Re-train Your Negative Brain Habits.

by David Delaney       david@boulderneurofeedback.com

Scientists say that our brains are hard wired for negativity…

Shawn (not his real name), a newer client of mine, comes to me and no matter what we discuss, he is oriented toward a negative, unsuccessful point of view.It seems that he was raised this way with the idea that life would always be problematic and you could not change that fact.He even has tremendous resistance to recalling successful or positive times in his life without finding the negative side of the situation.He is depressed and anxious, and his whole orientation is toward life never changing no matter what he does.He is hard wired for negativity.

Orienting Toward the Negative…

In Dr. Randy Borum’s article entitled, “Re-Train the Negative Brain” (first appears in Black Belt Magazine, January, 2008, pp. 48-50) he explains that numerous studies have shown that the electrical (or neural) connections in your brain are stronger and faster when they are responding to something unpleasant than when responding to something neutral or pleasant.Since the negativity gets the most ‘juice’, it seems obvious why negativity can become the major orientation.This is a survival tactic from antiquity to insure our survival since our brain needs to evaluate information automatically and often without our conscious participation in order to remain safe.When given the choice of positive, neutral, or negative, it will choose negative almost every time research shows.

This negative orientation appears to be an artifact of surviving in the wild.If I am not aware that a wild animal could attack me, I might let down my guard and lose awareness of the fact that threat could be imminent.This is orienting toward the negative.Our brain is always asking ‘what is different about this moment’ in order to continually access and insure its safety.

Survivial in the wild…

Living in a big metropolitan city is akin to living in the wild sometimes.I recall walking across 42nd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues in Manhattan at 2 AM one Saturday evening after leaving a party in the late 70’s; being aware of a male a half-block away coming across the street toward me.I ran a fast as I could away from him until I felt safe.I was oriented toward the negative, for sure, not knowing his intentions but I did not want to find out the hard way at 2 AM.What was different about that moment was I did not feel safe and fight or flight chose flight for survival.It was not a ‘conscious’ decision.

That is the down side of this research.However, there is an upside to it and it is that of the brain’s ability to learn and adapt positively, adaptability being its actual nature.So if we know how to re-train positive adaptation, our brain can change it’s orientation to a more positive outlook.By consciously focusing on what is positive, satisfying, and safe and then savoring it, we are able to shift our brains orientation to a more positive outlook.And focusing on the positive, we cause our brain to change, literally.

The brain can change…

Shawn and I have been meeting for NeuroCARE neurofeedback sessions and self-regulation training and after a few months he is less negative and depressed and feeling more capable of recognizing and letting go of his family’s tendency for negativity than ever before.By feeding back to his brain moment to moment how it is generating its own negativity, Shawn is slowly orienting toward a brighter outlook, learning to drop negativity when it arises and quickly come back to the present where all possibilities exist.