Why do We Focus on Negative Things and What to Do16 min read

Focusing on negtivity

Focusing on the negative things is a curse.

It makes you fixated on not only negative things but also wastes a lot of energy. That makes it harder to focus on what really matters, creating more negativity in your life for you to focus on!

Not to mention that it sometimes makes you focus on trivial things.

But does that mean you should “think positively”?

Positive thinking is a way of life for some people. It’s, however, arguably nothing but self-delusion and willful blindness when taken to an extreme. And more often than not, it’s taken to an extreme.

You cannot deny the fact that life isn’t that positive. Shit happens. And trying to be positive all the time by ignoring the negative only makes the negative grow wilder and stronger. It gets darker. And we get weaker because we only grow when we get in contact with the negative and then overcome it or integrate it. You cannot transcend the negative by just being positive!

Negativity is a part of life, like it or hate it. And it’s not a trivial part, either. And acknowledging negativity can be a very wise thing to do sometimes. Being too positive is called being naive.

But being too negative is equally harmful. And being negative for the wrong reasons is as bad as being too negative. So, we don’t want that.

focusing on negative things

We first want to know if you are being too negative.

What are the signs? How is your life going to get affected? Then, we want to figure out why in the world are you acting like that in the first place? It’s not random. And understanding the reasons behind that way of thinking (or being) will help us develop a strategic plan to make our lives better. And that’s the point.

I don’t care about negativity. And I don’t believe that eliminating negativity from your life will make it better. Even more, I certainly believe that we can’t eliminate a certain type of negativity from our lives. Suffering and bad circumstances are as real as the pain associated with them.

That being said, you still don’t want negativity to rule your life. And you certainly don’t want to surrender and let negativity guide you. There’s still hope out there.

Let’s first see how a ‘negativity-ridden’ life looks like, or:

7 Signs you are focusing too much on the negative things

Well, reading this article is probably a good sign.

Some of you might even be sure they are focusing too much on negativity and just want solutions.

But do consider that, by reading these signs, you might get an insight about how deep you are in this shit. You are likely to bring to awareness how, exactly and precisely, focusing on negativity is screwing up your life.

1.Self-sabotage

Focusing on the negative things can bring about results similar to the results you get when you self-sabotage.

Simply put, you sabotage your own efforts by having a poor attitude.

You focus on what’s bad. You don’t try new things, and you believe you’re just stuck. To make it even worse, you don’t try hard or try enough. Let’s face it, why would you when you believe it won’t work?

So, focusing on negative things is going to hold you back. It’s going to affect the quality of the results you get in your life.

If the results you’re getting are worse than you desire, and you know you could do better, then pay attention. There’s a good chance you’re holding on to the negative in a demoralizing way. And it’s manifesting itself as self-destructive behaviors and attitudes that lead to undesired results. This is probably the most straightforward sign.

2. Wasted energy

You can tell when you’re wasting energy. It doesn’t feel good and it makes you feel weak and drained.

When you are focusing on negative things, you waste your energy in many ways and forms. Generally, you waste it by focusing on what is not useful for you. But the very act of negativity, in and of itself, is draining.

How?

Your brain considers threat when it thinks about negativity. When you’re being negative, you’re basically viewing the world in terms of what is wrong. And what is wrong is threatening. Even if you feel apathetic to it, you deep down know that it can hurt you.

When everything around you is negative, or if you view it as negative, the chances of getting hurt are high. You’re in a chaotic environment with little to no power. At least that’s how you perceive it.

So, you’re going to be in a state of being alerted and threatened. And that’s a demanding state to be in. It requires a lot of energy.

That’s where focusing on negative things is energy waste. It consumes your energy by reacting to threats by making you prepared and alerted.

When all hell is breaking loose around you, anything can happen. And you should be prepared to, well, anything! And that’s insanely demanding.

3. Focusing on trivial stuff and meaningless battles

This one looks similar to the previous point about energy, but it’s not; the reasons behind it are different.

Focusing on trivial things and fighting meaningless battles is indeed a waste of energy. But it’s only a symptom of a deeper issue.

It’s a sign your life is in shambles. It’s a sign your values aren’t in a good shape. And it’s a sign you’re harboring resentment and are angry. If you have nothing better to do, or if what’s better is difficult to do, then why not consume your energy in such battles and trivial things?

After all, the payoff is immediate. And it reinforces the belief that the world is against you. It’s an easy out to feel good about yourself and to express resentment and anger instead of being eaten up by them. It’s attractive but dysfunctional.

As I said, it’s a sign. A bad one! It means your inner compass isn’t functional. And what guides you is resentment and anger. Guided by them, you’re focusing on negativity, acting it out, and making your life worse. And by making your life worse, you are adding more negativity for you to focus on; more resentment and anger to harbor.

