We've been given the Covid-19 cactus and the sequestered, uncertain, What’s-the new-normal-going-to-look like? space that comes with it.
Does this seem like old news, right about now? In some ways yes, but as we've seen, this cactus is the gift that will keep on giving for a while, and its spikes look different for each one of us. Loss - loss of loved ones, jobs, income/business, social interaction, predictability, stable routine, the power of certain kinds of privilege, and more - though real and in some cases necessary - feel overwhelming.
Your personal resilience, and that of our world, depends on how you and each one of us responds to disappointment, loss, change, and uncertainty.
It’s easy to get stuck in negative places. We’re human and therefore susceptible to the negativity bias, which is a phrase from psychology that describes one way that we’re hardwired by evolution to survive. It’s our predisposition to look for what’s wrong, bad, dangerous, and threatening because paying attention to those things had the most impact on our survival.
Negativity Bias can show up in a bunch of ways, for example, we recall traumatic experiences better than positive ones, we respond more strongly to negative events than to equally positive ones and we remember insults better than praise. Sound familiar? Of course it does.
On one hand, negativity bias (NB) is good for our survival; right now, washing hands, wearing a mask, staying far apart from others are sane actions designed to keep you (and us) alive.
On the other, NB causes suffering by overlooking the good news, by creating anxiety and pessimism (aka, more negativity). This negativity bias messes with us even more when we assign danger and negative emotions to situations that are not truly dangerous or bad for us. Or, when we find ourselves in an uncomfortable or difficult situation (the cactus) by telling ourselves excessively negative stories about what it all means and what’s not possible. Not now. Not ever.
It is far from a benign sequence. In motion it looks like this:
Special delivery cactus arrives from the world -> our misinterpretation of its meaning, ramifications -> inaction or wrong action based on that interpretation-> negative results (outward results and inner experience) -> more ouch.
That "more ouch" sets another sequence in motion creating misery and suffering – more than the initial cactus alone could ever have given us. It’s the anti-resilience perfect recipe for low life satisfaction even in the face of outward measures of “success.” It’s also a surefire way to undermine constructive problem-solving physical health and mental well-being.
What if you didn't have to sit on the cactus? What if your response was more under your control than you thought? It is possible to override the negativity bias when it is misguiding you. It takes awareness and pausing to interrupt it.
And, it helps enormously to actively engage in activities that generate positive feelings and outlook.
Drawing on Your Inner Resources class,helps you tap into what you know deep down is working for you, what you sense would be helpful right now and into the near future. No “shoulds,” no emphasis on what’s not working. Instead, a look inward at what is strong or becoming strong in you, because it's easy to forget. And now, just as easy to remember
...because the consequences of sitting on your cactus are huge.
Next class 90-minute Monday, June 15, 2020. If you'd like me to offer this for your group, or to you alone. Let's talk!