Why Do We Fixate on the Negative? (and how to stop)

Odille Remmert
5 min readMar 4, 2019
Image Source: Canva.com

It was all going fabulously. The venue was full of smiling faces, bopping along to the beat as I sang my heart out. The atmosphere was electric, and fun was being had by all. Except for one. One, out of around eighty people. One scowling, disapproving face in a sea of enthusiasm, and I homed in on it as if it was all that mattered in the world.

You may have found that, regardless of the wonderful, positive, amazing experiences you are blessed with, your focus seems to zoom in on the one or two negatives, no matter how much you try to reason with yourself.

Why We Fixate on the Negative

It makes perfect sense, when you think about it. We are designed for survival. We fixate on the negative because we’re designed that way.

If you were enjoying a picnic with family and friends, in beautiful surroundings, and a bear approached, you would need to be focused on the bear. You would need to maintain focus on that bear until the danger had passed. If you continued to focus on the good stuff, you may not be around to enjoy it for very long.

For this reason, the stress chemicals that cause negative feelings have a more powerful impact on the body than that of “feel-good” chemicals like endorphins, oxytocin, and serotonin.

Stress chemicals are designed to grab, and keep, our attention — for survival.

Death by Mean Comments

So, what have bears got to do with negative comments, being unable to pay your bills, or missing a deadline?

The subconscious cannot tell the difference between a negative emotion and physical danger.

When you feel hurt, angry, frustrated, disappointed — or any other negative emotion — your brain and body are producing the same stress chemicals they would if your life was in immediate danger.

Knowing this is the first step to being able to stop it from happening.



Odille Remmert

Author of: "Change What Happened to You: How to Use Neuroscience to Get the Life You Want by Changing Your Negative Childhood Memories"