Does absence negate negative presence?

16 Jun

You might be puzzled by the title of this blog posting:  Does absence negate negative presence?  Permit me to explain and then I’d love to hear your perspective. (And yes, I agree that it’s a nerdy statement!)

In mathematics, the negation of a negative number (in other words a double negative) turns a number into a positive.

In chemistry, when you add an equal and opposite amount of protons to electrons you end up with a neutral (and in balance) state.

This led me to the question: what happens in life when a negative situation changes (or disappears) — does its absence change the state to a positive one?

In other words, does the absence of, say verbal abuse, negate the abuse in the first place?  Pretty heady stuff for a Wednesday don’t you think?

I was talking today to my friend Joanne, who was a longtime victim of verbal abuse so insidious that she never even realized it was happening.  After years of unhappiness that she deemed (and her partner willingly agreed) was due to her own inability to make herself happy, a counselor told her that she was the perfect muse for her narcissistic husband because she was co-dependent (and even addicted) to his verbal abuse.

I say insidious because a few weeks ago she read me a list of the symptoms from Patricia Adams’ “The Verbally Abusive Relationship” and she didn’t recognize any of them (even though she had mentioned them all individually over the last five years I’ve known her).  She was so immune to and so accustomed to her ex-husband’s treatment that she had completely lost her perspective. Now don’t get me wrong, she was not coerced into the marriage and everyone (including me) liked her ex-husband.

Today, Joanne confided that it’s not all honey and roses in her new life.  She says it’s a relief not to bear a constant barrage of negative comments – but in the same breath concedes that perhaps her former life wasn’t all that bad.  Huh?  Wasn’t all that bad?  Wake up Joanne!

Isn’t that a strange thing for her to say? By this time, I thought she’d be dancing in the streets about her new-found freedom!  I point out all the great things in her new life and her potential, yet somehow she doesn’t always share that joy.

So, I wonder, shouldn’t the absence of a force that contributed greatly to her unhappiness create happiness?  Or does such absence leave a void or a vacuum that must be filled by something equally positive? (Think of removing dirt from a hole and not filling it in.)

Any words of wisdom I can convey to her?  What would you say to Joanne the next time she isn’t celebrating?

Wishing you a prosperous and happy week!


Carol Dekkers, Software Measurement and Global Software Development expert, author, speaker. Want to engage Carol to be a speaker at your next event? Email Ms. Dekkers at or or visit for details.

Copyright Carol Dekkers 2010…

2 Responses to “Does absence negate negative presence?”

  1. Steve Chizar Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 8:24 am #

    If she isn’t going to recognize that her previous situation was bad, I don’t know if you can say anything. As with any negativity, you have to recognize the problem before you can address it. She could jus t be so comfortable in the status quo that she doesn’t want to leave the secutiry of knowing what lies ahead. She may have bee abused, but she was comfortable with that being the way things are and now that it has changed, she is uncomfortable with the change. Maybe if you got her to recognize the goodness of the change and get her comfortable with it, you could help her that way.


    • Carol Dekkers Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 10:18 am #

      Steve, good advice. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head so to speak when you said:

      She may have been abused, but she was comfortable with that being the way things are and now that it has changed, she is uncomfortable with the change.”

      I forget that change is hard for all of us and I’ll try your tactic of recognizing the goodness of the change and see what happens!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: