“Negative enumeration” is sequential numbering and naming but from a contrary or negative position. Two of the most influential examples of negative enumeration are the 10 Commandments (“Thou shalt not …”) and the US Constitution (“Congress shall make no law …).
In societies, negative enumeration is less about telling people what to do and not to do and more about how an institution can not determine your intrinsic rights and value. Negative enumeration reminds you of what is inherently yours: autonomy, choice, freedom of expression.
In our personal sovereignty and growth, negative enumeration reminds us of what we don’t want in our lives, relationships, careers. For me, it has been a helpful reminder of my tendencies towards self-inflicted (and therefore, optional) suffering. Negative enumeration has helped me remember that I can always choose my perspective, that my ego-mind is rarely right and that a little contemplativeness goes a long way in dealing with head chatter.
Negative enumeration can also serve as a “Fuck it” List, which is the opposite of a Bucket List: an accounting of all of the things you DO NOT want to do. This helps establish boundaries and plan your life around what feels right for you, not social pressure or expectations of others.
In pondering this idea, I came up with 12 Do Nots that have guided my life in the past year and moving forward into the future.
- Do not mix truth and deceit. I did this for years. Although I recognize it was a form of self-protection, it also was highly arrogant and ultimately painful to myself and others. Now, I am consciously trying to practice radical honesty and micro-honesty.
- Do not approach your problems with passivity. The other version of this is “own your shit.” This speaks to being strategic, taking decisive action and not living life in a defensive posture. It’s ok to ask for help, but it’s not ok to assume that someone is going to rescue you from your problems.
- Do not feed your own insecurities. This reminds us that many of our insecurities are bolstered by the stories we tell ourselves. These stories produce habits or behaviors that make the insecurities even more intense. We all have insecurities but let’s not make them worse with our own behaviors.
- Do not put math before meaning. This is a reminder to see the proper value of things – and that no amount of financial gain is worth our soul and our dignity. It helps us think from the heart and feel our way through decisions and prioritizations.
- Do not apply force to things that require faith. Yes, be decisive and bold. But also trust the timing of things. You can’t make a flower bloom faster. For me, this has meant replacing striving with receptivity and helps me remember to experience things, not just endure them.
- Do not love the idea of someone. This has been a huge reminder for me. I’ve had the tendency to romanticize, idealize and idolize people – especially women. Consciousness helps you see the real person and love them – not the idea of what they represent to you. This is an essential element of conscious relationships. If you love the idea more than the person, you are not in a conscious relationship.
- Do not consume more than you create. This is a reminder to practice essentialism and simplicity. I practice this with clothing items. Whenever I buy a new piece of clothing or shoes, I give something away to Goodwill. It also reminds us that an essential part of every person’s mission is to create things.
- Do not make it difficult for others to do the right thing. This applies to stupid laws and policies. It also reminds us that we, as my business partner Emily says, teach people how to treat us.
- Do not have more theories than practices. This is a reminder that knowing how to do something and actually doing it are separate things. It also warns us to be aware of cognitive dissonance and hypocrisy.
- Do not become resentful and call it righteousness. This reminds us to practice grace, nuance and discernment when dealing with others. It also reminds us that self-righteousness is caustic, destructive and distances us from our humanity and the humanity of others.
- Do not pose yourself as an expert in areas where you have no experience. This one is for all of the internet “researchers” – especially those who spread lies that lead to suffering and death. Or the bloviating arm-chair quarterbacks of any area of expertise.
- Do not minimize yourself to be accepted. Yes, be flexible. Yes, be adaptable. But as soon as we reduce ourselves, we lose ourselves and begin to participate in tyranny. Another version: do not modify to mollify.
There is a 13th one …
Do not worry about what other people are thinking when they read your stuff. But maybe that’s one that’s just for me. 🤓