As in, we literally do.
Recently I was listening to an episode of Freakonomics (I heartily recommend) where they spoke about Negativity Bias. It’s one of many annoying cognitive biases that makes us notice negativity more than positivity. All of us…
We’ll hear about a medical treatment perhaps, and how it saves live. We’re pleased and it feels good. But then we hear a story about how it may have made someone sick. And somehow that’s far more interesting and we tell more people about that than we told the original story. And that‘s what we’ll stick to, even if that sickness turns out to be unrelated. It can stick for years – many people still believe that autism is caused by vaccines for example. Even though we know that’s not true.
Believing it does not imply lesser intelligence – it’s unrelated. It’s simply that we are built to notice potential danger. Fear of attack or death is evolutionarily useful. Essential even. But it can be used against us, to manipulate us. To make us afraid and then sell things to us to soothe our fear. But it’s still essential.
And, wow, it’s annoying.
You remember that time someone said something negative about you? Of COURSE you do. Can you bring to mind as easily all the positive things you heard about or to you? When you go to bed at night, do you bask in thoughts of what went well that day? Or do you find your mind replaying the things that went wrong, that might go wrong – oh NO they probably WILL go wrong!! You know how it goes… and so do I – our brains were made in the same factory.
How is this relevant – and now more than ever?
We are united in our human need for outlet, for connection and support. We need to have our experience normalised through sharing, and we need to feel some degree of control, however and whenever we can, as we endure this enormous loss of control and freedom together. And in short, we desperately need a bit of craic.
If we think of ourselves as having four basic psychological needs – Power, Connection, Freedom and Fun – how may of these needs elude us right now?
We are so creative at finding ways to meet our needs – we do that in either healthy or unhealthy ways. Joining together in a frenzy of panic, drama, attack, blame, mocking – mad as it might sound, these things meet our needs in many ways! We’ve certainly seen lots more of that recently…
But something reeeeeeally interesting is happening now – we are seeking out good news. Actively seeking. LOTS of us. Google searches for “Good news stories” spiked recently, social media feeds are changing. We need cheering up, and rather than continue to accept the constant feed of fear and gloom it seems we’re starting to do something about it.
What we’re witnessing now is an emergence of a healthier way of ticking many of our needs boxes. This. Is. HUGE.
We see a joke or a good news story, we laugh, we feel better, a little healed, a little more connected, a little lighter. We cling to the story of that cute 94 year old woman who recovered and returned home. We sign up for TikTok much to the disgust of tweens who thought they owned it … We share that story or joke, we do that mad dance, put on the funny clothes, the tin foil hats. (My husband wouldn’t let me include that pic…)
We think maybe we can affect how someone else feels, we feel maybe we can exert a little power to change an otherwise boring or miserable or fear filled day. And we’re right! We can! That gives us a sense of freedom, freedom to express ourselves, freedom from misery, even if brief. And it’s fun, again, even if brief.(She’s just seen my TikTok…)
These are needs common to all of us. As I mentioned earlier – our brains – and our hearts – all made in the same factory! We find a way to not drown in our own sorrows. We always do. It’s survival and resilience at it’s very best.
And I like to think that we Irish have an edge with this stuff – especially here in Cork of course 😉 Am I going too far to say East Cork??
So here’s my suggestion – as our restrictions ease just a little – how can you, in a healthy way meet your needs for power, connection, freedom and fun?
Pics by me, Pixabay free stock and my favourite – the cartoon – is by The Awkward Yeti