Addicted to Negativity

“The world is full of a lot of fear and a lot of negativity, and a lot of judgment. I just think people need to start shifting into joy and happiness. As corny as it sounds, we need to make a shift.” - Ellen DeGeneres

Did you know negativity is addictive? It turns out those exposed to negativity during early life may, “develop an addiction to negative experience as adolescents and adults, and this may constitute a central organizing feature of their personality.”

Researchers say there are two primary reasons we humans get addicted to negativity:

  1. A desire for revenge, a constant anger towards, wrongs of the past, which they call, “early objects that have been a source of deprivation and frustration.
  2. A fear of, attempt to ward off a kinship with, “early objects of... deprivation and frustration.”

In plain speak, overwhelmingly negative people experienced something very negative in childhood, feel a great sense of injustice and are now trying to keep those negative experiences from happening again. How? By focusing on their negative past and pushing away anything that might put them at emotional risk.

Sort of an ironic and tragic cycle, right?  Those with negative childhood’s become negative in hopes of warding off further negativity.

This can look a lot of different ways as it plays out through different people, but here are some signs of negativity addiction:

  • Drama follows them wherever they go. It’s crisis after crisis, either their own or someone else’s and they’re somehow always entangled.
  • They don’t say nice things about people. Almost no one in their world is kind, generous or well intentioned.  
  • Total strangers get critiqued negatively. The waitress, the guy crossing the road, and the woman in line at the grocery are all fair game for critique.
  • They find happy people ingenuine or annoying. They believe joyful or fulfilled seeming people are hiding something or flaunting their easy lives. They prefer to hang with people who have complaints.
  • They stop calling, texting and emailing when things are going well. It’s never for long, but negative people tend to reach out and connect when they have negative things to discuss.

Just because someone meets these criteria, doesn’t make them an unpleasant person. Negative people can be the social glue of a group and can be funny, great listeners, and even caretakers. But they rarely find the kind of personal happiness or satisfaction that others can achieve.

If you’re relating to this article and recognizing your own negative habits, take heart. Awareness is the first step to change, along with a few others:

Awareness: Catch yourself each time you do it.  As you begin to think badly about yourself or someone else, take note and ask, “why is negativity coming into this moment?” Many times negative thoughts come out of sheer habit with nothing prompting them but expectation.  Let the thoughts come, but don’t let them take root unchallenged.

Acknowledgment: Acknowledge concerns and then move on.  PsychCentral wisely recommends not thinking of the escape from negative thought as a fight, but as a simple release.  Have the thought, acknowledge if it has validity and then let it go.  Those practicing Yoga or Meditation can think of it as breathing that negative energy out or releasing it like restless birds. They may return, but don’t wrestle with them, simply move them along until they’re gone for good.

Positivism: Slowly add in positive thinking. After you’ve practiced the self care of negative thought awareness, acknowledgement, and release, consider the generosity of being positive. You can benefit from it too.  Reward yourself for doing your best. Try and make the waitress smile. Invite a friend out and talk about what’s going right in your lives and how you plan to build on that momentum.

No one will go from Glass Half Empty to All Full, but small steps towards being more positive can break an addictive cycle and put people on a better path to happiness.






Human Unlimited
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