Negative visualization

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Negative visualization or futurorum malorum præmeditatio[1][2] (Latin, literally, pre-studying bad future) is a method of meditative praxis or askēsis by visualization of the worst-case scenario(s). The method originated with the Cyreanic philosophers[3] and was later adopted by Stoic philosophers. The technique was made popular with publications of Seneca the Younger's Epistulae Morales ad Lucilium.[1] It is thought to have been one of the common forms of Stoic spiritual exercises.[4][5]

Unlike the general focus of creative visualization of inducing an imaginary positive psychological and physiologic response, negative visualization focuses on training the practitioner on the negative outcomes of realistic life scenarios to desensitize or create psychological fitness in preparation for real-life losses and also to induce feelings of gratitude towards the real things or actual status that the practitioner has.[6][7] The severeness of negative visualization range from as mild as thinking of a minor inconvenience, e.g. having to abandon a minor pleasure, to as severe as total immersion in an imagined scenario in which the worst fear(s) of the practitioner has (have) really occurred, e.g. the loss of resources, status or life.[8][9]

In the 21st century, inspired by English translations of Seneca's Epistulae Morales ad Lucilium, several Anglophone Stoics coined the expression "negative visualization" and gave it the Dog-Latin expression "premeditatio malorum", often without providing citations.[10][11][6][8][12][9][13] Before that, the expression "negative visualization" had negative connotations of being the opposite of rhetorical or self-help creative visualization.[14][15][16][17][18][19][20] According to accounts of some modern Stoics, negative visualization has been adopted by cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and similar psychosocial approaches to psychotherapy,[11] a claim supported by some licensed psychologists[21][22] although it has mostly been adopted by pop psychologists in the Anglosphere.[23][24]

Modern Stoics advise practicing negative visualization daily at a set time, such as early in the morning or late at night.[7][12] In the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius Book II.I, the author recommends to himself that he performs the following negative visualization in the early morning:

Betimes in the morning say to thyself, This day I shalt have to do with an idle curious man, with an unthankful man, a railer, a crafty, false, or an envious man; an unsociable uncharitable man. All these ill qualities have happened unto them, through ignorance of that which is truly good and truly bad. But I that understand the nature of that which is good, that it only is to be desired, and of that which is bad, that it only is truly odious and shameful: who know moreover, that this transgressor, whosoever he be, is my kinsman, not by the same blood and seed, but by participation of the same reason, and of the same divine particle; How can I either be hurt by any of those, since it is not in their power to make me incur anything that is truly reproachful? or angry, and ill affected towards him, who by nature is so near unto me? for we are all born to be fellow-workers, as the feet, the hands, and the eyelids; as the rows of the upper and under teeth: for such therefore to be in opposition, is against nature; and what is it to chafe at, and to be averse from, but to be in opposition?[25]

Mortality salience[edit]

