The Power of Negative Visualization

Negative visualization is a Stoic method for improving your attitude and your wealth.

You can find many sources proclaiming the benefits of positive visualization and thinking, but you will find few extolling the benefits of the opposite.  

We all want good to come to us.  Why would we want to engage in negative imagination?  

Because proper application of negative imagination can elicit a positive attitude of motivation, gratitude and prosperity.

Positive vs. Negative Visualization

Positive visualization consists of imagining yourself achieving or having achieved some goal.  

Positive visualization can program your mind and body for success.  When you can visualize, you can realize (literally, make real). 

But positive visualization can have a negative effect.  It can increase your dissatisfaction with your Present situation (the NOW). 

If you don't appreciate the Present, your Gifts won't appreciate (there's a reason we use the word "appreciation" for both an attitude and an increase in value).  If the gap between your vision of the future and the Present makes you feel lack, you'll experience Misfortune, not a Fortune.  

The Stoics taught that we can't control anything except our own minds.  They realized that everything we have is a Gift provided by the Gods, Nature, or Fortune.  That's why they called Nature Providence.

If you don't appreciate the Present, why would the Gods provide you with further Gifts?    

The Stoics found that whatever you appreciate, appreciates.  Evidently, the Gods smile on those who appreciate their Gifts.  

Negative visualization consists of imagining yourself not having something you currently possess or value.  

This can help you identify what you don’t need anymore, and elicit appreciation for what you do have and value, which you’d prefer not to lose.

Imagine not having the computer you are currently using to read this article.  What would your life be like?

What emotion does this image of yourself without the computer elicit?  Do you feel liberated or deprived?  Would you be better off without it, or are you grateful for this equipment?

You will either be motivated to get rid of it, or grateful for having it and motivated to keep it in your life.  If you want to be master of your life, act accordingly.  


Negative Imagination Subjects

You can practice negative visualization with any subject.  

Practice negative imagination with all of your material possessions.  You will either find deep gratitude for what you have, or motivation to free yourself of baggage you don’t need, stuff that just weighs you down.

Whatever ‘it’ is, visualize your life without it.  If you feel glad and lighter imagining no longer having it around, get rid of it.  If you feel loss and gratitude that you do currently possess it, express your gratitude, before its too late. 

Epictetus recommended that parents practice negative visualization in every interaction with their children.  Realize that your child (spouse, parent, etc.) could be taken away from you at any time.  Act accordingly.

When you start complaining, its time to do some negative imagination to lift your perspective.

Your house is not good enough?  Imagine having to live in a grass hut.  No running water.  No toilet.  Or how about living on the street?  How does your current domicile compare to that?

Your car can’t compete with the Jones’s?  Imagine having no vehicle at all. It could be just around the corner....

If you have some issue with your body, practice negative visualization with your body and mind.  Imagine not having your eyes, ears, nose, or limbs.  In The Meditations, Book Two, Marcus Aurelius wrote:


“Whatever this is that I am, it is a little flesh and breath, and the ruling part. Throw away thy books; no longer distract thyself: it is not allowed; but as if thou wast now dying, despise the flesh; it is blood and bones and a network, a contexture of nerves, veins, and arteries. See the breath also, what kind of a thing it is, air, and not always the same, but every moment sent out and again sucked in. The third then is the ruling part: consider thus: Thou art an old man; no longer let this be a slave, no longer be pulled by the strings like a puppet to unsocial movements, no longer either be dissatisfied with thy present lot, or shrink from the future. “

Visualize the process of aging and decay of the body.  You know it will happen.  Imagine withering, weakening, and dying, then imagine the body decaying and melting into the Earth.   

How do you feel after accepting that the body will inevitably decay and die?  Most find measure of freedom, and a motivation to make the most of what life remains. 

Negative visualization is an antidote to dissatisfaction with Providence and Fortune.  Don’t like what Nature or Fortune has provided you?  Imagine having even less.  It could always be worse.

Negative Visualization For Prosperity

Poverty can be just material, or it can be just spiritual, or a mix of material and spiritual

Material poverty means a lack of food, shelter, clothing and so on.   

Spiritual poverty occurs when you have a persistent belief that you never have enough.  If you are mired in spiritual poverty, you could have a net worth of $1 billion, but still think you don’t have enough. 

All prosperity, including material prosperity, starts with a genuine feeling of abundance.  When you realize and are grateful for all you do have, you are already prosperous, regardless of your current material condition.  Like attracts like; those who prosper, prosper.

When you imagine not having what you do have and value, you will realize you already are prospering, you already are wealthy, whether in material goods, relationships, moral goods, intelligence, insight, talents or gifts.

Its your job to invest what you have been given so that it appreciates.  Your gifts will appreciate when you appreciate your gifts!

Negative visualization will enable you to feel your prosperity, and gratitude to the Gods, Nature and Fortune for what you have in your hands at this moment.

As my father often said:  “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”

How many birds do you already have in your hands?  Negative visualization helps you count your blessings, which will generate an awareness that you are in this moment wealthy enough to take the next step toward more. 

Stuart Wilde wrote a book entitled The Trick To Money Is Having Some.  When you know you have some in this moment, you stop creating poverty through thoughts of not having enough.  When your mind changes, your reality changes. 


The word “want” means “lack.”  Most of us have been trained to say “I want this, I want that.”  Doing so, you are telling your Self a story of lack.  "I don't have enough."

Start saying:  “I have X, I have Y; I can turn X into A, and Y into B; I can invest A and B; I can…”

As Alexander Green wrote in Beyond Wealth:

“Positive visualization helps you get what you want.  Negative visualization helps you want what you get.”

Like attracts like.  The more you want, the more you want.  The more you have, the more you have.  Negative visualization helps you see just how much you have. 

When you realize what you have in your hands and what you can do with it, you understand why the Stoics called Nature Providence. 

Negative visualization helps you appreciate the Present – the Gift – and when you appreciate the Gift, the Gift appreciates.  

That's how negative visualization enables you to experience abundance, wealth and prosperity.  

Creating wealth is an inside job.  Its all in your power, but you won't know it until you try it.  


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