Why do we focus on the negative?

by 15 Sep 2021

Have you ever had ten people giving you a compliment, yet you remember the only one person who told you a negative remark? If I see ten positive comments, why will I focus on the only negative ones? Why do we focus that much on the negative?

I’ve been traveling the world for nearly seven years and what I got from it is that despite what we think & hear, the world is a really safe place. We could think that it’s dangerous but what I noticed is that human beings are generally nice and willing to help you if necessary. So if there’s so much positive in the world, why do we often remember only the negative aspects?

You and I could agree on something, we are quite safe where we are, so why do we see more the negative aspects? Let’s dive in the divine and understand the reasons for this notion & how we can overcome it.

why do we focus on the negative

Table Of Contents:

  • Cognitive bias: the reason why focus so much on the negative
  • 3 steps to overcome this bias and focus more the positive
  • Few tips to rewire your brain

I. Cognitive bias


We see more negative than positive because of a cognitive bias, which is also known as ‘negative bias’. I already briefly talked about this bias in the third episode “How to be the best version of yourself” where I explained that the human brain has a negative bias. It’s an automatic mechanism of our survival brain that gives more importance to negative experiences than positive and/or neutral ones.

This is why we often hear in the personal development field that it’s good to focus more on the positive in life. Also, you might have heard about ‘positive affirmations’; they also are famous and effective in order to rewire our brain and this natural mechanism. There are lots of different cognitive bias but today we will only focus on this one.

So what happens when during this process? The brain tries to hack you and get you where it wants to go; meaning a place where you will be to react effectively in case of survival.

What to do?

  • The aim isn’t to control your brain and work against it but to play with it. What do I mean by this? To obersve & understand it
  • If you start to bserve your brain, it won’t have that much control and power over yourself & your life
  • you can get back control of your life only if you learn how to observe this mechanism and where your brain tries to take you
  • try not to judge and blame, searchers think this mechanism has helped humans to survive so it’s not a bad thing

Remember

This mechanism is completely normal and it happens to everyone, just not on the same scale. It’s an automatic reaction that you won’t be able to suppress entirely. However, know that it played a huge role in human evolution and this is thanks to this reaction that we are probably all still alive. We can ask ourselves: does this serve us or hinder us? I feel like it’s more important to focus on how to overcome it rather than blaming it.

why do we focus on the negative

I want to insist on the fact that

II. 3 steps to overcome this bias and focus more the positive


1. Learn to observe your brain

The best thing that you can do to overcome this bias is to learn to observe your brain in order to become more objective. You have the power to trick your brain and play with it. When you recognize the process, take a step back and talk to yourself. I do something like “I know and I understand that I am experiencing a negative bias & I will consciously focus on all the positive around me”.

Take note, witness, and realize without judging or blaming because your brain only wants your safety. So just a thought-sentence to acknowledge it is already powerful “I see….alright. I take note however I also decide & choose to observe another reality. To add more perspective”. You can create a powerful mantra to repeat to yourself such as: “I choose to become more objective, to consider another approach, to think & reason differently”.

How can you bring the negative proportion to the same level as the positive?

Ask yourself the right questions:

  • Is this comment is representative of the situation? If it would happen to someone else, how would I react?
  • Am I not focusing on something that is insignificant?
  • Is the reality that i see right now represents the whole situation? Or do I only see the negative aspect out of it?
  • How can I proportionnaly bring equality between negative and positive?

2. Understand what is your ideal reaction

What is it that you want deep down? Who is the person you want to be in an ideal life? It is important to understand what you want to change in your reaction and behavior in order to transform it. Imagine that you put the wrong address in your GPS what happens? Worse, imagine that you put no address at all. You need to gain clarity on your natural thoughts/reactions and what you want instead.

Think about, when you get a negative comment:

  • How do I want to think?
  • How do I want to react?
  • Who do I want to become?
  • How do I want to feel?

This will also help you to strengthen your self-esteem as you will start to think, act, speak and behave in alignment with your values (aka this is what self-esteem is about).

why do we focus on the negative

3. Train your brain to focus more on the positive

Before we dive into the details here, I want to say that it’s important to recognize that the aim isn’t to always be happy & positive. Don’t get me wrong: all of our emotions are important. However, this negative bias exists in all of us so you need to gain self-awareness to be able to take perspective and acknowledge that maybe you are focusing a bit too much on the negative in this situation. The key is to reprogram your brain so it can make new pathways and create new neuro-associations.

The more you train your brain to observe, take a step back, and decide consciously to put your attention on another reality, the more you will develop other abilities. Over time, you will get used to it and it will be natural for you to be more objective. the feelings might maybe still be here but you’ll become more objective and therefore more peaceful.

Develop your ability to focus on the positive:

  • observe what feels good
  • observe all the things that work out in your life
  • observe all the things that you take for granted like your health, being surrounded by people you love or having a roof over your head
  • become more grateful
  • gain gratitute for the little things in your life: the sunshine or the fact you can afford to eat whatever you want

Developing the ability to be grateful & focus more on the positive is important in order to train your brain to gain the ability to take perspective when you only see negativity around you.

I want to add a downside:

When you start to focus more on all the positivity around you, it’s normal to start focusing on all the good things people might tell you. I believe it’s really important to receive compliments but also to remember that the only validation that matters is yours. Remember not to expect positivity from others to start to live & feel good. When you receive any negative comments or feedback, it doesn’t mean anything about you. It doesn’t change anything about who you are and about your worth.

Often, people might think that they respond badly to other people’s reactions because they think they are hypersensitive. I heard a lot of things like “Anytime someone tells me something negative, my emotions go all over the place because I am hypersensitive”. I personally think that there are more people with a lack of self-confidence and self-esteem than lots of hypersensitivities.

Recap:

  1. Oberseve/take perspective/ witness and take not without judging
  2. Understand what will be your ideal reaction. What would you like to think? How would like to be instead?
  3. Train your brain to focus more on what feels good. What can you be grateful for?

Ask yourself the right questions: Instead of asking yourself ‘Why do I feel like this? Why do I focus on that?’; try this “What can I learn from my way of thinking? How is my behavior impacted by it? What’s happening inside me? What does this mean about who I am? My identity? and my beliefs? Do I have insecurities?

Remember that if you tend to focus more on the negative, it’s completely normal. You now have the right tools to rewire your brain and start to be happier. Did you like this post/episode? Let me know, I’d be so happy to know that it helped you somehow. I see you next week 🙂

Hi I'm Marion

I’ve created ‘The Inside Guide’ podcast to explore yourself. The aim is that you understand more about what’s going inside you, so that you can take real actions to be happier and create your dream life.

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