Understanding & Overcoming the Negativity Bias
All of us have multiple personalities. They are the thoughts in our heads sometimes conscious, sometimes unconscious that continually remind you of the negative experiences and keep us from doing the things that will have the best impact on our lives. There are four personalities that typically dominate. The “Mama” is called Negative Nancy, she is the all-powerful negativity bias that was a life saver back in the prehistoric age, but now wreaks havoc on most of us. Negative Nancy powers the thoughts “I’m a failure” or “I can’t do it” and fuels anxiety and self-inflicted suffering. Langshur and Kemp in their amazing book “Start Here” put it best “We are running modern software on prehistoric hardware.”
All these thoughts are nothing more than the The Characters of the Mind trying to keep us safe and alive. Nancy works alongside “Papa” Ralph Resistance. He is the king of “Self- Sabotage” and keeping us from reaching our potential. Resistance will tell you anything to keep you from doing the work needed to achieve your goals, especially if that work involves consistent daily actions.
“Papa” Ralph dominates our minds whenever we think about engaging in behaviors that are directed to achieving a higher purpose and/or requires delayed gratification. Learning the skills of any sport, a musical instrument, entrepreneurial venture or calling to write; Basically, anything worth striving for requires identifying and overcoming resistance. He has no strength of his own. It mostly comes from within our minds, when we’re asked to do something outside of our comfort zone.
The biggest difference between those that achieve their potential and those that don’t lie in their relationship these characters. Nancy Negativity and Ralph Resistance draw their power from their kids Jamie Judgement & Andy Attachment. For example, Jamie Judgements driving force is Failure. Once you have experienced it, you label yourself as such. Then, it gets locked into your mind and Nancy and Ralph use it against you to keep you from attempting it again.
Those that achieve excellence have a different relationship with failure. To most it’s “Judging” a given performance. Those that live a life of happiness and achieve their potential know they will not be perfect and do not judge themselves. They expect to fail and see the event as a learning experience that propels them forward.
If this sounds like something you struggle with, I suggest the following.
- Accept that everyone has a Negativity Bias!
- Accept that training the mind is a skill that can be learned.
- Commit to spending 5-10 minutes each day meditating. This will bring awareness to your conscious and unconscious thoughts.
- If you never meditated, or have a hard time with it, I highly recommend using the Headspace App. (The first 10 days are free)
- This practice will help you identify and label the thoughts as you become aware of them.
- I suggest working to label the family of four as they come into your mind
- “Mama Nancy Negativity”
- “Papa Ralph Resistance”
- “Jamie Judgement”
- “Andy Attachment”
Once you start this process, be easy on yourself. It will seem like nothing is happening at first, but have faith. This practice has been effectively used for hundreds of years. One thing that I have found great success with is using these four labels, I hope you do to!
Be easy on yourself and begin your Path to Personal Excellence today!