I have lots of great relationships. I have good friends. I have good relationships with my family. I keep in touch with people. I give Christmas presents. My life is full of great relationships.
And my sister doesn’t talk to me.
In his book, Hardwiring Happiness, Rick Hanson argues that negative experiences are like Velcro, but positive experiences are like Teflon. That one negative experience will stick more, and take up more of our mental space than all of the positive experiences. That one difficult relationship will bother me more, than all the good from all the good relationships I have. Luckily, Rick Hanson provides an antidote to this.
He argues that whatever you don’t want to feel you need to spend 12 seconds to one minute feeling the opposite, as often as you catch yourself feeling that feeling you don’t want to feel. So, if you often feel afraid, you could spend 12 seconds feeling safe and secure several times per day. You could spend time remembering when you’ve been safe in the past, or imagining when you’ll be safe in the future. The aim is to deeply experience safety and security.
Neuro-plasticity is a new buzz word, but this is an excellent example of the mind and body’s ability to change itself and grow. You can literally change your brain’s defaults; your emotional reality, just by working on it for 12 seconds several times per day. So what’s the opposite of your regular emotions? Do you feel anxious and afraid all the time? Practise feeling safe and secure. Do you feel alone or like a failure? Practise feeling a sense of achievement or a sense of connection. Do you feel unloved or unappreciated? Practise feeling like other people adore you, or you’re fine just the way you are.
The point is not to ignore reality—reality might be that you need to be afraid of something real. This is for people who have “Velcro” negative experiences and want to get out of their innate negativity.
I’ve tried it, and I definitely felt better. Rick Hanson, Hardwiring Happiness: Highly recommended.