“Inna bad man place, place. Fools get kick in a face” is a Mavado track featuring Busy Signal, and an anthem or lifestyle for many.
A Christian might remind us that we were “born in sin and shaped in iniquity” and the psychologist would confirm a negativity bias that not only plague Jamaicans, but humans on a whole.
Negativity bias means that we give more psychological weight to negative experiences than good ones. So, before we blame any political party or renowned dancehall artiste, let’s talk about ourselves and our predisposition to linger negative thoughts and “bad stuff”.
It is absolutely wise to pay attention to negative factors in our environments that have the potential to harm us: our bodies also protect us when we experience the sensation of pain.
But, like the neighbourhood “tete” or whistleblower, the amygdala, an almond-shaped brain structure serves as an alarm bell.
Ring the alarm!
And just as how mixup spreads quickly, once the amygdala sounds the alarm, negative events and experiences get quickly stored in memory, and linger longer than positive memories.
When I had felt physically threatened by a man one day, I did remind the person that I still have ties in the inner city of Kingston- bad place, proper ghetto, and more badness.
Although my throat was about to be squeezed, the person later stated that they felt threatened by my words. Now, whether or not my statement was any at all factual, which would be a deviation from my norm, I accepted what I said.
In fact, since attending high school in Kingston, Jamaica, I’d often heard phrases like, “ A Spanish town mi come from.”- as if to say, ” don’t you dare mess with me...choose life...I have 'backative' ” or “put some respect on my name when you are addressing me” or “don’t take my kind mannerisms for weakness”.
Some people will definitely decide to be “an ass”, behaving offensively or doing rotten things to others, and I dare say there is an art to turning the other cheek, so, perhaps you could practise being an A.S.S. to minimize the effect of negativity bias.
Three Tips Which Reduces Negativity Bias
1. Awarenessing. We can recognize negative patterns in ourselves. There are go-to activities that we can switch to when we realize that we are about to be swamped in overanalyzing a negative situation or exaggeration thereof. It’s never a bad time to go wash the plates or start organizing the calendar or workstation.
2. Savoring. Skills and habits require practise, so start savouring positive moments, from the good sensations to happy thoughts and feelings. For every time you stop to celebrate or savor positive experiences, you are creating a bank or portfolio which can be used for future references, especially in sticky circumstances.
3. Self-compassioning. It is important to give ourselves the same kindness that we would bestow to a good friend. Sometimes we have to give ourselves a break. So we can swap negative sayings like, “I made a mistake; I feel like a big idiot,” to a positive one- “although I made a mistake, I can learn from it.”
Countering negativity bias may help in intimate or business relationships. Practise greeting each other in your going-outs and coming-ins. Start the day with positive statements, and tell each other what you feel is going well. Making time for each other and apologizing where necessary can lessen the build-up of a big pile of you-know-what which can stain progress in the relationship, partnership or business.
Fortunately, like our electronic devices, we can reboot and override some default settings or negative emotions by valuing time spent in positive places in our lives.