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The Remarried Life

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

Today's Goodies

  • 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 like. 
  • 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 well. 
  • 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 situation. 
  • 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 stepchildren. 
  • 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 forever. 
  • 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 her.
  • 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 40, Session 41, and Session 42







Thanks For Listening!

  • With so many things that take time in our lives, I more grateful than you know that you took time to listen to this podcast episode. 
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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.