Our brains are 20 times more likely to focus on the negative than the positive. This propensity is called negativity bias. I remember this precious picture of one of my girls. She sat on a chair in her pink dress for the professional photographer with the biggest smile! When we received the pictures back, we thought they were precious–our baby girl! I was surprised to discover how folks would comment on her little white socks that had fallen down, making the picture “not perfect”. I mean, I noticed, too, but I got over it. I shifted my brain to the positive and took notice of my girl in her pretty, pink dress.
These brains of ours are tricky. We must be intentional and begin with love. Always love.
A dear friend of mine, Karen Berlin, shared her husband’s book, Reckless Love: Jesus’ Call to Love Our Neighbor. As I read this masterpiece of eye opening discoveries to my soul work, I made connections with our equity work in my current position in education. I made many discoveries; but, this morning, I felt led to write about love and our brain on love.
Zaretta Hammond wrote an engaging book called Culturally Responsive Teaching and The Brain. In chapter 4, pages 65-66, she discussed the social interaction elements that activate threats in the brain. As you read these, think of a time you felt physically, emotionally, spiritually, or intellectually threatened. What was the situation? How did you feel? How did you respond?
Standing: My sense of importance relative to others. How one believes others, in the group, perceive him/her–negative or positive, competent or incompetent. The threat: The fear that one would be expelled from the “tribe” (such as being fired or ostracized by peers because of doing things differently).
Certainty: Refers to one’s need for clarity and predictability in a social situation in order to make accurate social moves, and to predict what will happen. The threat: The fear of possibly embarrassing oneself or being unable to know what to do in a given situation. You may also feel out of control or unsafe.
Control: My sense of control over my life and the perception that my behavior can have a positive effect (getting a promotion, finding a partner, or getting the job), rather than something out of my control having more influence. The threat: The fear of someone telling you what to do, where to go, and how to behave that is inconsistent with your values.
Connection: Relatedness focuses on one’s sense of connection to and security with another person, family, or peer group. The threat: The fear of being an outsider and excluded.
Equity: Refers to having a sense of fair, just, and non-biased exchange between people. The fear: The threat can come when one feels his/her group is being subjected to unearned disadvantage or someone is receiving unearned disadvantage.
From neuroscience, we know that emotions can be “contagious”. How you walk into a room or situation matters. How do we work towards providing safe spaces that support these five areas of social interaction elements?
From a professional lens, I believe that workplace environments can be intentional by providing discussion and enhancing the system to consider these five areas. What do these elements look like for you individually? What do the elements look like in our work? What is missing? What do we do really well? How do we share our missteps and feelings of threat in a nonjudgmental, safe environment?
From a spiritual lens, I’d like to share some great strategies from Tom Berlin, Reckless Love.
Begin With Love
How do we build moments of grace and understanding by embracing, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31)?
Love is not a principle in which we believe. It is not an aspiration we hope to attain. It is an orientation (that brain again) that sets the course of our daily words and actions. There are three places where it is vital:
- Conversation in which you partake. To begin with love will dramatically impact how you listen, what you say, and how you say it.
- Assumptions you make. When you begin with love, you will assume the best about others instead of the worst.
- Actions you undertake. The mind of a person who says begin with love is more thoughtful of others. In matters small and large, you will begin to bless people around you in ways that may surprise both you and them. (pg. 29-30)
For me, when I read this, I saw a continuous circle of Love God – Accept His Love For Me- Love Others.
He goes on to write that “God is putting people in our lives to challenge us” (pg. 30). Without that neighbor, and taking action steps towards love, we will never truly learn the wonder and depths of God’s love for us, and our capacity to love despite our negativity and feelings of threat.
I think what most of us are really good at is finding the negative, assigning blame, and stating the obvious that probably doesn’t need to be stated. It’s obvious. The white socks.
This is not a Polly-Anna way of life or a way to avoid conflict. In fact, it’s embracing the negative with a shift in mindset and tools to create and to discover. The more I study these concepts, the more I realize I have a lot to learn (which kicks in my work on self-compassion). Always growing and learning….
Thank you Karen for sharing your husband’s book!
Thank you equity work group for challenging us to read Zaretta’s book!