HARD WIRED TO FRET
It’s not easy to be human. The brain is wired to
That means, after morning tea with Aunt Millicent, bits of conversation stick in your mind. The disturbing stuff.
What did she mean when she said …..?
Was that a thinly disguised reference to ….?
Was she taking a swipe at me?
(After all, I always knew she preferred cousin Kev)
We’re wired to hone in on the slightest sense of threat (a sideways look from someone at a table) and breeze over the good moments. We will stew over the one bad comment, despite receiving ninety-nine assurances about the same thing.
There we were, Aunt Millicent and me, in a harbourside setting (tick), on a glorious morning (tick), with great coffee (tick), time off work (tick) and a handsome waiter (tick). She even complimented my earrings.
Yet I’ve come away with a little hole in my tummy. What did she mean when she said ….
I ruminate, ruminate, ruminate.
FRETTING SOOKY WHINGER
Being human sucks. It’s so easy to tip into total freak-out at one end of the scale, to fretting sooky whinger on the other.
The inbuilt negativity bias, hammered into brain architecture by the survival-driven anvil of evolution, runs our bad news, our threat radar, on a loop.
Back in the stone age, the mechanism of vigilance kept us safe.
Do you notice a Top 5 of fretful grouches whirring away in the background much of the time?
Whatever is causing most anxiety gets top billing. If there’s nothing big happening (ie, rego is way overdue) then the negativity radar will find little things to mutter over (why did Aunt Millicent say that thang …)
On the pointy end, we might angst over issues relating to family, job, safety. Fair enough, if the fears relate to actual events in our life. But often, we’re catastrophizing needlessly.
As Mark Twain said: 'I've had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.'
JUST COZ IT HAS TO ...
The negativity bias will serve something up simply because it has to serve something up.
On the blunt end of the scale, we sweat the small stuff. Why Susie didn’t ring back. The online sale we missed (actually, that my husband made me miss). The narky text message. Aunt Millicent’s preference for cousin Kev.
We so easily tip into the territory of fretting sooky whinger, and get stuck there.
TAKING IN THE GOOD
Hey, not entirely our fault. We don’t plan to brood over comments made by someone on a sunny morning over coffee. But we do.
Don’t let the inbuilt negativity machine get away with it! Don’t let it hijack your life!
Take heart. There is a brilliant technique for tackling the negativity bias head-on. It’s called
Savouring, or Taking in the Good.
Savouring is extremely enjoyable. We can practice in the good times, for the hell of it. Then whip it out when the rot sets in. We can’t undo the ‘harm’ caused by our reaction to Aunt Millicent’s quip, but we can prevent it dominating our landscape.
LOOK AROUND ...
Look around you. Isn’t there something beautiful, somewhere nearby, even a tiny little thing, you could pause and drink in?
Such as the colour of new toenail polish (seriously, I‘m not kidding: anything goes here, anything delightful.) Or the warm fuzzies from someone’s friendly smile. Hey, the fact that I finally got my pyjamas folded and put away. Major achievement! Feels goooood !
LINGER LINGER LINGER
The trick with Savouring is (a) to notice the small enjoyable moments and (b) to LINGER with them.
Lingering is important. Where difficult experiences take only a split second to lodge in storage, happy experiences take a lot longer to be perceived, felt and encoded.
We’ve got to be awake to them, or they will pass through us, like water down the gurgler. Momentary, then gone.
Pause and linger with any good feeling; marinate in it! Drink it in for at least ten-twenty seconds. By savouring again and again, we level the playing field when it comes to the stranglehold of the negativity bias.
Disclaimer: You will need to exert yourself deliberately, consciously, intentionally, because it won't happen by itself!
The best time to start is now. Who wants to endure the low-grade misery of being a fretting sooky whinger, for no good reason?
copyright Shakti Burke 2018
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