#26 Overcome Negativity Part 1: The Source, Reasons, and Effects of Negativity

What happens to you when you are with someone who is negative? You know who I mean – the guy or gal who complains more than compliments, finds more wrongs than rights in the world, assumes the worst, and counters any glimmer of hope with a “but….” None of us is immune to negativity, and few, if any, enjoy being with people who are. “Overcome Negativity Part 1” explains the origins and necessity of negativity, why it’s so easy to be negative, and the effects of being negative. “Overcome Negativity Part 2″ shows you how to overcome your own negativity and “Overcome Negativity Part 3” helps you understand other people’s negativity and how to overcome it. Read on so you can be more positive and happier!

It’s Easier to See Other People’s Negativity More Than Your Own

It’s easy to see how negative other people are, but we are less inclined to see it in ourselves. We often overlook our own negativity and label it as venting, being realistic, or unhealed wounds resulting from an injustice, aka “victimization.” All of us have negative moments. However, if you find you habitually do any of the following, you may be more negative than you realize.

  • Routinely use negative contractions (can’t, won’t don’t, etc.)
  • Dread rather than anticipate the future
  • Smile less
  • Commonly use foul language
  • Are quick to judge and criticize
  • Are easily offended
  • Tend to help people by pointing out what’s wrong with them
  • Express your opinions like they are facts

We are designed to look forward and assess what we see. Therefore, it’s unnatural for us to look inward and evaluate ourselves. Many times our introspection is just a quick glance into the way other people made us feel. (Example – If your perfectionist mother criticized you or perfected a task you had already done, you’ll feel like you’re not good enough.) Your focus would most likely be on how negative your mother was and not the negative behaviors you’ve adopted to overcome your feeling of being unacceptable.

If the people in charge of our development were negative, our chances are more significant. Growing up in a hostile environment conditions us to be more at ease with negativity. It becomes a way of life so that we don’t recognize it as negativity. We view it as survival.

Negativity Defined

Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language 1829 version defines negative:  Implying denial or negation (a declaration that something is not; opposed to affirmation); Implying absence; opposed to positive.

 We practice negativity when we deny, avoid, and disregard. When there is an absence of joy, peace, love, freedom, satisfaction, contentment, and gratitude, we are negative. To live negatively means we’re left with nothing that adds to our existence. We are not happy.

Positivity Defined

The same dictionary defines positive as properly set; direct; absolute; real; existing in fact; confident; fully assured.

Positivity occurs when we practice what is right and just – when we honor, empathize, respect, encourage, are accountable, trustworthy, and grateful. When there is a presence of joy, peace, love, freedom, satisfaction, and contentment, we are optimistic. Thus, we live with an abundance that enriches our lives. We live beyond our nature in the spiritual realm of consciousness, where we bring God’s love into our hearts and recognize our blessings. We are happy.

Why It’s Easy to Be Negative

Inarguably, most people like positivity. But how many people are truly that way? It’s easier to be negative, and here’s why:

  1. We are born in survival mode.
  2. Negativity bias.
  3. We wake up in our nature every day.
  4. Negativity is extremely contagious.
  5. Marketing strategies make consumers feel bad and covertly instill fear.
  6. Social media and news media overload us with negative hype and misleading information.

Born in Survival Mode

About 28 days after conception, the neural tube forms — the beginning of our brain and spinal cord. Like every living organism, once we exist, we want to continue that existence. So, the first part of our brain that forms is the sensory area. This intuitive part of our brain functions below our level knowledge. It operates behind the scenes and is called the subconscious mind. This area is our storehouse for memories and it regulates our heart rate, breathing, digestion, alertness, and wakefulness. It also senses and alerts us to danger.  Therefore, it is the source for our survival emotions of fear, anger, and contempt.

Fear alerts us to threats and positions us to fight back, take flight, or freeze (play dead). Anger and contempt allow us to dominate others through intimidation without compunction. These primal instincts promote the existence of lawless groups. They are akin to jungle law. Needless to say, living this way is destructive.

Our conscious mind doesn’t activate until after we are born. It takes several months of infant development before we can process conscious thoughts. Therefore, our survival emotions have at least an 8-month head start. We even experience these negative emotions before we are born. While they are necessary for our existence, they cause us to feel bad and behave badly. Born in survival mode makes us naturally negative.

Negativity Bias

We get a greater physical and emotional charge in our brains when we experience adverse events than when we experience positive ones. Our brains are formed to be more sensitive to negative situations. Studies by Dr. John Cacioppo at The University of Ohio showed, “the brain reacts more strongly to stimuli it deems negative. There is a greater surge in electrical activity. Thus, our attitudes are more heavily influenced by downbeat news than good news.”

Think about it; say someone at work gave you a random gift one morning. One hour later, your boss comes to you and criticizes you with a snarly remark. What event will you contemplate longer?

Researchers speculate a reason we have such an intense reaction to negative situations is to ensure our survival. Early on, humans had to be keenly aware of the dangers threatening their existence. Therefore, our brain developed a safety system to sense and remember trouble quickly. The more fixed the memory, the better our chances of preventing injury or death. And the better chance of perpetuating our species.

