The “Bullies” Of Our Emotional Playground


Angry twenty something couple yelling at each other

Negative hits of emotion are stronger than positive ones.

This is because negative emotions have usually followed strong negative events, and we learn them more deeply and quickly – the impact in the moment is felt more strongly.

But- and this is a big “but”- negative feelings have less impact and you feel them for a shorter period of time when you have a reservoir of positive feelings. Negative hits do just that- they “hit” in a way that knocks the emotional air out of us. They are quick or they are sudden, and then they grow.

They are the bullies in your emotional playground.

Depending upon the degree of the threat which the negative represents, the hit varies, but negative emotion is stronger in its immediacy than is positive feeling because it is an alarm system. But this alarm system goes off too much and it’s too loud.

Everything is not a tiger or a truck headed in our direction.

A negative emotion screams at us, “learn this now, this is very, very important,” and we do it.

Negative emotion is very linear. However, here is the good news. Positive feeling is nonlinear. That means that the more your reservoir of emotion is filled with the positive, the more readily it will appear, especially when you need it. You can draw on positive experiences and emotions forever, if you will choose to do it.

If you will make positive feelings a low grade, chronic, ambient background, a sound track of your life, it will take over the negative more quickly and the negative will last less and less time.

Think of those times when a negative thought, feeling, or reaction was something that hung around all day long until you slept it off. The antidote to the toxin of negative feeling and thoughts that are unwanted, and the “hit” they seem to give us out of nowhere, is to practice positive feelings.

Rehearse them, live in them, say them, think them, journal them.

Make a list everyday of what you’re grateful for. You don’t have to produce a big load of positivity here. You’re not being asked to be so cheery and bubbly and always so perky that someone would like to stick a cork in your mouth.

As you experience increasing positivity, you are changing, through the neuroplasticity of your brain, how your brain is wired, and establishing the reality of your own neuropositivity. New circuits of learning and being are being built as you do this.

You are tipping an inner scale, something like an inner teeter-totter, and instead of going up and down, you are moving the fulcrum of the teeter-totter so that the emotions with the most weight are positive.

There is NOTHING in your life that doing this won’t affect.

When you get to a positive place, you are much more capable of figuring out what the negative feelings are about, and what to do with them.

You never solve the negatives from a negative place.

© Dr. William K. Larkin 

About the author

Dr. William K. Larkin
  • Shuhan Yang, PHR CPCC ACC

    Due to our evolutionary past, 9 times out 10 we are inclined towards negativity versus positivity. Moreover the impact of negative emotions seem to be very much stronger in the immediate situation than the impact of positive emotions. This impact takes place at a cellular level and affects our overall well-being. Experiencing negative emotions is not an out of ordinary experience and should not be denied. Instead negative emotions serve as warning signs/alarm system to remind us to go into the positive direction. When we practice pulsing positive emotions, over time, we are changing the structure of our brain and developing new neuropathways that enable us to have easy access to positive emotions, even in difficult situations. This positive emotional muscle serves as a buffer against negative people and experience in our lives. In other words, when we are operating with positive emotions in the background, the impact of negative emotions is usually dampened and minimized. So the choice is really in our hands — whether to choose to live in UpSpiral where we are feeling good most of the time, having easy access to our strengths and more likely to receive what we truly want or to live in reactive and victimized DownSpiral where threat is the major lens through which we see the world.

  • Dr. gloria wright

    I’ve always wondered why negative emotions have more of a punch than positive ones. They just do. Maybe it is the fight or flight response that carries a stronger hit to get our attention. “Danger, danger, Will Robinson.”
    This alarm can serve another purpose too: “This is a temporary notice: Move back into the positive. You can look at how you want to react after you’ve returned to a calmer and more positive state.” This way it serves as a yellow caution light and Stop is the next step. Then we can reboot, and possibly reframe. Dr. Larkin reminds us, “You never solve the negatives from a negative place.”
    When my stinkin’ thinkin’ is active, it is futile to try and think of positive alternatives of action. I’m temporarily trapped in catastrophic thinking. When I’m no longer flooded with negative thoughts and emotions, I can use my strengths to look at the situation and compose my actions rather than reactions. It can sound a bit Pollyanna, but there is logic, experience and scientific research to support the advantages of being in a positive frame of reference as much as possible.
    Dr. Barbara Fredrickson talks about the phenomena of “Broaden
    and Build.” She says that as you focus on the positive with intent, you begin to build a reservoir of positivity that you can draw on when you become alarmed, angry, agitated, etc. This is my experience. As I spend more conscious time in the positive, I can also spot the alarm button more readily because it is out of the ordinary and no longer what I’m so used to.
    Increasing our positivity experiences, strengthens the growth of our brain neuroplasticity. Thank goodness we can build new circuits of learning and being. It’s wonderful that we can aid the positive growth of our brains. We need to take advantage of this great opportunity. I want to be healthy, positive, loving and live a life of meaning. How about you?

Copyright © 2015 The Applied Neuroscience Institute