The Negativity Bias

This is a real thing. Simply put, the negativity bias is a conditioned response from your brain.

We all have a negativity bias, by the way. It is our “shark music” (Kristie’s term), and that part of us that exists to alert us of real, or perceived danger. It represents one input (just one) of many and often competing inputs and possible responses to our environment. When we operate from this space, it is common to distort a person or situation. It is the kind of primitive mentality that justifies hatred and prejudice. In its most benign forms, it is a form of fixed-mindedness that can imprison even the most rational among us. Carried to its extreme, only death of the “other” will suffice.

How do you know if you’re operating from this mentality? Fear and its usual companions, restlessness, anger, hate, or aggressiveness, are often the clue. Understanding what these emotions are telling us about ourselves, requires some intentional (and uncomfortable) tuning-in and listening to our own soundtrack.

Do you wish to master your mind, or do you wish to remain its servant? This is a choice only you can make. By becoming better aware of your own scary and negative soundtrack, you not only decrease the incidence of projection (assigning your fears and aggressions unto others), but you create space for a new choice and voice; one that will enable you to neutralize your negativity bias, and replace it with a conscious and thoughtful response instead.

The Anatomy of Suffering

Ever since childhood, I’ve wanted to understand why there is suffering in the world; specifically, why we create it. This curiosity has led me on numerous intellectual, spiritual, and practical explorations, which I am still uncovering.

As a young girl, I was fascinated by the stories of my aunts and uncles– the stories of their trials and triumphs…of death and life regained. One of my favorite aunts used to say, when asked how she was doing, “ahi, en la lucha”….literally, in a battle, and this always confounded me.

Was life really a battle? Or just her life? Did all the grown-ups around me feel this way, too? How can life be such a “battle”, when it is filled with such beauty and abundance?

Yes. Life can be a battle. Life can be brutal. It is brutal. The opposite is also true.

After 52 years of life on Earth, and struggling with PTSD for the better part of 30 of them, I understand the anatomy of suffering and why life can feel like a battle. I also understand that the great equalizer of suffering is consciousness; our ability to awaken the mind and see beyond our circumstances.

It seems to me my daughters came better prepared for life on Earth. Perhaps they’ve benefited from generations of brave men and women who forged their own paths in search of a “better life”. Perhaps their video games, filled with countless “realities”, have equipped them with an upgraded mind; one that is less hampered by the negativity bias, false ideas about the way life works or is, or the way things used to be.

Reality is truly in the eye of the beholder. If you believe life is a battle, a competition of sorts, this is your reality. However, if you believe that life is actually heaven on Earth, your choices and responses will be much different. Much like Viktor Frankl reminds us in Man’s Search for Meaning:

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Your attitude towards the inherent suffering of life can either enslave you, or liberate you. Everything in your life at this moment; your home, your partner, your friends, your work are ALL expressions of your attitude toward life. Are you free?