The Positive Impact of Negative Visualization

In life, shit happens.

One moment things are going well and you feel like you’re in a great place in your life and then BOOM, you’re hit with a curveball you never anticipated coming.

You’re in shock, emotions scatter all over the place and you think to yourself how could this have happened?!

It happens to all of us and while it certainly sucks and can make you want to reevaluate your entire existence, there’s a practice that can be performed to better prepare for the unavoidable that can help soften the sting just a bit.

Enter Negative Visualization. 

This practice has been utilized by humans for thousands of years. Simply put, it’s a process of thinking about negative scenarios that could happen in your life at any given moment (anything ranging from the extreme such as the sudden passing of someone close to you or a freak accident that prevents you or a loved one from being able to take care of themselves, to something that may be a long time fear such as losing your job or having to deal with a long term break-up).

Essentially, you spend time thinking about what you have and what you’re grateful for and then you try to visualize your life without it.

At first the idea of negative visualization threw me off a bit. Being more or less an eternal optimist, the concept of spending time thinking about worst case scenarios (or even just negative thoughts in general for any period of time) was not something that I felt comfortable taking part in.

But as I continued to read about the topic, the positive impact that it could have became more clear. So I gave it a shot, and the results were astonishing.

By thinking about potential negative outcomes that technically could happen at any given time or day to either myself or to those that I love, I immediately felt a tremendous sense of appreciation and gratitude for the present moment and those around me.

It was clear that not unlike many others, I was taking various aspects of my life for granted.

Over a short period of time of practicing negative visualization, the value that I had subconsciously placed on myself, my life and those around me began to increase exponentially.

I started to bring realistic life outcomes to the surface level of my thinking, which allowed me to play out in my head how certain situations could arise, how I would potentially react to them and how I could begin mentally preparing for them.

For those that take a more pessimistic view of life, this practice could help break down the walls of fear that’ve been building up for decades. The potential discovery of realizing that certain things in your life aren’t as bad or could end up not being as bad as you might’ve made them out to be can be truly liberating.

Through negative visualization, it’s even possible to learn how to foresee and completely avoid certain situations that life may throw at us as well.

So when should you practice negative visualization?

Similar to reflecting, you should allocate a couple of minutes for this exercise. But for it to really work its wonders, you should practice this a couple of times per week when you have a few moments to yourself (it could really be performed anywhere).

Anticipate 

By learning to anticipate, you can become more mentally prepared in dealing with the catastrophes that life will throw your way. The sudden extremes that can come with living are never going to be easy, but with this tool in your arsenal and the power of anticipation you won’t be as caught off guard and you’ll be able to handle circumstances just a little better.

On a more positive note, it can help with appreciating life and learning to be more grateful and thankful for everyone and everything around you.

“The man who has anticipated the coming of troubles takes away their power when they arrive.”- Seneca