Episode 21: Why negative is natural
You are listening to the Life Reconstructed podcast with me, Teresa Amaral Beshwate, grief expert, best-selling author and widow. I’m so glad you’re here because in this and every episode, I shine a light on the widowed way forward.
Hello and welcome to episode 21. In this episode, I explain why you might be feeling so incredibly negative, why that’s completely normal, and what to do about it.
I often speak with people who say things like, “I’m so negative.” The glass is always half empty (or to be honest, completely empty).
“All I see is loss, and the fallout of that loss. I can’t seem to get out of this negative cycle. I just can’t shake the negativity. I just can’t get out of my own way.”
I want you to know that negativity is quite natural for every human, grieving or not. In fact, it is due to the most primitive hardwiring in the brain, and that part of the brain has not evolved over time. To quote my friend Dr. Roger Landry, we have a version 1.0 primitive brain and we’re living in at least a version 3.0 world.
Let me explain…
In order to do its job of staying alive, the brain has to quickly identify danger. Is that a rock in the grass or a snake? Better to assume it’s a snake, to err on the side of caution. Assuming it was a snake was the better, safer option.
This hardwiring kept our ancestors safe for generations, during times when real danger was truly around every corner.
Although today you’re not likely to have a snake encounter, your hardwired, version 1.0 primitive brain is always on the lookout, constantly analyzing situations and quickly categorizing that which is safe or dangerous.
So, it’s no surprise that brains are good at finding the negative.
Now add grief, and you’ve got a brain operating on overdrive, certain that danger is everywhere, constantly seeking and readily finding the negative.
This tendency is called negativity bias, and it is nothing more than our primitive brains doing their best to keep us alive.
Luckily, we have other parts of the brain that are more in tune with modern life. We can recognize the primitive brain’s focus on the negative, understand why it is happening, and then intentionally change the channel.
We can acknowledge the efforts of the primitive brain and then demand equal airtime for what is right, what is working, what is positive.
Once we recognize our bias toward negativity and understand why we have it, we realize how much control we have over our mindset.
So today, allow your brain to tell you all that is negative, difficult and just plain wrong. Write it all down. Acknowledge it with no judgement.
Then, direct your brain to change the channel. What else is true? Where are there glimmers of goodness, even in this life after loss? If you direct your brain to look, it will find them.
Now, you are still entitled to your grief even if you have goodness and blessings in your life. The positive and negative coexist, and they’re equally true at the very same time. That’s the duality of life after loss.
Just be sure that the negative isn’t getting all the airtime.
When we better understand our grieving brain, we can listen to what the brain is offering us, and then direct our thoughts, on purpose. This is the path forward toward a version of you who is positive, confident and calm.
If grief groups leave you feeling worse instead of better, it’s probably because you’ve just spent an hour with grieving people who are spiraling in negativity and don’t see a way out.
Which is why Life Reconstructed, my coaching program exclusively for widowed people, is different. You’ll learn to step out of the negativity cycle, plus you’ll meet other people who get it, and who are learning and growing together. I hope you’ll join us.
And remember that I’m here for you, and I believe in you. Take care.