Perhaps many people will hear the word "negative capabilities" for the first time. To put it simply, it means "the ability to endure in the air without understanding what you do not understand". In what kind of situations can that ability really be useful?
The author is a psychiatrist who has worked in hospitals in Japan and France, and is a literary award-winning author. The author came across the term negative capability in a medical paper. It is a concept that the author has cherished since then.
The book begins with a history of the poet Keats, who is said to have used the term negative capability for the first time, and the life of Bion who used the concept in psychoanalysis. Furthermore, how important the negative capabilities are in creative activities, medical settings, education, etc. will be carefully discussed. It is a must-read content for those involved in medical care and education, and those who are engaged in creative activities. Even if it is not so, it can be said that the way of living and the way of facing people changes depending on whether or not this concept is known.
Negative capabilities that are said to have been effective in the field of end-of-life medical care, as well as making full use of Shakespeare and Murasaki Shikibu. As you learn how to respond to such a wide variety of situations, you will be obsessed with its charm like the author. And I think we can get hints for living a calm life in the present with high uncertainty.
Main points of this book
Negative capabilities mean "the ability to be in uncertainty, mystery, or skepticism without urgently asking for facts or reasons".
It is difficult to have negative capabilities because the human brain has the property of "dividing". However, it is important to stop the "easy-to-understand" attitude and aim for a deeper and deeper understanding through negative capabilities.
Negative capabilities are required not only in end-of-life care settings and psychiatrist services, but also in creative activities and educational settings.
What is Negative Capability?
Poet Keats and Psychoanalyst Bion
What is Negative Capability? That's what the English poet John Keats wrote to his brother. "The ability to be in uncertainty, mystery, and skepticism without asking for facts and reasons," he said. The word ability is usually used for understanding, solution, and coping, and we strive to acquire them.
The human brain also tends to "understand" things. And they tend to ask for hasty proofs and reasons. However, instead, he accepts himself in the dangling state and endures without understanding what he does not understand. This ability is the negative capability.
Keats notes that Shakespeare had negative capabilities. This was a word used in a private letter and in the field of literature. Wilfred R. Bion, a British psychoanalyst, brought it into the field of psychoanalysis. Bion claims: Psychoanalysts are required to have the attitude of not being urgent and having no reason or reason for the phenomena and words that occur with the patient. There is so much knowledge in psychoanalysis that psychoanalysts tend to apply theory to patients and try to understand them. To alert such an attitude, Bion proposed the concept of negative capabilities.
Negative capabilities and brain properties
Brain trying to divide
It is difficult to acquire negative capabilities. Because our brains naturally try to "divide" things. Humankind has made various efforts to "understand" in its history. Part of that is writing the world with symbols such as letters, numbers, and figures, and trying to find some consistent law. The popularity of how-to books can be said to be a manifestation of the attitude of trying to understand. However, there are many cases in which we have to stay with a very shallow understanding to "divide".
According to neuropsychologist Shigeo Yamatori, "understanding" has a shallow and deep understanding. What is easy to stop with shallow understanding is "superimpositional understanding", which tries to understand the whole by accumulating small understandings.
On the other hand, deep understanding is "heuristic understanding." This is an understanding that can be reached by repeating things by observing things according to your own hypothesis and testing the hypothesis. It is required to continue observing the dangling state without ignoring incomprehensible things or giving quick answers. In other words, deep understanding comes from negative capabilities.
Music and painting are examples of how the brain, who wants to understand, suffers when it does something it doesn't understand. When they first come into contact with classical music and abstract paintings, many say they don't understand. However, it is music and abstract painting that appeal to the senses on a higher level after refusing to understand. The brain may feel the joy of evolution, freed from the desire to "understand."
[Must read point!] Negative capabilities and medical care
Negative capabilities and end-of-life care
Modern medical education tries to find a patient's problem as soon as possible and try to solve it promptly. In other words, it is the “positive capability” that is the opposite of the negative capability.
The medical records are also written by SOAP, a method in line with positive capabilities. SOAP is an acronym for Subject, Object, Assessment, Plan. Refers to "subjective behavior and symptoms of the patient", "objective data obtained by the doctor's examination and examination", "judgment and evaluation from S and O", "plan for solution, treatment policy", respectively. .. This approach leads to early detection of problems and quick resolution.
However, in reality, there are cases where the problem cannot be found, it is too complicated, and there is no solution. For example, for patients with end-stage cancer, it can be said that there is no solution. When this happens, the attending physician, who has acquired only positive capabilities, feels helpless, and even going by the patient is painful.
