Why the Brain is like Velcro for Negatives and Teflon for Positives


Why Is My Child (myself, my spouse, my …) So Negative?

Watch your face. The brain typically detects negative information faster than positive (there is good reason for this so keep on reading). Facial expression are a primary signal of threat or opportunity: fearful faces register in the brain more rapidly than happy or neutral ones, being hurried along by the amygdala. Even when researchers made fearful faces invisible to conscious awareness, they found the amygdala still lights up. Think of this when your child’s behavior cause fear in you – the reactive brain of your child will see “threat” in your face and react with more stress and fear. This is a spiral and the parent’s job is to stop it before it spirals out of control. (Yang, Zald, and Blake 2006) (Jiang and He 2006).

The brain is like “Velcro” for negative experiences and “Teflon” for positive experiences. Granted, most of our children’s experiences are positive or neutral, the mere fact that the brain is drawn to the negative view or bad news gives us a clue as to what we are dealing with in children with trauma histories. The reason once discovered is quite simple really. We are wired genetically to look for threats rather than opportunities so to speak. Our prehistoric ancestors were acutely aware that if they missed an opportunity, there would likely be another one coming. But if they missed a threat, they might not live to see either another threat or an opportunity. Their survival would likely end.

So evolution has had a positive effect on us to be acutely aware of the negative – so we can assure ourselves of survival. The evidence of this lies in our amygdala and reptilian brain which is our “search and destroy or get the heck out of the way!” mechanism. A bit overactive in our present day and age? If you find yourself tiring of offering positive messages and actions toward your children and wonder why the good doesn’t just “sink in”, remember this. It doesn’t have to be this way, but it is this way – and for good reason – at least as the brain sees it – survival.

Our job as parents is to love our kids enough so that “survival” is no longer a concern. May be awhile though. Relax.

Have a calm and peaceful day surviving…
David Durovy