Overcoming Negative Emotions

Why are negative emotions so hard to dispel?

Negative emotions carry direct and immediate adaptive benefits that threaten survival.

Negative emotions

  • Narrow our momentary thought-action repertoire to drive specific action (fight or flight)
  • These negative emotions are likely the response to survival responses.

For instance, fear is linked with the urge to escape, anger with the urge to attack, disgust with the urge to expel.

So negative emotions are linked to our survival response – why does this create a problem?

Since negative emotions, such as anger and fear, are linked to our basic survival response of fight or flight, our brains are pre-programmed with a ‘negativity bias’.

Our brains are programmed to concentrate on these negative emotions and they tend to stay with us for longer. On the other hand, positive emotions are often fleeting – whilst beneficial, they are not hard-wired as a survival imperative.

Living our lives on social media – and why the grass is always greener on the other side

When we make comparisons between ourselves and others we tend to make upwards comparison without being aware that we do.

Clearly this is more likely to result in dissatisfaction when we make the comparison and therefore also more likely to lead to a negative emotional response.

With social media today, the ability to constantly compare has grown exponentially and, with it, the increase in likely negative emotional responses from these social comparisons.

Why does the novelty wear off; why don’t we retain positive emotions?

The Hedonic Treadmill concept implies that even though positive events temporarily alter our emotions (for example, winning the lottery makes us happy), we  adapt to them and return to a fixed emotional set-point.

In other words, the feelings of joy and happiness that we may experience in the moment do not stay with us over the long-term. We need new sources of joy and happiness to bring back similar feelings.

The Hedonic Treadmill – Brickman, Coates & Janoff-Bulman 1978

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LifeForward Sarah Reynolds Potential

Sarah Reynolds
PCC, ACA
Director

 

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