Why We Dwell on Negatives
Since returning to work this week following the festive break, I’ve spoken to a few people who are feeling decidedly negative about the upcoming months, even though each has been able to clearly state several positive things that are happening right now or are coming up in the near future.
In this week’s newsletter, I want to explain why we often have a tendency to dwell on the negatives whilst ignoring the positive things that are happening in our lives.
1. Negativity Bias
One theme that repeatedly runs through my work is that our brains are designed for survival, and, let’s face it, it’s incredibly good at it; otherwise, we wouldn’t have made this far as a species.
We have survived so long because we can sense threats, adapt quickly and deal with them effectively.
To that end, our brains actively seek out the things that could be potentially harmful to us. This explains precisely why we can dwell on one negative comment on social media or one small thing that our boss said that upset us and ignore the other 50 fabulous things.
To our subconscious mind, positive comments pose no threat to our survival, and therefore, it serves little purpose for us to dwell on them. However, negative ones do. This is called… NEGATIVITY BIAS.
As I’ve said many times before…
Our subconscious mind cannot distinguish between a real-life physical threat and a vividly imagined one.
An imagined threat may be a message from our boss saying they want to speak to us urgently, a mean comment on social media, panicking about paying bills or worrying about potential job loss. All of these things, whilst unpleasant, are not life-threatening. However, our nervous system doesn’t know that and so reacts by triggering our fight, flight, freeze, fawn response as it would if we were in real physical danger.
2. The Reticular Activating System
Our brains are like a seek-and-find missile. Whatever we focus on, we will get more of – positive or negative.
There’s a part of the brain called the reticular activating system, which vigorously searches for everything related to what we tell it is important to us. To sum this up, we get more of what we focus on.
We’ve all seen our RAS in action when we bought a new car/dress/suit, and suddenly, it seems to everywhere! Alternatively, we may hear a new word that seems to pop up in almost every conversation thereafter.
The purpose of the RAS is to wade through the tonnes of information that bombard us daily and highlight what’s important to us based on where we place our focus.
Therefore, if you continually dwell on negatives, not only are you building a strong neural pathway for negativity (making thinking negatively easier), but you will seemingly attract more negative people and situations to you. Over time, your nervous system will likely become dysregulated, potentially identifying threats where there aren’t any or disproportionally escalating things unnecessarily.
In summary, we get more of what we focus on. If you tell your subconscious that something is important to you (and you do that by bringing attention to it), it will filter everything else out. So, get into the habit of showing your brain what you want, not what you don’t.
For more information on how I can help you clear the blocks and resistance that are stopping your from achieving the life you deserve, contact me to arrange a complimentary 15-minute discovery call – email, firstname.lastname@example.org.