July 21, 2021

Thoughts on Negativity

Dear Dad,

Thank you for this article, For the New Year Say No to Negativity By John Tierney and Roy F. Baumeister


I found it quite interesting and have shared it with a few clients already.

Specifically, I liked "Post-traumatic stress disorder became common knowledge but not the concept of post-traumatic growth, which is actually far more common. Most people who undergo trauma ultimately feel that the experience has made them a stronger and better person." I feel that often my clients are pretty invested in being a victim, and part of my job is to get them to be invested in being a hero instead - ie, change the script, heal and deal, recognize the lesson in the trauma and then move on.

I disagree with "A single bad event can produce lifelong trauma, but there is no psychological term for the opposite of trauma because no good event has such a lasting impact." I would say that going to Wesleyan was not just a good event, but has still a lasting impact on my life. Interestingly,  I wanted to go to Georgetown but didn't get in, despite this being a "certain win" from the college counselor. I randomly had applied to Wesleyan which was "out of my league" again according to the counselor, but I had visited with Diana the year before and decided to apply as my long shot. 

I am thankful and aware of this good, and of the very good advice you gave me when I got divorced - always be invested in Amber's education. From early childcare doing Montessori the first seven years, Charter schools during junior/high school, to her graduating from UOP, I feel I totally see the good in these decisions and the lasting impact on Amber as well as my life. 

This paragraph is great -"Politicians and journalists tap into primal emotions by hyping threats from nature, technology, foreigners, political opponents—whatever will instantly trigger the brain’s alarm circuits. The presidency of Donald Trump has been a ratings bonanza because it has brought out the worst on both sides. Rarely a week goes by without some new warning that civilization is doomed." 

"The Rule of Four: It takes four good things to overcome one bad thing" was interesting. Certainly one of the strengths in Chip and my marriage is that we are constantly kind, considerate, polite, and supportive. We often talk about "the past" and how amazing our journey has been, as well as reiterate good experiences, mainly traveling together. "Engaging in nostalgia was long considered a sign of depression, but experimenters have repeatedly found it’s a tool not just for appreciating the past but also for brightening both the present and the future. One reason that happiness increases beyond middle age is that older people spend more time savoring good memories instead of obsessing about today’s worries."

Pretty much the only thing we fight about is our kids - which is why prenuptial agreements are our friend (another good piece of advice you gave me before getting married, with a lifetime positive impact). Anyway, besides for having a "don't ask, don't tell" policy, we've also been practicing a technique I adapted from a compassionate communication workshop called CAMRA - we each take turns to say 3 Celebrations, 3 Appreciations, 3 Mournings, # Reassurances, and 3 Action steps. One of my clients calls this "the shit sandwich - put the negative between slices of positive". However, it works because when we start with the celebrations and appreciations, the brain releases the feel-good neurotransmitters (serotonin, endorphins, dopamine). This makes it easier to hear the mournings, which tend to release the fight or flight hormones (adrenaline, testosterone, cortisol). There is an implicit agreement that as we listen to each other, it is not up to us to fix anything. This goes into reassurances, again it's not up to the partner to provide, just to listen. Last is action steps, which implies personal responsibility and the opportunity to stop focusing on the problems (negative) but the solutions (positive). It also has the 1:4 ratio, I notice.

I liked this - "Of all of Mark Twain’s aphorisms, the one with the most empirical support is a bit of wisdom from the title character of Pudd’nhead Wilson: “To get the full value of a joy, you must have somebody to divide it with.” Psychologists call it capitalization and have found that sharing good news is one of the most effective ways to become happier—but only if the other person responds enthusiastically, so make sure you rejoice in your friend’s good fortune (or at least fake it). Sharing good news makes the triumph more significant, so it’s more likely to be recalled later, which is another proven way to boost happiness." This is why I try to post something positive every day on my social media, rather than repeating bad news.

So, there are some thoughts. I hope it has a positive impact on your lawn bowling, just as you have made a long term positive impact in my life.

I love you, Dad,