Ever wonder why some people are always negative? It's OK to have bad days and it's OK to be cranky once in a while but we all know people who are negative no matter what is going on in their life or in the world around them. They always see the doom and gloom of the situation. They may gossip about others and speak negatively about people as soon as they leave the room.
There are people who are happy when they see others failing. What is wrong with these people?
They are addicted.
Pain and negative emotions activate the reward centers of the brain. If it happens often it causes unconscious addiction to these negative emotions. Negative thoughts light up the beta-endorphin and dopamine pathways just like the drugs cocaine and meth do. Other activities and behaviors that activate this pleasure/reward center of the brain include running, cutting (the pain response triggers the endorphin release), and staying in an abusive relationship (this is why it is so hard for victims to leave their abusers).
Science has even coined a term to describe someone who is always leaning toward the negative side of the fence - a Negaholic. Often, a life of negative perspective is a result of experiencing extreme negativity in early childhood years.
We are all negative from time to time to some extent. This doesn't mean we are all negaholics. But those who continuously seem to thrive on negativity are fighting a battle in their brain. Socially, it is known that excessive negativity is frowned upon but their brain chemistry tells them that it makes them feel better so keep going!
The hold that negativity has on the brain is so strong that it is often addressed as a part of addiction therapy. It's normal to feel down in the dumps when things just don't seem to be going right. A job layoff, a breakup, a major fender-bender just after the plumbing in your house backs up are all scenarios that often end with someone eating a half-gallon of ice cream by themselves while watching sad movies. But negative thoughts and comments aren't a healthy part of everyday conversation.
Times of high stress are the gateway to allowing negativity to take the driver's seat. And, have you ever had a conversation with someone who seemed to be soaked in a bad mood and then you left the conversation and looked up to just make sure the sky wasn't falling? Negativity sucks us in like a June bug to a bug zapper. We know we shouldn't go near it but from a distance, it just sounds so interesting.
There's a lot of change happening in the community right now and I've noticed something interesting. There are more great things developing in our community right now than have happened in a long, long time. Yet, we still seem to be more than happy to complain about all the negatives. This leads me to believe that we may have a high proportion of Negaholism in our community.
Change is stressful but change is critical to existence. If we're not changing then we're dying; both personally and as a community.
We are seeing a lot of change as a community. Professionally, I know that it is important for a community to have a balanced mix of nationally recognized operations alongside our locally-owned businesses. Personally, I hope we can continue to place our community's assets and those things that make us unique at the center of the decision-making process so we continue to grow responsibly. But it will take all of us to accomplish this and negativity doesn't do anything except perpetuate stagnation.
Growing responsibly doesn't mean that we ban development of new business coming to town because it might take us two minutes longer to drive to the other side of town. Growing responsibly means that we all play a role in creating the Alpena we want to live in. Negativity and complaining just feeds the addictive cycle and gives the false impression that all of this forward momentum is wrong.
So here is the challenge for all of us to consider. Get involved in the community. Decide what kind of Alpena you want to live in and help make it happen through involvement. Break the addiction to negativity by choosing to create positive discussion and positive action. Instead of getting caught up in your own or someone else's cycle of negativity; choose to be a beacon of light. Don't participate in negative conversation. When you notice that you are starting to focus on the mud puddles, lift your head up and refocus on the sky. That is where you will see the rainbow.
Mary Beth Stutzman's Inspiring A-Town runs bi-weekly on Tuesdays. Follow Mary Beth on Twitter @mbstutz.