I learned from a friend in college that we learn a vast amount of knowledge about what a thing is by deciding what it isn’t. Compare and contrast.
As children, we learn that sweet is not sour or salty or bitter. Hot is not cold or cool or warm or wet or dry. Loud is not quiet or pretty or old or young. Blue is blue… it is not red, yellow, orange, green, purple, black, white, or gray.
Without a lifetime of experience, memory, and association, we learn to define what a thing is by what it isn’t. A child might not be able to tell you why blue is their favorite color, because he or she doesn’t know how to even describe what blue is, where it comes from, what it means, or how it affects them.
In my childhood, boys rejected the color pink because of what it wasn’t. Pink wasn’t a “boy color”. It represented something not boy. It represented girl. So we avoided a thing we didn’t understand because it didn’t seem like it represented us or who we wanted to be.
At varying stages of our personal development, we will enter what is often considered a “negative” mindset where we reject this and that and that because it’s not what we want. We don’t know what it is that we DO want, but we begin defining it by knowing what we don’t want.
People on the outside don’t often recognize this as a phase, so we are interpreted as a negative person.
I think this is what individuation is, though. We participate in the provided systems of our parents, our schools, our jobs, our social groups, and our governments, until we begin recognizing inconsistencies that don’t resonate with our being. Those inconsistencies add up until, partly through the process of elimination, we arrive at a vague notion of a thing we actually do desire and agree with.