N2; Normalizing Negativity

Our primal mind tends to gravitate towards the negatives as a way to keep us alert. This was pivotal for the cave humans whose lives were at stake as they had to face wild animals and other dangers especially when they went out to hunt for food. However, for us, the modern human in 2022, this may be a bit overwhelming since our survival does not depend on the day’s hunting, but rather on our nearest supermarket; yet we are still equipped with the same brain architecture. Therefore, we have proportionally more negative emotions in our arsenal rather than positives, but fewer reasons to be alerted compared to the cave humans.

Considering the comfort that is available to live in, some people created a “bubble” to protect their comfort. Nonetheless, this protection requires them to bolster their wall. One of the ways is to play the victim card and blame other people instead of providing the time and space to borrow other people’s lenses of seeing the world and if possible explore new worlds. 

By unconsciously creating these negative thinking patterns we perpetuate them by the secondary gains which come with them. In simple terms, based on the pain and pleasure principle, people continue a behavior when the behavior provides them some pleasure. In this case, the secondary gains are the bonuses that come from this behavior. Therefore, what pleasure can someone get from negativity? Let me name a few:

  • Familiarity; people tend to prefer a situation that is known to them, even if it is negative because they believe that they can control the outcome
  • Hormones; dopamine and adrenaline are some of the hormones which may be released when we are feeling angry and/or excited leading to being addicted to the experience of these feelings 
  • Meaning; people want meaning in their lives, coloring with drama a situation gives meaning to their lives (click for suggested reading

All of these can propel us to normalize negative thinking and attitude without realizing it. Even worse, normalizing negativity can create a loop and feelings of being stuck which may stem constant feelings of sadness, vanity, and depression. Therefore, people and some professionals believe that to balance negativity we should think more positively; which it’s no surprise does not necessarily work. 

As Derren Brown charmingly explains, thinking positively can have a negative effect when we’re feeling like we have failed. He expands on this by saying that the way we defined optimism conveys that the reason we have failed is that we haven’t believed enough in ourselves. Inevitably, we circle back and blame ourselves believing that if we had believed more, then, we would not have failed. This is not necessarily true since other factors, which are out of our control, may have contributed to that outcome.

Facts are facts, meaning that what happens to us or to the world is neither positive nor negative (click for suggested reading ). We color them based on our experiences, values, and way of processing outside information. Therefore, we need to have a tool that functions as a beneficiary to you even when things do not go the way you wished for or against your comfort and the way you planned your life. The key is to control what you can control (i.e., your thoughts).