Why Do We Normalize Negativity?
“Hey that’s a really cool watch.”
“Oh I got this from a pawn shop for cheap.”
“You are such a kind person, thank you.”
“Oh, it was nothing.”
These kinds of exchanges happen on a regular basis all across the Western society. It is in our nature (as Westerners) for us to downplay compliments. It’s difficult for us to simply smile and say thank you.
However this particular phenomenon is underlying another facet of our lives and how we think. That happens to be that we….
Though the compliments are rather minor in the grand scheme of things, it still doesn’t pull away from the fact that a lot of people think negatively. Or at the very least, subconsciously normalize it. We show hatred or jealousy to those successful. We tell people or even ourselves “it can’t be done.” It’s gotten to the point that we downplay compliments.
It simply begs the question of why do we do this?
During my pursuit for happiness, I thought it would be important for me to learn about negativity. Since positivity and negativity are related in their own way, it’s good to know both sides.
During my research and journey through this, I developed a few theories and pointers about negativity. Some of it is through my own personal journey while some is founded by research from others. Here they are.
The Primal Mind
I’m sure you’ve had instances before where you’ve had sudden negative thoughts right? A past negative memory, or perhaps you’re blowing up a scenario way too much in your head. Even the most positive and optimistic individual will still have these instances and it’s caused by something called ‘the primal mind.’ In essence, it’s a basic function we have as human beings.
That being said, according to Judith Beck (psychologist and president of the Beck Institute for Cognitive Behaviour Therapy), those can occur more often in particular people. She reports that those thinking styles can be genetic or even childhood experiences can affect them.
There are a few ways to address it. Firstly is to monitor your thinking. Pay attention when you have those negative thoughts. Furthermore ask yourself why you are having those thoughts. Through my own experiences, asking why will lead to the answer and finding a way to overcome the situation.
When we deny or ignore or try to control those thoughts, we are more or less suppressing them. And with any kind of bottled emotion it’ll affect our minds but can eventually explode. Even though our Primal Mind isn’t how we think all the time, it does play a role in how much it can affect us and therefore what we say and react to situations.
Being Exposed To One Side
When it comes to debates and arguments, we have a difficult time to see reason from the other side. More often than not we have a sense of pride, that our way of thinking is right and that the other is wrong. We’d even go as far as saying the opposing side is uneducated, or stupid.
It’s that particular way of thinking that continues to affect our way of thinking and also spreads negativity. A perfect example would be the 2016 US election where people were exposed to only one side of the political spectrum as opposed to the other. Or even what happened in Charlottesville not long ago.
But even on a smaller scale we are exposed to that sort of thing. From sports teams to our favourite colours, there is some level of opposition based on our preferences.
The only difference is depending on what we’re arguing about varies on the level of severity.
Still it can lead to negative thinking because we are refusing to see another persons point of view. We can get into a headspace where what we think is actually right (even if in the case of what happened in Charlottesville is absolutely terrible and heartbreaking).
We would rather argue and debate with people to prove our points, but never back down when we are proven wrong. We’d even go as far as labeling people, judging them simply because they don’t see our reasoning.
Instead it’s important to be open minded. To accept the fact we may be entirely wrong or partially wrong. Furthermore to make adjustments in our way of thinking.
One of the catalysts to one-sided thinking is negative media. Obviously we consume media on a daily basis. Some of it helps us while some of it is negative.
Either way we have a choice in the matter.
However I believe that many people think negatively is because they are exposed to more negative content as opposed to positive.
For one we have social media which reports news at the moment it actually happens. But also media in general reports on stories that are often negative. Because they sell and people will oddly enough sit and watch them.
The reason they do that is despite the pain and suffering around us, the world is in a more positive place. The fact that people are holding protests is proof enough. 100 years ago, protesting really wasn’t a common thing you’d see. Today it hits headlines all the time.
In essence negativity is an obscure anomaly that people are attracted to because it’s different even if it’s bad.
However too much of it leads to a lot of issues. It’s easy to think that there is no hope in the world. Or that the world is a very cruel and dangerous place. Some of it is indeed, but most isn’t.
Playing The Victim
Growing up, I had an odd fear of not wanting to get into trouble. I was always someone who followed the rules and never asked questions. However, despite that, there were times where I did get in trouble and in those situations I shifted the blame.
Even though every person doesn’t have the same childhood experience as myself, I’m sure that other people find it easy and are even addicted to shifting the blame to others, even in adulthood.
It’s easy to play the victim in a lot of cases, however this habit in particular is especially bad. Much like with people refusing to see the other side of an argument, they would rather shift the blame and not change.
On the other side you can play the victim in order to attract people to you, to pay attention to you. In those cases you are exposing people further to negativity.
I was able to change however, I started to accept the fact that what was happening around me was because of my own actions. At the end of the day I am responsible for my actions. If something bad happens to me, it’s because I made a mistake. On the other hand when something good happens, it’s because I made the right call.
Regardless Of The Source, Negativity Can Be Controlled
It can never be abolished completely, there will be days where you will experience those negative emotions. But by understanding the world around you and monitoring what you say and what you do, you can better master it.
Furthermore by having an open mind, seeing other peoples points of views you are able to have a more open world, a broader scope to what the world is like.
That way in a world where we normalize negativity, you can in fact have a happier life.
To your growth!
Eric S Burdon
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