Evolution has rigged all of us with a negativity bias—a survival-driven habit to scan for what’s wrong and to fixate on it. In contemporary society, a pervasive target is our own sense of unworthiness. We habitually fixate on how we’re falling short—in our relationships, our work, our appearance, our mood and behaviors. And while self-aversion is our primary reflex, we also fixate on the faults of others, how other people are letting us down, how they are wrong or bad and should be different. Whether we are focusing inwardly or outwardly, we are creating an enemy, and imprisoning ourselves in the sense of a separate, threatened self.
While the negativity bias is a key part of our survival apparatus, when it dominates our daily life, we lose access to the more recently evolved parts of our brain that contribute to feelings of connection, empathy and wellbeing. What helps us to de-condition the negativity bias? How do we shift from limbic reactivity to “attend and befriend? Here are three ways that help us awaken our full potential for natural presence and caring.