Addicted To Negativity?

Here is the short case for positivity.

You either live most of the time in an UpSpiral of positivity, in a DownSpiral of negativity, or, like most people, yo-yoing up and down.

The goal here is very simple. It is to enable you to get you into an UpSpiral and its benefits, and to get you to keep you there, at a high level of “feeling good,” most of the time. Sound unrealistic? Then your idea of what is real will need to change!

We aren’t aiming for bliss or ecstasy, just “feeling good” most all of the time. You will learn how to manage and have great agility over positivity in such a way that you will develop positive emotional muscle and have a mastery over the use of positive emotion. Do the work and the work will work for you.

Simply put, you can be a happier person and your emotional set-point can grow and become constant in a higher level of positive emotions. Your neuro-positivity can increase as a reality in your own brain.

Here are just a few of the benefits of positive emotions from the emerging research in the field.

Positive emotion enlarges the scope of attention. It broadens your personal access to strengths and increases your choice of options and behavior from your own larger repertoire. Negativity creates a sense of being trapped with no choices because it narrows focus and attention.

Positive emotion increases intuition and creativity. Positive emotion changes our body systems and speeds up recovery from cardiovascular surgery. It alters the nature of frontal lobe asymmetry and increases immune system response. Positive affect predicts good mental and physical health outcomes. It is predictive of increased happiness, stronger resilience to the negative, psychological growth and lower levels of cortisol, as well as reduced inflammation in response to stress. Positive emotion is correlated with resistance to sinus infections and reductions in stroke.

Positivity predicts how long people will live. Positive affect means that you will solve problems more easily, be more creative, and have greater access to the higher functions of strengths and to their range. People stronger in positive emotion score higher on every test of well-being, every test of life satisfaction, and there is increase of healthy functioning at a cellular level.

Positive affect is negatively correlated with generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive behavior, agoraphobia, and social phobia. The list could go on and on.

And with all of these research results firmly in place, we still have a great investment in negativity, in illness, in negative core beliefs, and we have sold out to a notion of “healing” that focuses on the negative, the idolization of modern medicine, and the largest pill-popping culture in history.

We are brainwashed at looking at the problem and finding solutions to them. We are steeped in the co-dependency that fixes and rescues.

If there is such a thing as negativity addiction, it is the culprit here.

We believe that we need negativity to perceive accurately, to be smart, to be clever, to appear intelligent and insightful, and to protect ourselves against our own imagination and our power to create and be great. We believe that we need negativity to be “balanced.”

How much of this “balance” do you want or think you need?

© Dr. William K. Larkin

About the author

Dr. William K. Larkin
  • Dr. gloria wright

    I’ve said for years that you can be addicted to “ain’t it awful” and “poor me.” Whether it’s a bad habit or an addiction, it isn’t good for us. And it isn’t good for relationships. When you’re in this victim role, you only see rescuers or persecutors. What’s missing is the rational, objective adult view. From this perspective, someone is either helping (enabling) you or hurting you…. Not a happy, positive way to live life.

    If you recognize these tendencies, what can you do to change and why should you bother? Good questions. If you want to live longer, be healthier, be happy, be more productive and creative (the list could go on), then you’ll take responsibility for believing that positivity makes a difference and that you can manage your thoughts, feelings and beliefs. Sounds simple, but sometimes we lack consciousness and awareness of what state our minds and emotions are in.

    Too often we just let the pessimistic view slip into our thoughts and emotions. Stop. Reboot. Shift your perspective to the positive. Even if you have to do it manually by meditating a moment on gratitude, love, joy, peace and hope. Exercising this mantra is a skill that can become, with dedication and practice, an automatic, habitual change in attitude and action. You can truly move from looking for a silver lining, to easily seeing the optimistic.

    Oxygen and positivity are the cheapest medications I know that flood our minds and emotions with good juice. They are vital to our health, our longevity and our happiness. And you can’t overdose! Want to help make a better world? Start with being positive and sending positive vibes into our systems and out into the larger world.