Whenever we have a bad experience with others the memory can become fixed. The intensity of these kinds of memories can cause us to hold grudges, keep score with others, feel the need to seek justice and revenge, and perpetuate a bad mood.

We Wake up in Our Nature

The conscious mind sleeps. We become unconscious, but our body continues to function. Our subconscious mind does not sleep.

Otherwise, our vital functions would stop. Therefore, every morning we wake up, we wake in survival mode, aka our nature. How many of us are incoherent and grumpy before we have our coffee? We are more alert after our conscious brain gets activated. It is easier then for our survival emotions to take the lead.

Negativity is Contagious

It takes no more than one second to react to a negative person. We naturally assess people for safety by reading their faces and body language. Then, using our emotional instincts, we get a sense about them. Therefore, a negative person doesn’t even have to say anything for us to react. When we sense someone is negative, we don’t feel safe. We don’t trust an angry or contemptible person. And, we can’t count on someone laden with sadness. Therefore, to ensure our safety and security, we try to correct other people’s negative by countering it.

We automatically counter people’s negative attitudes, moods, behaviors, or comments by responding with something positive. It’s usually futile. Behavioralists’ studies and Dr. Cacioppo’s results have quantified a positive to negative ratio. It is 5:1. For every negative comment someone makes, you need five positive comments to affect a positive change. Imagine if the person made three successive negative comments. You would have to come up with 15 positive counter comments. The chore this presents is too exhausting and frustrating. So, you lose or “if you can’t beat ’em, you join ’em.”

Marketing Strategies Instill Negativity

Ads have pervaded the countryside, highway systems, television, radio, internet, and media. A free-market society and capitalism are productive. But, ad campaigns have surged. Back in the day, we used to see maybe one or two ads during a commercial break. Now, 12-15 ads dart by during the four-plus minute commercial break.

The quickness and repetition of commercial ads give us little time to think. Therefore, they emotionally connect to us via our subconscious mind where they get stored.

Memories get stored in our subconscious minds through pain and repetition. We remember pain (except childbirth) to prevent us from repeating things that could harm or kill us. It is how we preserve our species. We also fix memories into our subconscious is through repetition. Practicing something until we can do it without thinking means it is locked into our subconscious mind.

Many of today’s marketing strategies use pain and repetition. They remind us of the problem we have or threaten us with the pain of feeling unacceptable while they promise their products will bring us relief and happiness. Ads are also grossly repeated. Marketing is so prevalent and powerful that it fuels our negativity without us even realizing it.

News Media Incites Negativity

When I think of the devil, I no longer picture a demon in a red suit with horns and a forked tail holding a pitchfork. I see social and news media. You know, the infamous FB, bluebird, TV stations, and online tabloids.

What happened to Joe Friday’s famous directive, “Just the facts ma’am”? Today’s news facts vary from source to source which creates skepticism. And the news media has gone beyond sensationalism to a perverted level of degeneracy. Surveys indicate that people become more anxious and agitated when they watch the news.

According to Graham Davy, Ph.D. Psychology Sussex University and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Experimental Psychopathology, “The way that news is presented and the way that we access news has changed significantly over the last 15 to 20 years. These changes have often been detrimental to general mental health.” He goes on to say that today’s news is “increasingly visual and shocking.”

Videos from smartphones and the like give the news a sense of immediacy and urgency. Dr. Davey indicates this medium for information can be so intense that it can cause acute stress symptoms—like problems sleeping, mood swings, aggressive behavior, or PTSD. (www.Time.com)

Social Media is a Catalyst for Negativity

Social Media includes news from “friends.” Some of the stories we see from our friends remind us of what we don’t have, so we focus on our absences. We are left in a negative orbit. When we give too much attention to what is absent in our lives, we feel lonely and deem ourselves failures.

It isn’t easy to discern reality on Social Media. Anyone can take pictures being happy and make their lives look perfect. Happiness indicates successful living. So, who would want to advertise their miserable existence? Anyone who does will most assuredly blame it on someone or something else.

Social media can also be a medium for cyber violence. It’s easy for a perpetrator to hide behind a screen and mouse to attack someone. Therefore, people are easily assaulted and threatened on social media.

Our negative bias makes people eager to share negative information. We call this gossiping and deriding. These are common practices in both news and social media, which oppose what God teaches us – to be kind and encourage one another.

Negativity is Easy, Powerful, and a Choice

The ease and power of negativity can defeat an individual, couple, family, community, and society. While it’s easier to be negative than positive, we all can change our course and live our lives with optimism and fullness. God has given us this ability and the freedom to choose how we live.

We have been saved from the snares of negativity. But, to be directly set, fully assured, and have complete fullness, we must follow our Savior, Jesus Christ, and believe God’s word. God’s word is absolute. It is positive truth.

There are no absences when you live in the word through Jesus Christ. It is the way to a more positive life and outcome. God gave us the ability to set our course, but we decide where we want to go.

Learn more on how to overcome negativity in yourself and others in my next posts. Blessed be you!

Overcome Negativity Part 1: Source, Reasons, and Effects of Negativity