Happy Friday. Here’s a tip for the weekend: Don’t let a bad 10 minutes ruin your entire day.
Humans tend to hone in on the negative. Any random look at Facebook or Twitter will show you the Tetris blocks of bullshit piling up at Level-10 rates. We search for the negatives in ourselves and others: the fuck-ups, the regressions, the extremes, the let downs, the losses, even if they’re temporary. It’s a want for some elimination of negativity through the forces of equal-and-opposite negativity; rumination is meditation for the angry, the anxious, the sad.
You might notice this happening in real time to a friend who responds to “How’s it going?” is a less-than-enthusiastic “good…..” instead of the normal, chipper “Good!” Or perhaps a random bout of crying after a few glasses of wine, or the always dreaded parking-lot yell fest where everything happens to be YOUR FAULT.
Inside their head is something buzzing around that, in the moment it happened, seemed so stupid, so silly, but.. 20 minutes later and they’re still stewing in it. It’s still happening, even when it’s not. The thoughts marinade, then bake in. A gentle sizzle of anger or sadness or anxiety sits there, unaddressed, left to burn.
Psychological research, such as a study from UChicago social neuroscientist John Cacioppo, has found our attitude is more influenced by negative news than it is by positive news. To boot, there are more words with a negative connotation in the English language than there are words with positive connotation – by some counts as much as a ratio of 65:35. Avoidance of negative experiences, by the studies of many psychologists, is a greater motivator for action and thought than the want for positive experiences.
Is it a trap? Hell yeah.
Your job? Don’t let yourself fall into it.
Sounds easy, but it takes practice. Sometimes, you simply need to take a deep, slow breath (hey, why not three?), covering the breath in your awareness and focusing on the exhale, thereby pausing your stream of consciousness for a moment or two. Sometimes you need to question your own beliefs about the situation, advocating for the devil. Sometimes you need to just accept that something shitty happened and now it’s on to the next step: Shoveling the bullshit aka dealing with it.
Have a shitty interaction with a friend, coworker, boss, stranger, lover, or family member? Well, why was it so shitty and will it actually matter tomorrow? Next week? In 10 years? Does it really have to weigh on you so much that you become the architect of your own shit mood? Can it be fixed? And if it can’t be, why are you letting it get under your skin?
Did you read an article or watch a video that pisses you off, perhaps of some straw-haired politician whose hands tell you its OK while his butthole-shaped lips say otherwise? Well, what can you do about it? Is letting the information you’ve heard fill you up until you’re seething with rage well past bedtime going to change anything, aside from filling your dreams with visions of Ted Cruz’s non-Duchenne smile cavorting on top of a nuclear bomb?
In 2017, I say we need more mechanisms in place to question our negativity. Sure, things can get bad, but think about it: is your decision making better when you’re pissed off and bummed or when you have a bit of distance from and perspective on what happened?
Create that distance. Let that 10 minutes have it’s time and move on.