Many may think that psychiatrists can support end-of-life medical care. In fact, the palliative team created with the new palliative care add-on consists of a doctor who relieves physical symptoms, a psychiatrist who is responsible for alleviating psychological symptoms, and a nurse who specializes in oncology. However, even for psychiatrists, dealing with end-of-life patients is different from the past.
Psychiatrists are accustomed to seeing patients who have anxiety other than "immediate death". For example, crowded panic attacks, fear of heights, and claustrophobia. Those with a diagnosis name are aware of coping methods such as psychotropic drugs and psychotherapy. In contrast, the anxiety experienced by end-of-life patients when they face death is normal anxiety. Therefore, the manual for coping method is not established.
"Nichiyaku" and "Eye drops"
End-patient distress is a mixture of mental and physical pain. "It is impossible to draw a line of how much this pain originates from the body and where it originates from the spirit."
Thus, when faced with end-of-life patients, psychiatrists have no choice but to treat them with negative capabilities. In other words, the patient's suffering is relieved by abandoning the existing knowledge, confronting the patient, listening to the words, and listening to each other. There is no technique here. There is only one person who is the attending physician and one who is the patient.
Palliative care includes not only patients themselves, but also families and bereaved families. All the doctor can do is to listen seriously and wait patiently for recovery. This is a great help for the bereaved. The author describes such prescription by the attending physician by the words "Nichiyaku" and "Eye drops". “Nichiyaku” means that “everything is not solved immediately, but somehow it will be solved in some way”. On the other hand, "eye drops" means "Your painful figure is seen only by my eyes, my doctor."
Negative capabilities and psychiatric treatment
Negative capabilities are effective not only in end-of-life care, but also in regular psychiatric practice. The author says that since the opening of the psychiatric clinic, the number of medical services such as "personal consultation" has increased. Due to the nature of "personal consultation," there are many problems that are elusive.
As he endures there, the author confronts the patient, telling him that he is a negative capability. According to this treatment policy, the patient can be encouraged and close to the patient even if the patient's condition is not cured. And it can prevent the patient himself from getting hurt any more. As with end-of-life care, it is important to prescribe "Nikaku" and "eye drops".
Positive mind and placebo effect
In addition to the tendency to "divide", the brain tends to "think positively". According to one study, the brain not only stores the memory of the past, but is reshaped by the image of the future. The brain activity is higher when one imagines a fun event in the future than when one thinks of a past event. By remembering a bright future, our brain tries to fill it with positive things rather than negative things.
It is widely known in modern medicine that the positive-minded brain exerts healing power on the mind and body as the "placebo effect". Research on the placebo effect began in earnest in the 1970s. However, research on the placebo effect was temporarily suspended due to hostile vision from drug companies and the difficulty of animal experiments. In the 21st century, the placebo effect was validated again in the medical and medical fields, and the research is now active.
Some of the experimental results show that if you do not have a prior explanation and hope, it will not be effective. Considering this, it can be said that modern doctors have the aspect to follow the trend of traditional healers who make the most of the desired brain.
Negative capabilities and creative activities
Source of creative activity
Negative capabilities are very important in creative activities. Keats discovered his negative capabilities through his own creative activities and respect for Shakespeare.
In one study, the cognitive forms of artist creativity are divided into six dimensions. One of those dimensions is "personality." Its characteristics are "to endure ambiguous situations" and "ability to wait for pieces to be balanced and united". This is just like a negative capability. In this book, Shotaro Ikenami, Shakespeare, and Murasaki Shikibu are taken as examples to explain in detail the relationship between negative capabilities and creative activities. I would like to transfer the details to this document.
Negative capabilities and education
Modern education emphasizes positive capabilities
In modern Japan, education is believed to be "improving problem-solving skills." All curriculum examinations and job-hunting skills require problem-solving skills. However, when problem solving itself is emphasized, it tends to simplify the problem when setting the problem. Simplified problems deviate from reality.
It is also the teacher's intention to deal with simplified problems. This is because that way you can teach the "answer" faster. In addition, there are "achievement goals" depending on the grade. As a result, both teachers and parents are urgently demanding their children's understanding for the time being. This leaves no room for negative capabilities.
The fun and essence of learning is that "the more you learn, the more the unknown world expands," and "the more you learn, the more you continue to find that way." In other words, it is a posture that constantly faces reality by using negative capabilities. From this point of view, it can be seen that the education of modern Japan deviates from the original education.
Recommendation of reading
The recapitulators were keenly aware of how negative capabilities exercise their power in creating new things when faced with difficult problems to solve in life. In the final chapter of this book, the relationship between "tolerance," which is the source of peace, and negative capabilities will become clear. At the end, there is a touch of excitement that makes you think, "This is the emergence of negative capabilities."
I would like you to know the negative power and the depth of negative capabilities that form the basis of empathy, while touching the author's emotional text.