Why Can I Never See The Positive? I Only See The Worst!You know the story of the glass half full and half empty. It’s meant to determine our levels of optimism. I see this glass empty; I drink it to the end and throw it away. Basically, metaphors aside, I can never seem to think positively! And here's why that's an issue for me.
'When I find a colour darker than black, I will wear it. But until then, I’ll wear black!' Coco Chanel
…or because I’m depressed! But, it’s primarily my brain’s fault. Over the course of a day, if I receive lots of news, I would tend to remember the bad news rather than the good. It’s a cognitive bias, negativity bias. In short, being positive requires effort because my brain is programmed to prepare me for the worst, and therefore to concentrate on negativity.
The other day my manager said to me that my work has been very good lately and that he is very happy with me, but that I should pay attention to my emails and work on my communication with other members of staff. I bet you’ll never guess, I left feeling angry and sad, having forgotten all the compliments and focusing solely on the last thing he said.
With nothing to do I constantly dwell on negative thoughts
This tendency to only pick out the negatives allowed our ancestors to survive when they had to avoid attacks from wild animals. This psychological state; this propensity for negativity, still remains within us. Pessimism is ingrained within our genes.
Depression also makes you see only the worst
I guess you’re thinking to yourself that I’ve not come up with anything new. Someone who is depressed sees the worst in everything, wow, what an insight!
What you might not know is that a few years ago Dr Philippe Fossati, psychiatrist and researcher at Salpêtrière hospital, conducted an experiment with his team looking at how the brain functions in people with depression.
Words describing qualities (generous, intelligent, kind) and words describing flaws (greedy, hypocritical, spiteful) were presented to two groups of individuals. One group contained people with depression and the other group contained people without depression.
Participants had to first read the words in general terms (What do you think of generosity? What do you think of greed?), then from a more personal perspective (Are you generous? Are you greedy?) Whilst the minds of the people without depression clearly managed to distinguish between thinking of a flaw and attributing this to themselves, the people with depression didn’t always do this.
Indeed, the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex activates when we make information personal to ourselves (Are you generous?). For a person with depression, it activates at any given opportunity. So, when mentioning a negative word, even in general terms, they tend to make it apply to them. The “what do you think of greed?” becomes “are you greedy?). That explains where this tendency to see the worst in everything comes from. *
>>> Read about 10 signs to recognize passive aggressive behavior
Is there a cure for it?
Always being negative and seeing the worst in everything, we have seen, is easy and doesn’t require any effort; the brain does it all on its own. We could easily settle for it, except, over time, it’s a bit stressful, it’s belittling, it’s an obstacle to self-confidence and it prevents you from moving on. It’s true, why make plans if the world is doomed to fail? That’s how you get trapped in a vicious cycle, where negativity leads to depression, which leads to negativity, which leads to depression… do you get the logic? And depression is an illness, a serious illness.
For our mental health and general wellbeing you have to make sure positive moments prevail over others. Check out the symptoms and causes of an anxiety attack.
1. Make the most of good times
5 to 30 seconds is the time it takes for a positive moment to be emotionally digested. In contrast, a negative event is instantly imbedded. How can we fight this? By simply stopping and taking full advantage of the nice moment that has just taken place. Analysing in detail everything you feel at that very moment. Be fully aware.
2. Express your happiness
When something nice happens to us, we don’t hesitate over sharing it. We tell someone about it, or even better, we write it down. Writing is what helps us make the most of a positive moment for even longer.
3. Switch off
Nowadays we are aware more than ever that sad or harrowing information goes around in a loop. I have always believed that staying informed was very important. Spending days or weeks listening and dwelling on miserable information, on the other hand, is extremely harmful. So, from time to time, we should allow ourselves days without information or concentrate on positive news.
During this pandemic period, actor John Krasinski (starring in Jack Ryan and 13 Hours) presents a news bulletin filled with positive vibes: Some Good News
4. Stay realistic
We have seen how it’s easier for human beings to think negatively in order to avoid threats. But when we feel threatened let’s try to analyse the moment in order to cancel out our pessimistic tendency. Let’s take a step back and stay realistic when facing the event in hand. Let’s carefully evaluate what has just happened to us, let’s think about the positive and negative aspects and judge the situation honestly.
Now it’s your turn to give it a go and you will see how your negative tendency will eventually end up getting weaker.
Go against the current of pleasant positive thinking and advice telling you to be happy. Nurturing pessimism might do you some good. By forgetting ideals and focusing a bit more on what frustrates us, we stop chasing something that doesn’t exist. So letting go a bit will do us the world of good. Then, feeling a bit anxious, we can anticipate things better, we are better prepared, we can think of a plan B and we already know that this is the secret to happiness!
Don’t forget that constantly anticipating the worst is tiring, so stop moping around and do your best to look for the positives.
Stop moping around, it’s done, and embrace loneliness, it’s happening…positive loneliness, why do I need to be in control?