    I love giving sincere, random complements to people. Sometimes they look a little dubious or confused, but this is usually followed by a smile. From both of us! Be happy. Make a happier world! PLEASE!!

  • Dwayne Paro

    When people have experienced some form of significant trauma they tend to find comfort in the negative effects that it brings. Why is that? From what I’ve seen in Coaching veterans the negative emotions or downspiral has created a new sense of “normal” for them and as much as some appear they want to move to an upspiral of feeling good and increase their set-point they don’t allow themselves to do so as it will require more change and uncertainty within their lives. For others it appears almost as a defense mechanism, playing the part of the victim rather than identifying they are not where they could be or should be. It’s much easier to have something to point to or blame when things are going the way you want them to. All of this negative emotion or downspiral leads to issues of epidemic proportion within the veteran community such as alcohol or drug dependence. The alcohol or drugs are what they will use to attempt to be in part of a sudo or temporary upspiral. Once their drug of choice where’s off they are at an even lower downspiral point and more than likely have reduced their set-point in the process.

    As an example I have offered many veterans who I believe would benefit greatly from coaching but do not have the money to pay for it a pro bono service for a defined period of time. I’ve laid out in a very clear and basic format what I’m willing to provide them, how we will go about it, explained the benefits, explained the value, allowed them to determine when would be best to do it, etc. In the end they take one of two options; get excited but never take the offer up or take the offer up but because they have no skin in the game monetarily they make living in the downspiral their way forward by stopping. I’ve talked with several colleagues about this assuming my approach must be flawed and that I’m potentially offending the individual in the process of offering services for free. Seems to be a common reaction and choice amongst the community, sadly they are addicted to negativity.

  • Kalah Vaughan

    When I am surrounded by friends, family and new acquittances, I am often referred to as the “positive one.” This has not always been the case. Only five years ago I would find myself being negative and complaining just to have something to say to fill in the silence. I thought this is the normal. We are supposed to be happy, but we can not be happy unless we experience what sadness feels like first, right? Wrong.

    I am grateful to have times of sorrow to understand that I am not a robot and that I do have feelings but I have learned the positive feelings have a much larger impact on our lives.

    My mother used to to think negative thoughts than her thought would become a bridge way for her next negative thought and so on. I would explain to her that the negative thoughts were a slippery downward spiral of thoughts and that it is important to think positive thoughts to begin an up spiral of thoughts. Funny enough I would speak to her about this before I even knew it was a real thing.

    The upward spiral of positive thoughts allows us to open pathways in our mind to see more of the positive side of things. Everything has some type of positive, sometimes you just need to be creative to get the mind flowing. Once your in a positive mindset “the world is your oyster.” Colors seem brighter and the things that were severe problems before now have a whole new perspective.

    If you find yourself in the negative downward spiral, start small and transform three simple thoughts today with positive ones. It can be as easy as hearing the the negative thought and repeating to yourself “there it is, that is not me, that is a program.” Now flip this thought around to see the positive side. Take notice and feel the lift off your shoulders while your well being, creativity and problem solving skills soar to a whole new level.

  • kit

    I am recently introduced to the emerging research on the impact on brain function, instigated by Dr. Barbara Fredrickson’s work to liberate models of positive emotion from the limitations of the prior negativity model.

  • Kathy Lee

    Kit, I, too, am really excited about Dr. Barbara Fredrickson’s findings, especially that the Build and Broaden phenomenon occurs while feeling positive emotions and that negative emotions tend to narrow our repertoire of options for problem-solving or creative living. As I incorporate the gratitude pulsing exercise into my morning routine, I’m finding I’m feeling happier and more grateful each day and more productive. The chapters on the Emotional Gym and the UpSpiral are opening up new ways of thinking about the choices I have every day. For example, knowing that I can choose, each day, to focus on gratitude, peace, love, joy, hope (or not) is opening up new windows and doors of life. Using negative thoughts, feelings and experiences as “signposts” of what I don’t want and then moving to the next question: so what do I want instead?” has been extremely valuable. I’ve been sharing what we are learning with two friends and each morning we share our numbers with each other, UpSpiral score and Emotional scale score. Efforts to share the learnings from class with others reinforces my own insights. If I can see the impact of these tools, so quickly, in my life and in my friends’ lives, I can have the confidence to share them with coaching clients.

