The negativity bias (also known as the negativity effect) refers to the notion that, even when of equal intensity, 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. In other words, something very positive will generally have less of an impact on a person’s behavior and cognition than something equally emotional but negative.
When asked to recall a recent emotional event, people tend to report negative events more often than they report positive events, and this is thought to be because these negative memories are more salient than are the positive memories. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negativity_bias
If you were to ask fifty people in a group that is face to face, “are you happy?” most people will answer quickly that they are. But underneath, you will find that most people are not happy as happiness is one of those elusive feelings. We think we are happy, but if you start to think you are happy, these nasty little negative thoughts worm their way into your frame of reference. Couple that with the fact that most people have experience a disproportional amount of unpleasantness, and for some trauma, by the time they reach early adulthood. We are the walking wounded.
But not everyone is a negative-Nellie. I have been searching for so many answers in the last years. This includes my question of how is that some people just seem naturally happy? Are they oblivious to the world, which by the way is not very nice? My inquiry has led me to conclusion that it is a choice. It takes focus, patience and a lot of fortitude to have a quiet, calm and pleasant demeanor.
It also takes solitude and time to process input because negativity comes at you without your choice. We are flooded with input which is judgmental, sadistic and hateful. Information is disguised as humor is measured in the failure of others and how quick we are to place blame for their mistakes. In actuality, the humor comes from the relief that we are not the victim of the joke.
When I think of someone who is truly happy and content, the only people I think who really reach that state are people who are cloistered. It is easy to be happy and content when you live unaffected and separate yourself from the reality of the world. Peace comes from having all your needs being met in a secluded and secure environment. (This is one reason why recidivism is so high.)
I am striving to change many things in my life for the better. I know I do not have a lot of time to turn around sixty years. I also do not want to be one of those people who are so guru-like that they become annoying. I doubt my demeanor will ever reach that state. I have too much of a sense of humor not to see the idiocies of humans as amusing, including myself. I do not watch TV. I rarely listen or look at the news. I figure I surround myself with enough catastrophe proclaimers that if something really awful was coming they would tell me. Not that there would be much I could do about it, so why worry? I admit that I have isolated myself these past months. I even moved my office to a much more secluded area at work, which has been wonderful. I only see the people who have intent to see me. My other office was like being on display all the time. I stopped seeing anyone connected to “working on myself.” I found that it was like being tethered to my past and that I was never going to get on with it if I kept dragging up issues that I cannot change now. Besides, I am the only one who can really have an impact on my being.
Instead of being stuck in the past, I am trying to improve the future. I have ideas of what I would like to achieve in the future, but I am not putting a goal on them. I do not want to be intimidated by a point of measure. It sort of defeats the purpose. Instead, I think of it as a pathway, a direction to go in.
I am also including a huge amount of forgiveness in my work. I hold on to things. That is the basis for the negativity bias. We all automatically process in the negative domain. It takes time to reprogram our pathways to find alternative reactions. It is hard work.
An example of this is my health and weight issues. I am stuck in a cycle that I may never actually break. It is horrendous. (I know that is a big word) Seems that being fat creates being fat. There is a condition called metabolic syndrome which has many implications, but basically it is the construct that some people are predisposed to being fat. (I hate the word fat and it triggers all sort of things in me, btw) It also seems that there is a hormone called Adiponectin which is secreted in the blood which helps to regulate metabolism. However, the heavier you are, the more body fat you have, the less of this adiponectin you have circulating in your blood. Adiponectin has been postulated to play an important role in the modulation of glucose and lipid metabolism in insulin-sensitive tissues in both humans and animals. Decreased circulating adiponectin levels have been demonstrated in genetic and diet-induced murine models of obesity. http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/26/8/2442.full
It seems that this also is a marker for inflammation. In other words, the less adiponectin flowing, the more inflammation you have. How this pans out is that you can eat the same amount of calories as a skinny person, and the heavy person will gain weight no matter what. Add to the fact that your body is coursing with inflammation, which also adds water weight and will stop anyone from moving and viola….you have the perfect storm.
Here is an example of how negativity bias works: I took a break from writing at this point. I started going down this path of “Gee, people who read this will think I am looking for an excuse…” and down the negative path I skipped. It took a pause to realize, “I don’t care. I am writing this piece in hopes someone else might find something good in it. The facts are I am facing a pretty big mountain (no pun intended) but it is totally my choice how and what I do. I know in my head that I am not going to give up, so it does not matter what people think. They already judge me for being fat so, who cares?” The last line makes me smile and I move on…….
My point is that we all face hardships in our world. It is being human. How we face them is also our choice. Some call on a Deity for help, others look to science. I am somewhere in between. When I said I was working on forgiveness, it was not in relationship to others. It is totally in relationship to me. If I don’t forgive my own trespasses against myself, I will be permanently mired in the muck of life. Only through this freedom can I really forgive others.