Jun 4, 2019
Brian Mayer takes at how negative we can be as human beings and
how reframing to a more positive mindset can shift what happens in
your blended family. Science says that negativity acts like
glue in our brains and that positivity is like a slip and
slide. In other words negativity often is hard to get rid of
and positivity is hard to retain. We will talk about this
along with some strategies to shift into a more positive frame of
mind. We hope you enjoy today’s message. For more
information and additional resources please visit our website at
- If we are honest with ourselves, we often will stay focused on
negative aspects of our spouses or kids behaviors and conversely
spend little time thinking about the positive.
- Think about the last time you went out to a restaurant that was
mostly a great experience but with a few things that either could
have been better or that were not good at all. How do we
respond when someone asks us about our experience? Generally
we will say something like, “Overall it was a good experience, but
the bathrooms were not clean, the server didn’t bring my request
for garlic aioli, or my order of fries were cold.
- Isn’t it interesting in that example above that we speak in
generalities about the positives, but get really specific about the
negatives. We do the same thing in our important
relationships. We might say he is a good husband, but I don’t
like that he leaves the toilet seat up or he is generally a good
stepson except that he treats my daughter terribly.
- What if we thought and spoke differently. What if we said
the quality of the beef in the burgers was tremendous, our server
was extremely friendly, and the price to quality was very good, and
really there was just some minor issues we had that we didn’t
- Same goes for our relationships. What if we said, my
stepson is very thoughtful with most people he encounters, he gets
great grades academically and somehow is able to deal with the
transitions well when coming from his father’s house to us, but he
does have difficulty in a relationship or two.
- This slight subtle change in what details you give can enhance
what others think about you but can also help your attitude and
mood toward those in your family shift toward the positive as
- Why is this hard to do though? According to an article in
Psychology Today that I will post in the show notes, called
Our Brain's Negative Bias there is evidence that our brain is
more skewed toward holding the negative.
- In an experiment by John Cacioppi, Ph.D. while at the Ohio
State University, he that the brain fires more when presented with
negative news far and above when it presents positive news.
This probably goes back to the days when we were so called cavemen
and cavewoman and had to fend for our lives against animals that
might be our predators. Our brains needed to be much more
alert to the negative because this meant a possible life or death
- So if I am honest with you, I have what I consider a filing
cabinet in my brain. In it I will place all the positive and
negative experiences there. Then from time to time, without
me fully being aware or conscious I will open the file cabinet and
search the files until I find a negative one. I will put out
the file, lay out all the papers on the desk and then study them
intently for many minutes. At some point I realize what is
happening and I have to mentally collect all of the papers, put
them back in the file and lock the cabinet.
- But what if we took this a step further. Here is one
recommendation I have for you to begin to change your negative
thinking about your spouse or your children or
- Take the mentally negative thought and write it on a
piece of paper. Ponder it for a few minutes making
the mental decision that rather than it be placed back in the file
cabinet, that it needs to be destroyed forever. Then I would
suggest doing something like burning it up so it changes
form and that you have a visual of it being changed
- Secondly, when you notice having a negative
thought about a family member, think about what is
actually good about what is happening. Let me give
you a real life example. At some point I started to think
that I initiated a kiss more times than my wife did with me.
I remember my attitude toward her started to sink. I even
went so far as to tell her about my thoughts and this of course did
not go well. Slowly over time I decided to start thinking
about what was good about this. I began to realize that
everytime I initiated the kiss, she would never reject that.
I began to feel much better and even happily pointed this out to
- Thirdly, think about your first mental thought about
something is presented to you. Is it negative or
positive? Keep a log of when someone asks you
something and whether or not you think about how something won’t
work or why it can’t be done or instead are you thinking about the
possibilities and why something will work? Scientists call
the negative response being cognitively lazy in that when we are
negative we can then choose not to do anything which feels less
taxing and draining than saying yes to something that requires us
to possibly change.
- Why is this important in a blended
family? It is so important because we often do not
realize the volume of negativity that has been uploaded into our
brains over time. From the disappointment of a previous
marriage that has been dissolved, a partner rejecting you, or maybe
a child choosing to live with the other parent can all
begin to rewire your brain.
- I would highly recommend that you listen to my
Mindfulness Mini-series which are specific
episodes on how to retrain your brain to begin to recognize your
thoughts and also how you are reacting and responding in the here
and now. Those episodes are Session
41, and Session
Thanks For Listening!
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As always remember that marriage is not something you have, it
is something you do. Talk to you next week unless you are
binge listening in the future in which case I will talk to you in
about a minute! Take care.