    I work with highly skilled (technical and soft skills) talent at a leading global accounting firm, who are navigating their careers. I’m looking forward to applying the Build and Broaden concept to career development, being able to more fully draw upon one’s positive emotions and strengths. The gratitude (or love, peace, joy, hope) pulse exercise is a simple tool to introduce to begin to retrain or reorient the brain to gently lean toward being more productive, proactive and exercising one’s own agency in every arena of life today, this hour, this decision, including where clients want their careers to go. This simple exercise, if practiced in a disciplined way, can open up new possibilities in thinking and feeling. I’m already seeing a difference in my own thinking and feeling and it’s only been less than two weeks. I’m really looking forward to seeing how this can support my clients.

  • Yolanda Smith

    Daily trauma to the brain via stress, sadness and internalizing negative thoughts and feelings. This revelation shared in Class #2 by Dr. Johnson, was absolutely life changing for me.

    In our society, we have allowed “Daily Brain Trauma” to become a normal way of life, not knowing or understanding how detrimental it is to our very existence. I believe that life and death are in the power of the tongue and that thoughts do become things. That being said, I believe that we can also cause Daily Trauma by verbalizing or thinking negative about ourselves. I had no idea that our brains could be so easily changed or affected.

    Making the adjustment to live in the UpSpiral on a regular basis, is truly challenging when you have spent the majority of your life dwelling in the DownSpiral. I think it’s important to identify at some point, the root cause of why you have lived in a DownSpiral. In talking with numerous people about what causes stress and sadness in their lives, I see a common thread. Many people have either procrastinated in pursuing their goals and dreams or they just don’t know how to exit the all consuming Downward Spiral abyss. I can truly relate to this, as for many years I spent the majority of my time in that abyss.

    Barbara L. Fredrickson stated “There are more negative than positive emotions, because there are more different kinds of threats than opportunities”. I believe that we tend to focus more on those threats, because it takes faith and optimism to pursue opportunities. Neither faith nor optimism are present in the DownSpiral abyss, therefore, we must practice living in the UpSprial on a daily basis, in order to overcome and reverse the effects of Daily Brain Trauma.

    There is a powerful Bible scripture which states “My people perish for a lack of knowledge”. I did not know that I had the power to literally change my brain, by simply changing my thoughts and taking control of my feelings. When you know better, you have the opportunity to do better. In making the decision to take this journey and change my own life, it is clear how we will all have the ability to lead others out of the DownSpiral, to a life of personal peace and emotional freedom.

  • Yvette Gauff

    I didn’t sign up to take the Applied Neuroscience Institute’s NeuroPositive™ Research & Applications course until the day it began. I, therefore, didn’t have the required
    text. At the required time, I sat with pen and pad, taking copious notes as Dr. Johnson, our instructor, spoke. A lot of interesting information was being relayed: We have a choice in how we feel. We should pay attention to our negative feelings, as they are cues that something is wrong. The brain loves specifics. DING! Hmm…the brain loves
    specifics; I didn’t know that. Writes it in notes in capital letters with an asterisk.

    Dr. Johnson continued with his instruction sharing that information goes into the right frontal lobe and the brain begins to sort and categorize the data that it has received. Then Dr. Johnson said it, “The brain is looking for a match”. DING! DING! DING! DING!!!!! The proverbial bell was going off in my head like the bells heard when someone wins the grand prize on “The Price is Right”!

    The brain is looking for a match…from there the thought ‘making a mountain out of a molehill’ came to mind. “Omistars, that’s how I got this way!!!”

    It was a revelation, among revelations.

