You Were Born Negative
LOR. You Were Born Negative.
Máilleogs and Magann grew from cave boys to cave men in the Caher Valley of North County Clare. And although thick as thieves as friends they were as different as chalk and cheese in personality.
Máilleogs was negativity personified. He was constantly worried as to what might go wrong. Magann, by contrast, was the essence of positivity and bonne-humeure. He was cool, calm, and rarely stressed.
One pleasant evening in the month of May the two lads were chatting amiably outside the mouth of Ailwee Cave. The sun was high in the blue sky. The birds were singing. The world was at peace.
That was until Máilleogs thought he heard what sounded like the growl of a bear in the bushes.
‘Come on quick Magann and let’s get up to the higher ground where the bear can’t get us or we’re surely dust.’
‘That’s typical you Máilleogs. Always expecting the worst to happen. Always on edge. Always stressed. Always running for the higher ground. If you continue with that Mullarkey of an attitude you’ll repel any good fortune the universe can bestow.
Máilleogs knew that Magann had a point. He was always on edge, waiting for something to go wrong, and sometimes chided himself on his nervousness. But just then, he could have sworn he heard another even more menacing hissing sound in the undergrowth.
He beseeched Magann once again to come with him but Magann was now assuming a lotus position and chanting to the universe.
Blind terror got the better of Máilleogs and he was halfway up the hill when he heard the assault. All he could say was that Magann would have felt nothing. The bear devoured him limb for limb in minutes.
• Máilleogs continue to survive thousands of years later. So also does his DNA. In each and every one of us.
• Sadly, Maganns DNA died and was buried with the bear on that seminal May evening. There is little chance that you’ll be born with a positive disposition.
• And apologies to the positive-thinking community but the key reason that Máilleogs, and all of us, have survived is because of his fear and cautious and careful attitude.
• And thus, the human brain evolved, literally clinging for dear life to something that psychologists now call ‘the negativity bias.’ And lest you think Reilly is being childish listen to what Dr. Rick Hanson, author of ‘Hardwiring Happiness’ has to say about it.
• ‘Our ancestors could make two kinds of mistakes:
(1) thinking there was a tiger in the bushes when there wasn’t one, and
(2) assuming there was no tiger in the bushes when there actually was one. The cost of the first mistake was needless anxiety, while the cost of the second one was death.
• ‘Consequently, we evolved to make the first mistake a thousand times to avoid making the second mistake even once. . . . In general, the default setting of the brain is to overestimate threats, underestimate opportunities, and underestimate resources both for coping with threats and for fulfilling opportunities. Then we update these beliefs with information that confirms them while ignoring or rejecting information that doesn’t.
• ‘There are even regions in the amygdala [which is an almond-shaped part of the midbrain that’s intricately connected to the body’s “stress response”] specifically designed to prevent the unlearning of fear, especially from childhood experiences. As a result, we end up preoccupied with threats that are actually smaller or more manageable than we’d feared while overlooking opportunities that are actually greater than we’d hoped for. In effect, we’ve got a brain that’s prone to “paper tiger paranoia.
• Many of us can relate to this experience in our daily lives.
We get a text from the bank, or a doctor, or even someone we deeply love saying ‘Hey there. We need to talk. Have you got a minute? And we do a Máilleogs on it. We immediately assume the worst. We convert ‘we need to talk into ‘we must be in deep trouble.’
• So, how do you handle this negativity bias? Nick Ortner, in his great book ‘The Tapping Solution for Manifesting Your Highest Self’ counsels.
• ‘Starting today…
Make a point of simply noticing when your brain’s “negativity bias” is being activated. Remember, it’s a hardwired response that we all experience, so there’s no need to blame or shame yourself for it. Don’t stress or worry about it. Just notice it. And once you see your brain’s negativity bias at work, pause and ask yourself: Could this be my brain’s negativity bias talking?’
• Someday, when the history of the world is thoroughly told, they’ll erect a statue outside the Ailwee Caves in the Caher Valley outside Ballyvaughan in memory of Máilleogs and Magann. The inscription will simply say ‘The Negativity Bias Was Born Here.’
‘In intimate relationships, we typically need at least five positive interactions to counterbalance every negative one. And for people to begin to thrive in life, they usually need positive moments to outweigh negative ones by at least a three-to-one ratio.’
—Nick Ortner. The Tapping Solution.
1. Do you live your life mostly in panic mode or in peace mode?
2. Could those things you’re procrastinating on be your brain’s negativity bias talking? Maybe there is no bear in the bushes.
(Smácht Mór takes place on September 29th and 30th next on Mount Errigal on the 29th and in the beautiful Caislean Oir Hotel on the 30th. Reilly promises to share a highly effective process to help you deal with ‘negativity bias.’ This simple technique can literally change your life. Do you want to continue to live in panic mode or peace mode?)