Have you been wearing dark glasses lately? Negative filtering is one way to get ourselves into a negative-feedback loop that can be challenging to get out of. This type of thinking keeps us aware of and dwelling on negative aspects of ourselves or our situation, and either discounting or entirely ignoring positive aspects.
We come by this tendency honestly: the entire human race seems to be good at filtering—emphasizing the negative and diminishing the positive. For survival, it is good to be aware of dangers and potential problems but leaving out anything positive in our accounting begins to harm, rather than help us. It keeps us from enjoying or appreciating whatever might be uplifting or encouraging. We lose the ability to celebrate our successes, as well as learn from our defeats.
Balance is key here. We don’t necessarily want to trade in our dark glasses for rose-colored ones. However, when we get into the habit of ignoring the positive, it can take a conscious effort to “find” and bring those positive things into our awareness again. It’s like we’ve lost them off the radar. Some people keep “gratitude journals” as a way of tipping the balance sheet toward the positive. Some people take a moment as they start each day to think of a certain number of things that they are thankful for.
We may need to closely audit our accounting practices at frequent intervals for a while to find out where we’re missing the items on the positive side of our balance sheet. Watch your accounting when you say to yourself “I aced that test—must have gotten lucky!” Move the lucky part over to the other side of the page: “I aced that test—I did study really hard, guess that paid off!” If it’s “I got chosen for the national contest—everyone else must have withdrawn!” then try, “I got chosen for the national contest—they must think I will represent us well” or even “that is really a high honor!”
Don’t fault yourself for small mistakes or imperfections without acknowledging the huge accomplishment in which those small mistakes happened. If you made a couple punctation errors in a fabulous essay, put a BIG note on the positive side for the essay, and a small bit of punctuation on the negative side.
Sometimes we may be “conditioned” by past negatives and assume the future will be the same. Our expectations could cause us to discount the positive when we see it, or even miss it entirely. (A word of caution here: if you find yourself in abusive relationships or other extremely unhappy situations, over and over, please seek professional help!)
It can be helpful to stop and think of something we can do, however small, to influence our situation for the better. Think about what “positive” looks like, and what you can do to get there. Exercising control of ourselves combined with action is a great mood booster. Then remember to put the positive outcome on your balance sheet!