The Common Distortion Of Negativity

I am married to Mr. Negative, which is a good thing because I am Mrs. Positive and we balance each other out. My husband’s negativity amuses me, but sometimes it’s a bit too much, then I have to remind myself that my husband’s behavior is to be expected, my endless optimism, on the other hand, is not normal.

Perhaps focusing on everything that’s positive and things that bring me joy is a form of self-defense that helped me to cope with loss and grief? With everything bad around me. Maybe my ideology ensures somehow that I keep a sane mind in the middle of chaos.

You can’t work in rescue and help people and animals if you can’t picture a happy ending way before it happens. Why bother saving, if you don’t believe your action can make a big difference?

But, I have it too, the NEGATIVITY GENE, I just decide to ignore it -mostly.

We all know situations like this:

  • You get a compliment about your last project, but your mind is stuck on the bit of criticism from days earlier?
  • The whole day went great, but a stupid comment from a friend, neighbor, or coworker annoys you.
  • Although the weather forecast is fantastic for next week, you are focusing on the rain clouds that might come up on Tuesday evening? You know they are never right and the forecast will change by then, but you can’t help it.
  • You lost five pounds, but you are not happy because you had aimed for seven?

Sad, but true, unfortunately, we humans evaluate negative things more strongly. Why is that? There is a technical term for this Negativity Distortion.

A negativity tendency?

We humans process positive and negative information differently. On average, we rate negative information more strongly.

  • Negative behaviors and events stick in our memory longer, like the example with the stupid comment of the colleague from above.
  • Negative emotions are perceived faster. We feel fear, anger, or irritation quicker and stronger than joy or relaxation.
  • Negative information about a previously unknown person carries more weight than positive information, “He’s arrogant” seems more obvious to us than “He’s a nice guy.”
  • People react more strongly to negative feedback than to positive feedback.

Often we don’t even make the choice, instead, the process in our brain runs automatically. It’s crazy, isn’t it? Shouldn’t we intuitively turn to positive things?

Why negative things are more important for survival?

I read an article about the causes of negativity distortion in evolution.

  • What happens when we ignore positive information? As a rule, this is not dramatic. Perhaps we regret this or miss the chance to feel real joy. At least in the short term, it’s not too bad.
  • What happens when we ignore negative information? Well, that can quickly become critical.

An example:
If a person ignores the beautiful rainbow, he can feel regret about it afterward. However, if he ignores the loud honking of a car, this can be life-threatening in the worst case.

What you can do about the negativity distortion

Once you are aware of this cycle, you can actively tackle it and break it.

  • Be aware of this cycle again and again! As soon as you know the mechanisms, you can also tackle them concretely.
  • Be aware of the positive things you experience in everyday life. Research shows that we experience 3x more positive than negative things in everyday life –we just have to recognize them!
  • For a few days, write down your thoughts and feelings. What goes through your mind – and how do you feel about it? Many people realize so quickly what is good for them and what is not.
  • Keep a gratitude journal and notice how many positive things happen to you every day!
  • Practice mindfulness, and get back to the current moment, instead of constantly pondering about the past or the future.

Sometimes our brain really doesn’t make it easy for us: to save our lives, it automatically weights negative information higher.

What is valuable and good in exceptional situations, however, can take us quite a bit with us in everyday life. As soon as we end up in the cycle of negativity distortion, this has a significant effect on our well-being. Can we do something about it? Yes, we can!

Is the glass half full or half empty? Perhaps it doesn’t matter as long as we have something to drink?

Also, why do we overlook the beauty and purpose of the glass itself, without it, we could not discuss the amount of liquid in it?

Negativity is also a choice!


19 thoughts on “The Common Distortion Of Negativity

  1. Wonderful blog post. I really love it and it contains such vital yet true information. The distortion of negativity is one that brings our self esteem down and sure we live in a world where critics are always there and not all people will say nice things or positive things even if you plan to have a good day such as this example of negativity you pointed out here and that is “You day went well overall but a nasty comment from a neighbour ruins the entire day”

    I do believe the human mind grabs negative forces more than the positive it may be due to fear but being positive is key and meditating on it can be done easily by keeping a gratitude journal and pin down all the things you are grateful for in life besides being negative and sulking.

    It is a choice and I prefer to be positive daily. Also, nice use of characters in the introduction: Mr. Negative and Mrs. Positive😂


  2. I agree that our minds notice and give attention to negative things because they have in the past been important to our survival. In a modern world, we have to adjust to knowing that ALL the negativity around us, particularly on social media has little relevance for our immediate micro environment, family and survival. (some things are, but most are not essential to know). Tune out from the bad and you will see more sunshine in your life! You can notice the bad, but look for a silver lining in many instances. The more you do this, the more your brain looks for the positive. Love and gratitude. A solid mantra. Merry Christmas, Bridget.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It seems that most of us have a problem with all the negativity in this world, and we know that much of it is just produced drama, yet we don’t do anything against it.

      I see it, notice it and I try to keep it out of our home, which is not easy. Finding a healthy balance these days is hard.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Finding a healthy balance is difficult and becoming increasingly so. Awareness is the first step in overcoming it. We may be in too deep by the time it is recognized widely enough for change of daily habits to occur in the majority of the population. But then I think, if it is so ingrained in our DNA, can we actually permanently change this attention to negativity? And then I think there I go again, looking to the negative possibilities….ugh!


  3. Interesting perspective! Recognizing negative things might help keep us safe in the short run, but the stress of negativity subtracts from the quality of life and health in the long run. I believe we can create more positive pathways in our brains. You’ve got some excellent suggestions on how to do this. It does take practice. Balance is the key.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. One thing I’ve learned about myself is that I am generally a “glass half-full” kind of person and I don’t’ think I’m often negative. At least that’s my self-perception. But, I am very susceptible to negative messaging. If I spend time with negative people I seem to pick it up and find it hard to shake. I do believe that we have some control over who we spend time with and what we listen to, and I really have to work at that! Interesting information you’ve shared, Bridget.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I was so dismayed, during the worst Covid shutdowns (and they lasted much longer, here in Canada) at the anger and division that happened between even supposed really great friends. You had to either be ‘for’ or ‘against’ (and yes, I know that’s a bit of a societal ‘thing’ now, too). There was NO middle ground, and everyone was quoting something-or-other from either the news or some famous conspiracy theorist. I came across the following (sorry, I don’t recall who said it) which greatly calmed me down and gave me the peace of mind I needed, right then, to step away and stop trying to reason with anyone: “Bad news stories out-weigh positive stories 17 to 1”. I keep that quote on my little ‘quote wall’ and refer to it whenever I come across someone who is angry and determined to change my mind for me. It always gives me peace, and reminds me to focus on the positive. Loved this post!

    Liked by 2 people

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