Resentment and anger aren’t things you can tolerate for too long. It takes moral courage to not act based on them. The easiest option is to get rid of what’s painful right away. You will act them out as soon as they become too much for you to bear. And one of the ways you act them out is by fighting meaningless battles and pursuing trivial things.

4. You’re easily hurt and are less resilient

This goes with the previous point as well. But let’s add one more idea:

When you’re stressed out by too much negativity and chaos in your life, it’s not easy to control the repressed demons inside of you. You don’t have enough energy to do that.

That means you are going to struggle with bad feelings you have been able to repress when things were going smoothly. Why? Simply because you now have no energy to repress them.

And those bad feelings suck. They make you more irritated, more impulsive, and maybe even more sensitive.

It’s like, you already have enough on your plate! You are already in enough pain. Any extra pain, or perceived hurt, is going to be almost catastrophic.

That’s one reason why you can be more easily hurt by things that wouldn’t normally hurt you. And it’s one of the reasons your emotional resilience has taken a hit. You are consumed by too much negativity and chaos that what is slightly upsetting is now a big deal! Such a strong sign!

5. Being stuck on a specific negative or painful past event

This one is complicated, yet very straightforward!

There’s one specific negative event that you are focusing on. And, to some extent, you’re aware of it. This event is probably too painful and traumatic.

And that’s not all. It has altered the way you see the world, the way you see other people, or the way you see yourself. Or all of that!

But generally speaking, if you are reminiscing and ruminating about that event, you haven’t recovered from it yet.

It makes all the difference in the world whether that wound is an old one that’s still bleeding or if it’s a fresh one. But we’re not going to discuss that because the point I want to make is much simpler.

(Pro tip: anything older than 18 months is considered an old wound if it still brings you agony when recalling it.)

Here’s what you should consider: if there’s a specific past event that’s making your life hell, there’s a great chance this negativity will spill to consume other areas of your life.

So, if you’re focusing too much on negative things in life, check to see if there’s one negative past event that you are still struggling with. It will affect your whole outlook. And remember, it will generally make you in a state of anticipating threat and being alerted. That will, in turn, make you more prone to focusing on negative things in your life generally.

We will cover this point in detail at the end of this article.

6. Being too nostalgic

If you think that you were, at some point in your life, in a better place and you obsessively miss the old days, it might mean you have failed to establish a new identity where you are right now.

Being nostalgic doesn’t mean your past was amazing. You can’t trust your memory in this case.

Here’s what I believe. Maybe your reality is too tough to handle, too negative, that you prefer to create a positive version of the past and long for it. You exaggerate the good things and minimize the bad things. You have to remember that your memory isn’t as reliable as you think it is; it’s biased!

So, being too nostalgic could mean that your present is too intolerable. And one of the things that make your present intolerable is focusing too much on the negative things. It makes you think that now sucks. It, more dangerously, makes you think that tomorrow isn’t going to be promising, either! So, to hell with it. And one way to cope with this is to create a fantasy past where everything was perfect.

This is also a sign that doesn’t apply to every case. Not every person who is being nostalgic is following this scenario. But do consider it. Plus, too much longing for the past is almost always a bad sign. You need to let go of it and create a better future where you are satisfied with who you are instead of dwelling on what was. You might be even missing pathological and evil parts about yourself that you should let go of and outgrow.

Be careful what you are nostalgic about. And be careful as it might mean your present just sucks!

7. Being stuck and passive

Too much negativity is paralyzing.

It simply makes us too overwhelmed to do anything. So, being too passive and feeling stuck can be a sign you are focusing on too many negative things. Or just that there’s too much negativity and chaos in your life.

If you overthink and can’t take even a small step and you don’t take initiative, be careful. Negativity has taken over your life.

2 Main reasons why you are focusing on negative things obsessively and what to do

Below are 2 main reasons why you might be focusing on negativity. With each one, I will give you an insight that will offer a possible solution that can spiral you upward.

1.You’re high on neuroticism

There’s a very famous personality measurement theory called The Big Five. So far, it’s the most accurate measurement system for personality.

The Big Five measures 5 main traits. Those 5 traits are universal and apply to every human being; we all fall within a spectrum when it comes to those traits.

Those 5 traits are:

  • Agreeableness.
  • Extroversion.
  • Conscientiousness.
  • Openness to experiences.
  • Neuroticism.

Take extroversion for example. It’s probably the easiest to understand (though it’s actually not that simple). If you’re high on extroversion, you’re a so-called extrovert who enjoys social interactions.

If you’re high on agreeableness, you’re basically compassionate and can relate to people’s feelings.

And it’s a spectrum. You can be high on a trait, low, typical, moderately high/low, and so on. Moreover, each main trait has sub-traits or what we call “facets”. Typically, each main trait has 2 main facets.

For instance, extroversion has 2 facets: enthusiasm and assertiveness. Agreeableness facets are: compassion and politeness.

Now that you have a general idea about the Big Five, it’s time you learned more about the trait neuroticism.

Neuroticism is about negative emotions. Plain and simple! It’s your proclivity and susceptibility to negative emotions.

To put it in simpler words, if you’re high on the trait neuroticism, you’re likely to feel more negative emotions. It’s like a bad hand you were dealt.

So, the reason you focus on negative things might be that you’re, by temperament, more prone to experiencing negative emotions.

I am not saying that you’re high on the trait neuroticism. I don’t know you. But you could be. There’s a possibility. And it’s useful to know.

You can take the test and know for yourself. It’s trusted and accurate given that you will be as honest as possible.

So, if you’re high on this trait, then you know the main reason why you focus on negative things and experience negative emotions more often than not.

How to cope

How do you cope with a bad hand you were dealt?

You first accept it. Then you remind yourself that you’re not the cards you were dealt. You’re the one who plays them out. And you can play your cards strategically and intelligently to ensure the best possible outcome. Bad cards, played carefully, still have a chance. Just look at the opposite: good cards played stupidly will lose.

So, learn about neuroticism and how you can regulate your emotions. You can improve. Introverted people, for instance, can learn extroversion skills to better navigate social situations. It doesn’t make them extroverts, but it helps when it’s needed. So, learn about emotional regulation and how to stay calmer. You can make progress and improve.

Then, capitalize on your strengths. There must be something you’re good at. Find it and work on it. It can be an actual skill or one of the other Big Five traits (or even the same neuroticism trait! It still has advantages if you’re willing to dig deeper). That will take you to better places and keep you there. Who knows where you could go if you capitalized on your strengths?

Don’t just accept a bad hand. Play your best and you may surprise yourself and the world!

2. Tough times mess with your perception

Are you currently going through tough times? And to be precise, when I say tough times, I mean one or both of the following:

  • Difficult circumstances that fuck up all of your plans. You don’t have a plan for a better future and your present is painful.
  • Painful or traumatic experiences that hurt you to the core. You were hit by life and now you’re down there where it’s dark and chaotic.

We don’t like having our plans disrupted. At a biological level, we feel lost and aimless, and that’s not a pleasant experience. And, needless to say, traumatic experiences can be catastrophic.

Having tough times like these can alter your entire perception. It’s not the easiest thing to do to even notice what’s positive during these times. And it’s common to feel a ton of negative emotions and notice a lot of negative things about almost everything.

It’s a depression-like state. And one of the main characterizations of depression is this negative outlook towards life. So, it’s not a wonder why you would focus on the negative things.

How to cope

You might say that I would be asking a lot from you if I asked you to pay attention to what’s good. And fair enough! I probably am.

You cannot see a light at the end of the tunnel, to use a cliche! But hey, if it’s that dark, then hold on to any light you could possibly see.

It can be the light of a candle lighted by a friend of yours just over the corner. It won’t last long, but hey! It’s better than nothing. And if no candles are on the sight, it can be the light of a fucking firefly!

The light doesn’t have to be much. Appreciate it anyways. Who knows where it could guide you? And even if it won’t guide you anywhere, still appreciate it. Why? You don’t want to allow the darkness to make your heart grow bitter. Don’t let it get to your heart.

Gratitude wins. And it’s tested really hard during those dark nights inside of those darker tunnels. As absurd as it may sound, use it. It might even light something within you if there are no fireflies around you.

Now, to get more practical, shorten your timeframe. Think about just getting through the week. If that’s too much, think about only the day. And if that’s still too much, think about the hour or even the minute.

Within the shorter timeframe you have picked, you do your best to not only survive but also to do whatever you possibly can to make your situation better. Start with the smallest thing you can do and do it even if it sounds totally trivial.

That could mean studying, learning, working on a project, working a full-time job (do it properly), seeing a therapist, socializing, or taking your medications, or whatever it might be.

Do it.

You might surprise yourself and do a better job than you thought. Or you might do way less than what’s even normal. That doesn’t matter! Just focus on doing it within that shorter timeframe.

Do that and don’t forget about appreciating and being grateful for whatever you can appreciate and be grateful for, no matter how trivial or small it may seem. After all, the smile of an old lady thanking you for helping her or the sight of a child angelically playing around the block could mean something in the midst of your suffering. And maybe they, combined with hard work and some effort, can chase the negativity away, at least away from your heart.

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