When we’re bogged down wallowing in the swamp, we’re often mired in negativity, pessimism, and fear.
Decades of studies show that pessimism dramatically increases sickness and depression and hastens death. Future historians might look back to our day and marvel at our unhygienic practices of “emotional germ theory.” Here are a few examples of how the highly contagious Victimitis Virus and Pessimism Plague are verbally spread:
- “Ninety percent of everything is crap.”
- “Live’s a bitch, and then you die.”
- “Avoid wearing clean underwear; it will only tempt car accidents.”
- “Stoop and you’ll be stepped on; stand tall, and you’ll be shot at.”
- “I no longer need to punish, deceive, or compromise myself, unless I want to stay employed.”
- “If you can remain calm, you don’t have all the facts.”
- “Expect nothing and never be disappointed.”
- “Gravity is a myth; the world just sucks.”
One Bad Apple Can Rot the Team
Terence Mitchell, professor of management, organization, and psychology at the University of Washington Business School, along with doctoral student William Felps “analyzed about two dozen published studies that focused on how teams and groups of employees interact, and specifically how having bad teammates can destroy a good team.” They concluded:
- “A single ‘toxic’ or negative team member can be the catalyst for downward spirals in organizations.”
- “…in one study of about 50 manufacturing teams…teams that had a member who was disagreeable or irresponsible were much more likely to have conflict, have poor communication within the team and refuse to cooperate with one another. Consequently, the teams performed poorly.”
- “…negative behavior outweighs positive behavior — that is, a ‘bad apple’ can spoil the barrel but one or two good workers can’t unspoil it.”
- “Companies need to move quickly to deal with such problems because the negativity of just one individual is pervasive and destructive and can spread quickly.”
Know Your Energy Vampires
Psychiatrist, Judith Orloff, M.D. is on the UCLA Psychiatric Clinical Faculty, and author of bestselling books such as Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself from Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life. She advises us to “identify the energy vampires in your life and begin to evaluate ones you’d like to limit contact with or eliminate.”
Here’s a few of the “energy vampires” she’s identified:
The Narcissist — is self-absorbed and has empathy deficient disorder.
The Victim — wears you out with their whining and lack of willingness to find solutions.
The Passive Aggressive — is angry with a smile and gets you with jabs that you don’t see coming.
The Rageaholic — dumps anger on you and spreads toxic energy in their general vicinity.
The Drama Queen or King — wears you out with exhausting drama.
Judith writes, “energy vampires only have power over you if you let them. By taking control of this situation — this means identifying them and developing a plan for each one of them — you can have empowered relationships on your own terms.”
Fear Really Sucks: Beware Its Destructive Power
Like a black hole in space, the gravitational pull of fear can be an incredibly powerful force sucking us into its crushing depths. Fear is a powerfully negative energy. It’s fueled by negativity and pessimism.
Fear emanates from the dark side. Fear is at the root of hatred and evil. Fear is the source of stress and worry. Fear keeps us from speaking up. Fear causes us to pull back and give up. Fear reduces our field of awareness. Fear floods our thoughts with bleak fantasies of failure and destruction. Fear sets up dark energy fields attracting to us that which we most fear. Fear feeds mistrust and destroys relationships. Fear drives abuse and cruelty.
Fear erects walls and closes ears. Fear craves power and demands compliance. Fear fosters bullying and abuse of position power. Fear is afraid of participation, transparency, and openness. Fear does not own up to mistakes. Fear shuts down learning. Fear creates the zero-sum thinking that leads to a scarcity mentality. A scarcity mentality leads to greed and hoarding. Fear breeds conflict. Wallowers live in fear.
Canadian pollster Allan Greg found a majority of people give in to worry and fear far too readily: “…of all the questions I have posed in polling throughout the years, perhaps my favorite is: ‘If someone told you something was safe and someone else told you it was unsafe, which one would you believe?’ A very small minority (10 percent) reported they would believe that this (undefined) something was safe, and 22 percent had the common sense to declare that it would depend on who was doing the telling and what they were talking about. But the vast majority — fully 68 percent — would accept the message of doom and gloom. That gives us a penetrating insight into the nature of fear and our reaction to the possibilities of exposure to risk.”
This research explains the magnetic power of so many conspiracy theories. Like creatures from the black lagoon, they arise from the slimy swamp of pessimism and fear.
Recognizing Fear: We Need to See It but Don’t Be It
Fear has an important place in our lives. The motivational power of fear can even be crucial to our survival. If we’re physically attacked, fear can jolt us with the adrenalin and motivation we need for fight or flight. Fear is like fire. It can be a life-giving energy source, or it can badly burn or destroy life.
Recognize, but don’t trust fearful thoughts from the dark side. Thinking about our thinking — cognition and mindfulness — can help us recognize and avoid sliding down the slippery slope into the muck.