Seneca's Epistulae Morales ad Lucilium advise Lucilius Junior to meditate on death.[1][26] Later, Epictetus was reported by his students in his Discourses to advise reminding oneself of the impermanent nature of things and the mortality of living beings.[27] Memento mori (Latin 'remember death'), or contemplation of death, is considered by the Stoics to be one form of negative visualization, since it trains the practitioner of the inevitability of death, whether that of the practitioner, of one's loved ones, or of everyone.[28][29]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (1607). Ad Lucilium epistolarum liber M. Antonii notis, Ferdinandi Pinciani castigationibus, Erasmi Roterodami annotationibus, Joannis Obsopoei collectaneis, Jani Gruteri et Fr. Jureti animadversionibus illustratus (in Latin). Foillet.
  2. ^ Delbrun, Pierre (1675). Le grand dictionaire royal du P. Pierre Delbrun de la Compagnie de Iesus. Pour composer avec pureté, elegance et facilité de françois en latin: ... Enrichi d'vn seconde dictionaire, pour composer aisement & exactement de latin en grec. Avec vn traité des accents, des esprits & de la syntaxe grecque: \1! (in French).
  3. ^ Cicero, Tusculan Disputations Book III, Chapters XIII and XV
  4. ^ Foucault, Michel (1999). Religion and Culture. Manchester University Press. ISBN 978-0719054679.
  5. ^ Foucault, Michel; Lotringer, Sylvère (1997). The Politics of Truth. Semiotext(e). ISBN 978-1570270277.
  6. ^ a b Law, Stephen (2019). What Am I Doing with My Life?: And other late night internet searches answered by the great philosophers. Random House. ISBN 978-1473567931.
  7. ^ a b Irvine, William B. (2008). A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0199705566.
  8. ^ a b Tenumah, Amas (2019). Joyful Stoic. Bien Publishing. ISBN 978-0578221540.
  9. ^ a b Pigliucci, Massimo; Lopez, Gregory (2019). A Handbook for New Stoics: How to Thrive in a World Out of Your Control – 52 Week-by-Week Lessons. The Experiment. ISBN 978-1615195343.
  10. ^ Auslegung. University of Kansas. 2001.
  11. ^ a b Pigliucci, Massimo (2017). How to Be a Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life. Basic Books. ISBN 978-0465097968.
  12. ^ a b Williams, James W. (18 June 2020). Stoicism: The Timeless Wisdom to Living a Good life – Develop Grit, Build Confidence, and Find Inner Peace. SD Publishing LLC.
  13. ^ Holiday, Ryan (2014). The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph. Penguin. ISBN 978-1101620595.
  14. ^ Randolph, Keith (1984). Creative Visualization. Llewellyn Worldwide. ISBN 978-0875423531.
  15. ^ Masterson, John T.; Beebe, Steven A.; Watson, Norman H. (1989). Invitation to Effective Speech Communication. Scott, Foresman. ISBN 978-0673185655.
  16. ^ Mason, L. John (1986). Guide to Stress Reduction. Ten Speed Press. ISBN 978-0890874523.
  17. ^ Sellnow, Deanna D. (2002). Public Speaking: A Process Approach. Harcourt College Publishers. ISBN 978-0155075573.
  18. ^ McCroskey, James C. (2001). An Introduction to Rhetorical Communication. Allyn and Bacon. ISBN 978-0205317226.
  19. ^ Germanson, Susan R. (2001). Ouch! Life Can Hurt, But Healing Is Your Choice. Vantage Press. ISBN 978-0533134816.
  20. ^ Makay, John J. (2000). Public Speaking: Theory Into Practice. Kendall Hunt Publishing Company. ISBN 978-0757517464.
  21. ^ O'Connell, Samantha S. (2010). Challenging the Taboo of Negative Thinking: Positive Effects of Negative Visualization for Defensively Pessimistic Athletes. Suffolk University.
  22. ^ PhD, Roland A. Carlstedt (2012). Evidence-Based Applied Sport Psychology: A Practitioner's Manual. Springer Publishing Company. ISBN 978-0826105530.
  23. ^ Dern, Nate (2017). Not Quite a Genius. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-1501122224.
  24. ^ Green, Alexander (2011). Beyond Wealth: The Road Map to a Rich Life. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-1118078341.
  25. ^ Aurelius, Marcus. "Meditations" – via Wikisource.
  26. ^ Seneca. Moral letters to Lucilius (Epistulae morales ad Lucilium).
  27. ^ Epictetus. Epictetus, the Discourses as reported by Arrian, the Manual, and Fragments.
  28. ^ Robertson, Donald (2018). The Philosophy of Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT): Stoic Philosophy as Rational and Cognitive Psychotherapy. Routledge. ISBN 978-0429907517.
  29. ^ Press, Stoic Lifestyle (2019). Memento Mori: A Stoic Journal and Stoicism Notebook. Independently Published. ISBN 978-1671198500.