Redefining Negative Experiences

All of us might encounter an unpleasant experience. However, rather than thinking of these experiences as troublesome, we should consider them transformative ones; they might cause us unpleasant emotions, but they also contribute to our growth and development.

Dr. Shintaro Kono discusses the importance of having "negative" experiences in our lives.

Nick: So I do wonder, with age and life experience, if we can redefine our past, perhaps challenging experiences, we have negative thoughts about, could they be looked back upon as these life turning points? 

Shintaro: I think that your example, it's as painful as it was probably for you back then. I think it's a brilliant example.

Because throughout the ikigai literature, you know, Kamiya's work, Dr. Kumano Michiko's work, and my work itself, the consistent theme in terms of ikigai is that ikigai cannot be fully understood and also experienced if you're categorizing experience, positive versus negative.

I think we have to really move past that dichotomous framework that this positive and negative, yes, they exist. Then to an extent, it's just like a good indicator of how your life is right now, but beyond that.

When you think about stretching the perspective from the past to the future, sometimes years and decades of your life, this momentary positive versus negative really can be actually misleading in a way that there are some negative you know, back then it was negative experiences that you really want to put in Japanese expression, put a lid on and you never want to open that lid. 

It stinks you know, I have those experiences too and I'm probably younger than you, but I do, but it's really important in terms of ikigai to sometimes, when you're okay with it, you have to be properly ready.

And I would love to kind of do research about when and how we can be ready to look at those powerful yet negative experiences, "negative experiences" to get more ikigai.

But when you're ready, I think it's important to open that lid and really take a look at that again, because negative experience, a negative memory in the past, can be very powerful so it's most likely, we evolved, we grew out of those experiences, and that have lingering effect on our lives. It's really a great source of life legacy.

Nick: It is amazing. Because if I do look back at that day and the weeks leading up to that decision, I was extremely stressed, I was on the verge of breaking down, I was almost crying as I was saying, I want to leave.

So I could look at that always as a painful negative experience with a certain mindset. But if I look back thinking, hang on, this ended up changing your life for the better, and it almost ties in to Buddhism where I could almost thank this person who gave me so much trouble, because it did end up changing my life. 

So I like your idea that we don't have to really say that positive or negative, they're almost like life defining experiences, regardless of if they're negative or positive.

I think we should be open to this idea that we can go back to past experiences and reinterpret them. Because we have this new context of all the years from that experience, up until now.