long since accepted that I have an anal side, and I have a negative mistatcher side. And when let out at the right time, they help me succeed. As the years have wound on, I've found myself closer to them, even liking them, respectful of their essential worth. Sometimes the lines have blurred--they come out feeling less like a beast unchained than a rather rough facet of my true self.

But negativity has resisted being domesticated in this way. This week my negativity was really in evidence. My boss and co-workers were especially idiotic, Diana was being exceptionally difficult (to the point where I felt she was abandoning me), the world was suddenly repopulated with insane and incompetent drivers, grocery clerks, and waiters... Well, you get the picture.

Having a snit like this gets harder as you get older, since an essential part of every snit is a kind of self-delusion. All that awful stuff is out there, while I am the pure perfect observer. Eventually, when your mind starts that familiar litany, it's only a few seconds before another voice chimes in "Oh, sure! Guess the one common theme that connects your coworkers, Diana, drivers, grocery clerks, and waiters. That's right. It's YOU, master illusionist, projectionist extrordinaire!"


Slowly, like a punching bag rocking back to vertical, my perspective adjusts, I start to feel the negativity inside, and the outside world starts to regain it's usual color. What is it that feels so powerless, so unable to accept a little setback, that it has to erupt in shrill blaming and excuses? The fact that they are usually only internal doesn't really help how they feel. Which is bad bad bad.

And then, just as Viv has described, the bubble bursts. What could that fuss have been about? A laugh, and I'm on my way..

Oh when Pete's in a snit
He don't like it a bit
And he blankets the world with his blameing.
But his sharp pointing finger
Has found a dead ringer;
It's him, so not others be naming

Thank you for reading.

Copyright © 2001 Pete Stevens. All rights reserved.