Therapy Blog

Breaking the Negativity Cycle

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I have written a handful of articles about how people can extract rejection through a thought process that assumes rejection where there may be none. Rejection can also be anticipated before the situation even occurs. But rejection is not the only thing that can be extracted or anticipated.  Defensiveness, grief, and failure are other experiences that can be created by the mind itself in an attempt to control the pain.

Generally speaking, a pessimistic outlook involves a cycle of negative expectations followed by negative thoughts and unhealthy behaviors that lead to negative consequences that feedback into the conscious and unconscious minds; and that is what shapes the next set of expectations. You can see the cyclic nature of negativity and pessimism. Remember though, pessimism is NOT the same thing as a healthy skepticism.

Mining for negativity – The essence of pessimism

When considering the more general form of pessimism, we can look at it as if we are “mining” for negativity. My mom called it “Borrowing Trouble.” Sometimes people consciously or unconsciously (perhaps semi-consciously) try to protect themselves from emotional pain by pre-empting it. This can happen by scanning your environment for any potential source of emotional pain, then assuming that it’ll probably happen if you enter that situation (a job interview, asking somebody out, auditioning for a part, etc.). And since you are primed to see it, your mind can create the appearance of the feared outcome even if it’s not there. In the example of asking somebody out, you may interpret the person you are talking to as rejecting you if they don’t make much eye contact, when in actuality, it is far more likely that they are nervous, too, and don’t want to mess things up; they may be mining for rejection, too. The lack of eye contact may simply be that they are hoping you will ask them out and feel overwhelmed by eye contact.

Mining for positivity – The essence of optimism

Accepting that failure is an important part of learning and self-improvement is an important skill. When you practice this, it does become easier to see the valuable lessons, and it frees you up to scan your environment for potential successes, thereby being more likely to see the opportunities and act on them. I call this the Law of Optimism.

The Law of Optimism

The basic idea is that when you actively look for success (‘mining’ for success), you are statistically more likely to see it. When you see more opportunities for success, you have more chances to succeed. The more chances to succeed that you act on, the more successes you’ll experience. And the more success you experience, the more likely you are to continue to search for it. You can see that this is the exact opposite cycle of mining for pessimism.

Optimism is the antidote for pessimism. It is how you break the cycle of negativity. But remember, it is like most other habits: it takes time, repetition, and patience. Do not give up. And when you find yourself giving up, remember to just pick up where you left off and see that moment of negativity itself as a chance to practice the optimism you are practicing.

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