Saturday, 26 December 2015

God, why do you have to be so positive all the time?

Yes that's right, it's Boxing Day and I've decided to take this opportunity to write to you all in praise of negativity. I can't help it. I'm bored. When I have unfettered free time I write. I never felt more justified in calling myself a writer as when I was unemployed. Now, if only I could harness the same spirit of creativity to write paragraph two of my sure-to-be-a-bestseller novel, only three years in the writing, I may only have a paragraph down so far, but I assure you, it's finely honed. Anyway, as ever, I fear, I digress.

So, I've been thinking a lot about negativity recently, what with having been threatened with the sack for not being a bright little ray of sunshine (plus side, more time for writing!), and the words spoken to me on Thursday still ringing in my ears: "God, why do you have to be so negative all the time?"

I'm going to answer with a question: "Why do you have to be so positive all the time?" Serious question, I'm not being facetious. Personally, I can't stand happy, positive people. Their blunt refusal to acknowledge that the world is an utterly terrible place makes me want to push their heads under water and hold them there until the bubbles stop coming up. The phrase "Oh well, musn't grumble" throws me into a blind rage. No, grumble! You must! Life is awful! After all, no next door neighbour of a spree killer interviewed on TV has ever said after the fact "Well, frankly, we suspected this was going to happen from day one", have they? Because the moaners of this world aren't the ones repressing their negative emotions until they flip and pack an assault rifle in their briefcase instead of a newspaper and a banana. And yet I'm the one people don't want to be around,  Madness.

Anyway, to answer with an answer, I can't help it guv, got a dicky amygdala, innit? Ah, the amygala, my old friend, and the source of all that is wring in my life, For you 'normies', who have no need to understand why your own brain has turned against you, let me explain. The amydala is the part of the brain that assesses risk and measures fear responses. Think of it as a little man, or woman, or non-gender conforming person in a little watchtower in your brain, looking out through your eyes for potential threats. For most people, the little man doesn't have a great deal to do; he spends his days with his feet up, binoculars hanging loosely round his neck, having a little snooze, until someone walks up behind you and wakes him up, and in a sleepy-eyed daze he pushes the wrong button, and that's why you sometimes get a fright when someone innocuously approaches you to ask you a question, for example.

However, people who are shy, introverted, depressed or have high levels of stress or anxiety are known to have an enlarged or over-active amygdala. So the little man in the watchtower is still there, only he's on the edge of his seat, nervously biting his nails and shouting "S-s-s-s-SNAAAAAAAAKE!" every time he sees a twig on the ground, pressing all the buttons, and sending you into near constant fight-or-flight mode. Have you ever head to deal with that much spare adrenaline running through your system? It's exhausting. (To clarify, I'm not especially scared of snakes, more than the average person. I petted one once, though I declined the offer to have it wrapped round my neck, preferring not actively present myself as an appetiser. As a therapist once told me, my amygala is working just fine, only I've trained it to massively broaden its definition of "threat" to the extent that it now judges "knife wielding murderer" and "person I don't know" to present roughly the same level of menace.

Long story short, I was reading an article the other day, and it was saying that negativity was linked to an over-active amygdala. I'm not sure why exactly, but you can guess that being stressed, depressed and over anxious about everything might not always put you in the sunniest of moods.

I'm taking this personally because it is personal. This is my personality, it's the result of genetics and learned experience, but none of it is a choice. Yet, the internet is full of articles with titles like "How To Shut Down Negative People", "How To Banish Negative People From Your Life", and "How To Drown Out Negativity". Where's my fucking self help guide to drowning the sort of idiots that will only say even of Tories "Oh, I'm sure it's not all bad." It is! It is all bad! It is all very fucking bad! The very long-winded point I am making is that a negative outlook on life is a personality type just the same as having a positive outlook is a personality type, so where do we get off saying one kind of personality is OK, desirable, even, but another is bad, undesirable. How is that OK? How is that not discrimination? I refer to Quiet by Susan Cain a lot (Things an ex love of mine was bad at: not putting his penis in wholly inappropriate places.  Things he was good at: buying gifts. A book about the secret power of introversion, a flask and an adopted penguin at London Zoo after knowing me for two months, BOOM), but I'm reminded of the section on introversion in the business world, and how "outgoing" is seen as a positive trait in potential employees and "shy" or "introverted" is seen as a negative one, to the extent that introverts are least likely to be hired and most likely to be fired, regardless of their academic or career achievements, and the fact that introversion comes with it's own set of positive attributes just like extroversion does. We, as a society, have accepted that one kind of personality is acceptable and to be lauded, and another is not, and is to be hidden away.

Well l I say, NO MORE. We're here, we're negative, GET USED TO IT.

Human beings don't have an innate fear of fire, like they do of say, falling (you might overcome this as you grow older, but babies hate heights for this reason. The only two innate human fears are falling and loud noises, true facts), probably because fire was something that we discovered at some point, rather than that was always there. But don't tell me that when humankind first discovered fire, there wasn't one guy saying, "Now this is great obviously, but are you sure want to stick your face in it? Is that safe?", who only end up being accused of being 'negative' at the funeral for muttering "I fucking told you this would happen, Barry." The truth is, you need us negative people. We're the reason there are seat belts, and speed limits, and, thanks to Barry, fire extinguishers.

Don't be like Barry. Embrace the negative (but I mean, don;t literally, because human contact, ew).

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