    One definition of addiction is a condition that results when a person engages in an activity (e.g., gambling, sex, shopping) that can be pleasurable but the continuation of which becomes compulsive and interferes with ordinary responsibilities and concerns, such as work, relationships, or health. People who have developed an addiction may not be aware that their behavior is out of control and causing problems for themselves and others.

    It might be said that I came here predisposed to the negative. I could never understand why I didn’t feel loved. I was the first child born to my parents after four miscarriages. Despite this fact, I never felt loved. Never felt good enough. Always felt as if I didn’t belong. It was the oddest thing to me. It didn’t make sense given the information I knew about my birth.
    What I didn’t learn until adulthood, was that my mother was preparing to leave my father at the time she found out about my inception. She remained. In what was an abusive, negative relationship. “Ah”, I remember thinking when my mother told me. Definitely a ‘light bulb” moment. My negative feelings about my place in our family then made sense. Our home was very negative. If our home was a song, it could be titled, “Negative”. It was played, almost daily, in the key of NEGATIVE with a negative tone. Despite our middle class lifestyle and the bright, mannerable, achieving children my brother and I were, and the happy we tried to bring to our home, the overall tone was negative. In child rearing, there was little praise, but rather admonition. “How could someone so smart have no common sense”. When bringing home a report card with 4 A’s and one “B”, the retort was, “Why didn’t you get that final “A”? When performing or participating in a sports event, “That’s not a big deal; anyone can do that”, or “Why didn’t you do better?” Pushing me toward success, toward better? Perhaps. It never felt that way.

    There is a saying, “Faith (defined as complete trust or confidence in someone or something) comes by hearing…”. The suffix “-Ing” denotes something involved in an action or process. Process is defined as “a natural phenomenon marked by gradual changes that lead toward a particular result,’ i.e., the process of growth (2): a continuing natural or biological activity or function”.

    As a former athlete, and now a performer, I know about training, and building muscle, developing proficiency. It takes rehearsal and practice; the continuation of a thing. One works at the same things over and over again to become proficient. The integration and action process of the brain is continual. Definition 1 of continuation: the action of carrying something on over a period of time or the process of being carried on. Definition
    2: the state of remaining in a particular position or condition.

    Let me say, I do not consider myself a victim. That is not my stance. Fortunately, but I can see through this teaching, how I have developed ‘faith’ muscles in the negative I heard. Over and over again. From childhood to marriage and forward. And the brain, day in and day out, as a natural process of its operation, was searching for matches. And it over and over again, found negative. I had, unbeknownst to me, become proficient at, and addicted to negativity. That was alarming. A definitive “aha” moment. Again, the proverbial “bell” rang in my head. It was not by my ‘desire’ but indeed by my choice, (my choice of embracing and rehearsing the negative emotions over the positive) that had placed me in this position of continued negativity that I could not explain.

    When my book “Growing the Positive Mind” arrived, and I read that the brain “likes” to be happy, I was surprised. Really surprised! And that it thrived from the position of positivity? Who knew? Not I! No one has ever told me that, and nor do I recall ever reading it before. I like to do that which is best for me as much as possible. The ‘right’ things; make good decisions. That was information that had I known, and known earlier, I may have done a better job at working at acquiring the positive. I’ve heard it sporadically here and there in my life: “Accentuate the positive”, and “Think on the bright side”. But that was NOT my regular experience. I have heard people say, “just snap out of it’” when communicating with
    people who were sad, depressed, in a ‘funk”. The marginalization of positive emotions,
    as related in Barbara Frederickson’s article, “What Good Are Positive Emotions?”,
    is a sign post to society’s condition. We embrace that which is negative and ‘poo
    poo’ the positive. It is almost as if a ‘war’ is going on. And we are losing! It is my understanding that we are creatures of habit and not particularly fond of change. But change we must!

    Embedded and deeply entrenched, so as not to be able to be instantly, ‘shaken off’ with one choice, I now know negativity, can be dealt with over time, with a positive choice being made over and over again, or rehearsed, and continued until the desired results of consistent positivity, or UpSpiral is achieved! And that, is encouraging, good news!!

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