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The Power and Purpose of Negativity


The history of political campaigning clearly shows that negative acts are very powerful and often a game changer. In more recent times, we all remember (I certainly do) the debacle of the Dukakis campaign with the Willie Horton ads.


Why is negativity so powerful?

Scientific research shows that negative themes have a very powerful effect on the parts of the brain that are responsible for feelings of fear. These same parts of the brain are also related to our abilities to survive adversity. Therefore, our brain is more likely to ‘remember’ any events, ideas or experience that are negative, especially if these denote any kind of danger to us.


Why are some people more negative than others?

The people who tend to be negative in general seem to have a deep seated fear of failure. Negativity is their hedge against feelings of inadequacy. These people are less likely to engage in self-examination and more likely to blame others. They are also more likely to find excuses why anything new should not be attempted and why everything is going to fail in the end.


Displaying constant negativity also allows somebody to distract attention from him or her. This may be a psychological ploy used by some people to hide their deficiency or undesirable qualities.


Since negativity is a tool to generate fear, this is one way for negative people to control others’ behavior.

How to spot a negative person in your life


The following could be tell-tale signs of a negative person in your life. You know there is a negative person around you if he or she:

  • Never has encouraging words for anybody

  • Always talks about doom and gloom

  • Is chronically sad

  • Habitually criticizes

  • Always uses real-life anecdotes to emphasize failures

  • Uses stories to generate fear

How to deal with somebody negative in your life

There are some ways that you could minimize the effects of negative people in your life you could:       

  •  Directly confront their overall negativity

  • Logically challenge their distorted beliefs.

  • Decrease your amount of contact with them

  •  Place conditions on your interactions with them. For example: you can walk away from them if they start to be negative.

  •  Convince the person to seek professional help

How to deal with negativity in your own life

Even the most positive people, at times, experience negative thoughts which potentially could stop us from achieving our goals. The best way to counter negative ideas is to use the power of logic and affirmation. Remember the Obama slogan, “Yes we can!” The power of positive thinking is unlimited. Almost all great accomplishments in the history could be traced back to positive thinking.


In case you feel crippled either by your own or someone else’s negativity: and you feel gripped by a cold despair, you should seek professional help from a mental health specialist.


Closing the Circle

Remember, positive thinking has to start with you. If you don’t cultivate positive thinking, you cannot convince those around you to do the same. During recent political campaigning many have talked about “taking control of our country.” But you must start with yourself: take hold of your life in a positive way, help others overcome negative thoughts, use facts and logic to dispel negative myths and make life decisions based on hope and creativity.


The purpose of this article is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical or psychiatric issue. Dr. Rakesh Ranjan is a practicing psychiatrist and a researcher. He is the CEO of Charak Center for Health and Wellness, an outpatient mental health and substance abuse center. For more information, or if you would like to make an appointment, please check out our website at charakcenter.org

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