Archive for April 23rd, 2012
Most humans have experienced rejection, humiliation, unfairness, or the loss of a loved one. Many have had terrible trauma, abuse, accidents, or illness. These harsh experiences can lead to negative thought patterns or habits that cause unnecessary, ongoing pain. These patterns are negative thought circuits that lock you into destructive ways of responding to the world. Some examples of this type of negative thinking are: “I am ugly, bad, guilty, and worthless. I am a helpless, weak, inadequate loser. I cannot change. I am doomed to suffer. I deserve punishment. I will never be able to get out of this problem. I can’t beat this habit. No matter what progress I make, something will come along to take it away.” In response to life events, such negative attitudes emerge from the unconscious rapidly, automatically, and habitually. They often manifest in relentless repetitions referred to as ruminations or obsessions. The mind can get stuck in ruminations for minutes, hours, days, weeks, and longer. Some deeply embedded patterns and habits can extend their influence over a lifetime.
Your brain activity changes when negative memories are immediately recalled. For example, researchers have showed volunteers positive and negative pictures while they recorded the electrical activity of the participants’ brains. The positive pictures were designed to give the volunteers pleasant feelings — pictures of a Ferrari or a pizza, for example. The negative pictures produced unpleasant feelings, like a mutilated face or a dead cat. They found that the volunteers’ brains had more activity when they looked at negative pictures. Several different kinds of studies have shown the same thing. In other words, your brain reacts more intensely to negative than positive events. This probably doesn’t surprise you, although you might never have considered the implications of it.
Coming from a completely different angle, other researchers discovered something along the same lines. They found that when your mind isn’t engaged in anything in particular, it tends to drift randomly. Thoughts of all kinds stream through an idle mind. But eventually, in its random meandering, the mind will think of something negative, and then what happens? It sticks. Your mind stops meandering and sticks on the negative thought because negative thoughts fixate attention with more stickiness than positive or neutral thoughts. You get caught in the worried or angry thought, and it doesn’t pass by like a neutral thought might. You naturally give the threatening information extra attention. That is one way pessimism can worm its way into your mind. Another way reality functions as if it had a negative bias is that the brain seeks evidence to confirm rather than to disconfirm. So as soon as one of these pessimistic, cynical, or defeatist beliefs start to form, your mind starts looking for evidence that you’re right, and the belief starts to coalesce and harden into a firm belief — a firm, mistaken, unnecessarily negative view of the world — a view that makes you less effective at dealing with the world (especially other people), makes you feel bad more often, and a view that actually harms your health. Reality’s quicksand has caught another victim.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )