Understanding Debbie Downer

People tend to dwell more on negative things than on good things. So the mind then becomes obsessed with negative things, with judgments, guilt and anxiety produced by thoughts about the future and so on. Eckhart Tolle

Do you know a Debbie Downer? Have you ever wondered why a person is predisposed to negative thinking? Our psychological predisposition comes from many sources of course, not the least of which is our upbringing. However, I found the following quote by Rick Hanson, Ph.D. and founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom, to be very enlightening.

Dr. Hanson says, “Negative stimuli produce more neural activity than do equally intense positive ones. From an evolutionary standpoint, our ancestors’ predisposition to Debbie Downer-ism makes sense. Ancient humans lacked reliable sources of food, water and shelter, and, as a result, made life-or-death decisions more frequently than we do today. To keep our ancestors alive, Mother Nature evolved a brain that routinely tricked them into making three mistakes: overestimating threats, underestimating opportunities, and underestimating resources. This is a great way to pass on gene copies but a lousy way to promote quality of life.”

I’m sad to say that I have limited loving memories of my mother but I do have a few negative ones. Dr. Hanson’s findings help me to understand this fact of my life experience. Perhaps his wisdom will help you also.

Affirmation: I embrace my memories.

Coaching questions: What negative memories are you wanting to understand or set aside? What will help you get out of the Cave-Woman mentality and move forward?

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