The Impact of Negative Thinking

 Written By: Dewey Wilson, Ph.D.


God created each of us to thrive best in community consisting of healthy relationships with family, friends, co-workers and even those we seem to disagree with constantly. That said, most of us would say the majority of our relationships with others are positive. Yet, almost every one of us can recall relationships where we have been emotionally scarred, and just the thought of these events makes it almost impossible to do life with them in our minds. So, why is it that even though the majority of events in our life are usually positive, we seem to remember the negative experiences more quickly? Basically, because our brains seem to be wired with a “greater sensitivity” to unpleasant news and events.

When we are hurt by others in our environments, we tend to file away the negative emotions associated with those painful experiences. Therefore, whenever something happens that resembles one of these past experiences, our brains tend to react strongly by quickly retrieving our negative recollections. But, this may not always be a bad thing.

Many times, God allows pain in our life for our protection. I’m quite certain that if there was no pain in me cutting one of my fingers, it is more likely that I would be fingerless. Therefore, a brain supersensitive to negative stimuli helps to protect us from impending danger. However, this sensitivity also has a down side. The more we allow negativity to be input into our brain, the greater tendency we have to view everything through a negative lens.  

For example, let’s consider the marriage relationship. Let’s say Lynne unexplainably stops expressing gratitude for small things or uncharacteristically snaps at me multiple times in a short period. It could be because she doesn’t feel well or because she is overly stressed by work situations. The more I begin to think about how her actions are impacting me as opposed to looking for ways I can help her, before long I will start believing Lynne has no desire to meet my needs or expectations. Then, before you know it, I spend the majority of my time noticing what she’s not doing for me and refusing to serve her in ways I know she appreciates.

Read Philippians 2:3-8. Yet, as you do, think about these verses in the context of your marriage. Paul exhorts each of us that we are to look out for the interests of others more than our own, especially our spouse. Then again that we should meditate on whatever is lovely and of good report, those things that are praiseworthy and commendable. Our brains may be created with a negative sensitivity partly for our protection, but constantly identifying and focusing on the positives in our marriage will result in more positive behavior on our part. Even when the negative events keep on coming. 

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