Did you know that having a negativity bias is part of our human design? The intelligence behind this allows us to assess for safety and develop protective instincts. It’s what helps us know to take the bright and well marked path rather than walk down the dimly lit alleyway.
We bring negativity bias into our relationships. As we get to know others, we assess our level of safety in their presence. While this instinct protects us in many ways, if we don’t bring consciousness to it, it can cause us to habitually act out of survival, rather than our evolved mind. I see this often in family life. Old wounding causes us to look for what’s not working, see the other as bad, pit ourselves in better than-worse than dynamics, ultimately leading us to separation and isolation at home. This estrangement hurts and can begin to feel like a bottomless pit.
When we’re in the trance of separation, there are ways we can be led back to connection. First, we need to recognize that we’re seeing others as “unreal.” They become an object, obstacle, or vehicle. Then, we do the work of getting back into our hearts. We validate our own experiences—gosh it’s hard being a parent, partner, child, or sibling sometimes! We loosen our grip on indignation and realize that we’re all imperfect beings, just doing our best. We remember everything the other brings to our lives, just because she exists. We focus on what we have. We seek out teachers who can share tools with us. We learn to bring skillfulness into our relationships. We practice, practice, practice.
One of my favorite tools to use is gratitude. Gratitude opens me up and allows me to feel the softness of life, no matter how persistent my negativity bias is being. Years ago when I worked in residential treatment, I asked one of my students what helped her want to live again. She said when she began keeping a daily gratitude journal she started noticing how blue the sky was and how good the breeze on her skin felt, and realized that life is pretty amazing. That’s what gratitude does.
I’m grateful for you. I want to thank the families I work with for their vulnerability, dedication, and willingness. I want to thank my colleagues for their support and collaboration. I get to do what I love every day. I’m lucky.
Since it’s the season, let’s remember to feel thankful. Tell the people in your life that you love them. Keep a running tally of all the good that’s in your life, even if the only thing you can think of for awhile is how blue the sky is.
“When you love what you have, you have everything you need.”