Terms You Should Be Aware Of

You can never fix anything you do not face, furthermore you can never fix anything that you are not even aware is a problem. There are a few terms everyone should familiarize themselves with, so we don't unconsciously partake in some harmful tendencies.

Below we are going to discuss a few terms, so stay vigilant!

Many attribute anxiety and worrying to a side affect of our bodies adjusting overtime to protect us. Evolutionist say that when life was more dangerous we had to focus on the negative more heavily because back than we could be eaten by a lion if we weren't more sensitive or fixated on the averse stimuli. This is where negativity bias comes into play.

Negativity Bias

Negativity bias explains why we as humans react more strongly to punishment than we do reward. Countless studies show that when participants lose something vs. gain something the reactions are more intense. Furthermore, studies where participants viewed negative images revealed more activity in the Cerebral Cortex compared to when participants viewed neutral or positive images. Negativity bias explains why we can hear a million compliments and yet only fixate on the complaint.

There are numerous studies that showcase the affects of negativity on our brains, for instance in one study by simply looking at a negative word the Amygdala became more reactive. Furthermore, those studies also highlighted how every brain differs for instance, some people have a less reactive Ventral Anterior Cingulate. But it is important to note that no matter how your brain may react, negativity bias is something we must all be aware of, and actively work to counteract the implicit bias.

The starting point to offset these tendencies is to at least be mindful of them. You may not be able to prevent your mind from automatically focusing on the negative or reacting more strongly but you do have control over what thoughts you marinate in. NBC did a great article with Researcher Dr. Barbara Fredrickson that talks about some tools we can implement to counteract our natural tendencies. Check it out here.

Confirmation Bias

The tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one's existing beliefs or theories. - Dictionary

Confirmation bias is important because it supports the idea that we oftentimes look for evidence to reinforce our beliefs, and reject the ones that do not. In other words, if we are having a bad day or think only bad things happen to us we will look for instances that sustain this thesis. This translate to the harsh reality that if good things do happen to us we may miss them or minimize them to save our marriage to the preconceived notions of how only bad things happen to us.

We can not allow irrational generalized beliefs ruin our life. Therefore we must actively be aware and challenge any harmful beliefs and biases.

Learned Helplessness

A condition in which a person suffers from a sense of powerlessness, arising from a traumatic event or persistent failure to succeed. It is thought to be one of the underlying causes of depression. - Dictionary

Psychologists Martin Seligman and Steve F. Meir introduced the world to “learned helplessness,” during a study in 1967. The study consisted of three groups of dogs. One group would receive shocks no matter what they did, while the other two groups developed a sense of control throughout the experiment.

In part two of the experiment, the dogs in the first group stopped trying, regardless of the fact that their atmosphere changed and regardless of the fact that they actually regained control. Learned helplessness prevails when a person believes their power is debilitated due to numerous failures, and uncontrollable environmental/life situations. Many scholars consider learned helplessness to play a massive role in depression. Here is where it gets interesting, one may argue that many are not even aware that they unconsciously inhabit learned helplessness.

The only way they were able to combat this learned helplessness in the dogs was when the experimenters physically walked the dogs through the obstacle course highlighting how they will escape and implying that the dogs had control again. When we experience a lack of control we are more likely to surrender to not even trying.

Mood-congruent Memory

Consistency between one’s mood state and the emotional context of memories recalled. During positive mood states, individuals will tend to retrieve pleasant memories, whereas during negative mood states, negative thoughts and associations will more likely come to mind. - APA

Mood-congruent memory is dangerous because if a person is experiencing depression their more likely to recall negative memories therefore adding fuel to the already dangerous fire. Emotions encode our memory, it is easy to recall the memories if we are already floating in the emotion. When you observe yourself spiraling down the avalanche of negative memory after negative thought, it is helpful to do something that will bring your back to the present. Additionally, there is also the ever-so popular helpful tool to find something you are grateful for. I am sure you have heard that advice probably more times than you can count but there are countless studies that bolster this positive correlation.

Now you know some terms and tendencies that may have been making our lives a little more difficult. Our best antidote to all of these tendencies first starts with awareness, we must acknowledge them so we can develop better habits. Again, we can not fix anything we do not face. Once we are able to observe our emotions, our thoughts it easy to adjust accordingly. Thoughts are not facts and we are always free to challenge them. You have to be active with fixing any habits that does not serve you, no one else can do it for you. You deserve an amazing life but you have to fight for it.

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