Mind Renovation – Day 17- Neutralize the Negative

In life two negatives don’t make a positive. Why does it seem easier to critique than compliment? Why do we remember negative events or comments quicker than positive ones? Why is it easier to point out what’s wrong more than what’s right? Why are we drawn to defaming gossip than good news? Why does it impact us greater to lose $100 than to find $100? Why is there 62% more emotionally negative words compared to 32% positive in the English dictionary? (Are we hardwired to be positive or negative?)

“In life two negatives don’t make a positive. Double negatives turn positive only in math and formal logic.” – Robert McKee 

2 negatives don't make a positive

Scientists say it is our natural NEGATIVITY bias. I was astounded to learn about these scientific studies. The “Negativity Bias” is explained by saying, “Things of a more negative nature (e.g. unpleasant thoughts, emotions, or social interactions; harmful/traumatic events) have a greater effect on one’s psychological state and processes than do neutral or positive things.” (Negativity bias)

In our brains, there are two different systems for negative and positive stimuli. The amygdala uses approximately two thirds of its neurons to detect negative experiences, and once the brain starts looking for bad news, it is stored into long-term memory quickly. Positive experiences have to be held in our awareness for more than 12 seconds in order for the transfer from short-term to long-term memory.  Rick Hanson describes it in this way: “The brain is like Velcro for negative experiences but Teflon for positive ones.”

You may have experienced this yourself. For example, you spend a lovely day with a friend or spouse. You visit your favorite coffee shop and belly laugh sharing funny moments from the week. You then stroll down the sidewalk, and help an elderly lady cross the street. After viewing a much anticipated movie premiere, you enjoy your favorite dinner and dessert. While driving home you argue over a misunderstanding and end the evening with an argument. Though you agree to disagree, you feel defeated–even though you had many more positive experiences during the day than the one negative. The negative stands out as stronger to your emotions. This is the negativity bias.  Continue reading…