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Negativity Bias

False positives are less threatening to survival than false negatives.

Emotions are messengers - evolved to motivate us to action.

• They are survival focused

• They evolved to be temporary



Action Urge

Danger threatens



Something precious is lost Sadness/grief


Something unpleasant is confronted Disgust

An important goal is blocked



Three Systems:

1. Avoiding - Brainstem or “lizard brain Goal: safety, peacefulness

2. Approaching - Limbic or mammalian brain

Goal: contentment, satisfaction

3. Attaching - Cortex or primate brain Goal: connection, cared about

Red Zone (reactive)

Green Zone (responsive)

General state: contraction General State: openness

1. Fear

A.) Safety, peacefulness

2. Frustration, grasping A.) Contentmentnt, okay in the moment

3. Envy, heartache, clinging A.) Connecteded, cared about, loving

Negative bias of the brain

1. Our survival system is hard-wired to be on alert and almost constantly scanning the environment for signs of potential danger.

2. The brain is programmed to move quickly into the Red Zone at the slightest hint of danger.

3. To maintain safety and survival, the brain stores Red Zone experiences involving pain and fear in a way that keeps them easily accessible (top file drawer) in future situations involving potential threat.

Modern day problem

1. Evolutionary plan: short spikes in the red zone, escape the threat, return to green zone

2. Modern life: undifferentiated threat, too much time in the red zone, living in anxiety and/or collapsing due to depletion.

“We evolved to live long enough to procreate but not to be happy.” - Dan Siegel

Learning to be happy is our job.

Why do depression, unhappiness, anxiety fear outlast the situation?

-Our reactions to our emotions actually keep them going, fanning the flames.

-Our attempts to feel better (alcohol, drugs, hedonistic pursuits) can actually make us feel worse.

-When we react to our negative thoughts and feelings with aversion the "avoidance system" of the brain is activated.

-Effects of avoidance/aversion: being preoccupied, dwelling on how to get rid of our negative feelings e.g., sadness, disconnection - the mind contracts, closes in on itself, life narrows, choices dwindle, increasingly isolated.

Mood and Memory

- Context specific - external (situational), internal (thoughts of inadequacy)

- Mood is an internal context - memories and associations to whatever was going on in ourselves or the world to make us unhappy will come back automatically. When the mood comes up so do the thoughts, memories, thinking patterns that are associated with that mood.

- Memories: mental and emotional constructs which do not perfectly reflect actual events. Perception does not equal accuracy. When we recall a perceived event we are mostly reactivating it’s emotional content rather than remembering actual events.

Goal of Mindfulness Practice

1. Move out of the Red Zone as quickly as possible.

2. Learn to minimize circumstances and conditions that pull us into the Red Zone as much as possible.

3. Cultivate the Green Zone: peace, contentment and connection.

We Are Stuck in Doing vs Being Mode

Doing Mode:

We try to think ourselves out of our moods by figuring out what's has gone wrong, what is wrong with us, etc.

Comparing our current feelings with how we think we "should" feel - highlights the disparity and focusing on the mismatch makes us feel worse.

Being Mode (Mindfulness):

Learning to experience directly, without overthinking.

See thoughts as mental events that come and go rather than taking them literally.

- Start living in the present moment.

- Disengage autopilot.

- Risky emotional situations and respond by skillfully side-stepping them.

Stop trying to force life to be different to prevent discomfort - wanting things to be different is beginning of rumination.

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