Why So Negative?

I am working towards my certification in Clinical EFT - Emotional Freedom Technique (you’ll be hearing more about EFT in the future) and I am required to read several books. One of them is Coaching Psychology By Dawson Church and Stephanie Marohn.

In this book, there is an explanation as to why we perceive so much negative stuff in our lives. Here’s what they say:

 “Have you ever had a minor problem, and found yourself worrying about it incessantly, ignoring all the wonderful things going on in your life? You might try and think positively, make a gratitude list, release attachment to the problem, and other strategies you’ve learned. Yet all attempts are unsuccessful; the minor problem consumes your attention to the exclusion of everything else, producing a distorted picture of reality.” 

“[It’s] a phenomenon that neuroscientists call the brain’s negativity bias. This means that we pay much greater attention to negative signals than positive ones. Our brains evolved this way out of necessity when our ancestors were learning to survive in a hostile environment.

"If one of our ancestors missed a negative cue, such as the tiger in the grass or the snake in the bushes, the consequence of that failure was death. People who were less skilled at noticing bad things tended to get weeded from the gene pool, and those people that were the best and fastest at noticing bad things tended to survive and pass their genes to the following generation. Generation by generation, the people most adept at noticing negative things tended to live, honing the ability of our species to see and notice negative cues.

“On the other hand, there was no great evolutionary reward for noticing positive cues. If you failed to notice the beautiful sunset, if you didn’t stop to smell the flowers, if you didn’t pause to appreciate the sound of children singing, nothing bad happened. Unlike missing the tiger in the grass, there was no survival penalty for failing to notice the good things in life. As a result, most of us are highly attuned to all the negative cues and blind to the positive ones.”

“Thus, positive feelings, by their very nature, are not ones to which our brains are attuned. We have to train our brains to do that. Because of the brain’s ability to grow new neurons [nerve cells], that is, its neural plasticity, it is possible to moderate the negativity bias that is built into the brain.”

How do we do that?

Well, we won’t get rid of the negativity bias completely (and frankly, we don’t want to; it’s what keeps us safe), but it is possible to moderate it. We can moderate it by practicing a different way, a more positive way.

Whatever we practice, we get better at. We get better at it because practice literally changes the wiring of our brain.

A principle of neuroplasticity says, “neurons that fire together, wire together” (-Donald Hebbs). Meaning: any activity, behaviour, or process we do, “lights up” or activates neurons. “Wires” (actually parts of nerve cells called dendrites) form between those cells, creating neural networks so the cells can communicate and synchronize better. This makes the activity, behaviour, or process you are practicing easier and more “second nature”.

So, when you practice positivity, when you practice smelling the flowers and pausing to appreciate the sound of children singing, you get better at it.

Why do you want to get better at it?

Because it will make you happier.

There’s more to life than simply surviving.

As Church and Marohn say, “Being able to shift your brain state from that negativity bias to a happy state is a crucial life skill for a balanced and fulfilled life.”

If you are trying to practice positivity and it doesn’t seem to be working, book a free consultation here to learn how I can help.

Here’s the conquering stress.

With heart,


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