Crisis is all Around
A week or so ago I read an interesting article on treehugger.com regarding the floods in Colorado. Unfortunately this type of article, which tells the story of heart ache and devastation for fellow human beings is now all too common. In reading the article I was drawn to concept that as a society we’ve become immune to crisis.
Everyday, driven primarily by the mainstream media we are bombarded with an overwhelming number of stories and images that explain in detail, the negative things that are happening all around us. In fact, so prevalent has this focus become that it is almost impossible to escape. These stories and images extend from examples relating to single individuals through to the mass destruction of civil wars and environmental catastrophe.
Negativity Bias – a perpetual state of fear
What many of us don’t realise is that as human beings we have an inherent bias towards the negative. That is, embedded deep within the reptilian parts of our brains, is our primary desire for safety and survival. From the very start of our evolution to become ‘modern man’ we have relied on this brain function to help our species survive and thrive.
Today, how this primary desire for safety and survival manifests is through an unconscious bias towards the negative; our negativity bias. That is, no matter how positive a person you claim to be, as a human being we are each inherently more aware (at least at an unconscious level) of the dangers around us. It is true that some people are better able to deal with this than others, but this awareness of the negative is still the same. In fact, the theory of negativity bias suggests that we are five times more conscious of negative events than we are positive. Hence, it requires five positives events to compensate for every negative one!
Restoring the balance – beyond the fluffy kitten effect
It is a reasonable assumption that the focus of the mainstream media on the negative, is merely a collective unconscious reaction to our negativity bias. That is, because this bias exists within each of us, it is not unsurprising that we all are drawn to the negative stories, which drives up ratings and creates a perpetual cycle of fear. And, I’m sure it could be argued that this perpetual cycle of fear is what creates a self-fulfilling prophecy of threat-fear-reaction-threat, at the micro (individual) and macro (country) level. (The need for increased military spending and a nuclear deterrent is one such self-fulfilling prophecy that comes to mind!)
Whether this is true or not, is up to the audience to decide. And this does not mean that bad things are not happening constantly around us. But, what the Fluffy Kitten Effect tells is that the desire for positivity still exists. The Fluffy Kitten Effect is revealed by that single article in the news about the kitten being saved from the tree, or the dog that can ride the skateboard, or the birth of new Panda cubs etc etc, which is intended to restore our faith in the world we live within. It is the one glimmer of ‘goodness’ in an otherwise stream of negatativity.
For the average person living in modern society, the influenceable danger that may threaten our safety and survival is no longer as common as it was during our early evolution as primitive man. That is, today we are less likely to die from eating poisonous berries or be killed by a savage animals than we were back then. Yet the parts of our brain that are wired to be aware of potential threats are as strong as ever.
To overcome this we need to restore the balance and go beyond the Fluffy Kitten Effect. We need to find ways to increase the positivity, whilst decreasing the negativity we observe in every day life. A useful start of this for many of my friends has been to no longer watch the TV news or read news papers. Instead they are focusing on using this time for that which brings them greater positivity, meaning and purpose.
The Choice is Yours…
Ultimately once we become aware of our negativity bias we are given a choice. We can continue living a life where we allow the negativity that surrounds us every day to keep us in a unconscious (or even conscious) perpetual state of fear. Or, we can change our perspective and focus our attention on the richness and beauty of life and humanity!