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The Gravitational Pull of Bad News

Why we Panic

If you look at the past few months, you may have wondered about all the panic. Why are we suddenly out of toilet paper? Human behavior becomes understandable when you understand how we function. Because our brain and nervous system constantly scan our environment for danger in order to keep us safe and live to see another day we tend to have a general focus on (potential or perceived) danger. This is also reflected in our upbringing and later education. Therefor, you will be taught early on what not to do and what to avoid. You will also recognize how people will tell you first about what they don’t want before they tell you what they do want (and the latter is often forgotten).

Disadvatages of negativity

The disadvantage of this is that it seems as if we are always focused on negativity. Personal traits can make this better or worse. If you tend to be somewhat more somber in general, you will probably have more trouble when things start to look grim. On the other hand, optimists generally have a (slightly) easier time. Moreover, negativity causes fear and this narrows your view of reality. As a result, you will see more and more of what goes wrong and you will prove to yourself that you are right (conformational bias). As a consequence, you will think there is every reason to worry, and next you’ll be hoarding toilet paper! It does nothing to change the situation but it gives us a semblance of control. It is more symbolic than effective. At the same time, we ignore other information that would give us a more realistic picture. (When you like a specific brand you suddenly see it everywhere but actually are ignoring other brands.)

The Gravitational Pool

This is the Gravitational Pool of Bad News, the pull of bad news, and the effect it has on us. It will seem to you that there is no other news than the Coronavirus or COVID-19 anymore. And while negativity gains strength it will seem there is no good news to report. It negatively affects our world view and the balance is lost. When we keep repeating ‘negative news’ to each other we create our own panic and drive each other nuts. Our own behavior in response to the situation can create what we fear most: an economic crisis. You see this in the reactions in the stock exchange.

How to change

Psychological research not only demonstrates the negative pull of bad news but also that we need at least 5 positive experiences to compensate for how it affects us. It’s been an uneven fight from the start. But of course, you can do something about it! Why would you continue to feed negativity by continuing to talk about it? If you think you have adequate information to deal with the situation, there is no longer any need to prolong the conversation and you can focus on other things that serve life. Do what needs to be done, focus on what DOES work, and make sure you have a laugh now and then while doing it! This is how we support others and ourselves in times like these. I wish you a clear mind and good health!

Something to read? Try Stephen Wolinsky ‘Trances People Live’