Boosting the Power of Positivity

AKA: Why Rhiannon makes us use the same words every time

It’s the day after the Global Climate Strikes, and we are awash in positive momentum. Fabulous, world-changing positive momentum. It feels so good. But we have to nurture these positive feelings consciously.

Because we humans are great at negative feelings. We absorb negative messages well. They are sticky. And there are good primal reasons for that.

Don’t eat that again! Seriously, don’t eat that! And don’t try to pet that! And don’t go there or you’ll get a rash! 

Our survival once depended on our ability to internalize negative messages. And our brains are tuned up to do it. 

The media knows this:

“Tune in at 5 to learn the latest reason your parenting is failing”

"At 10: The fatal dangers of your local lake”

“Why we’re all doomed, episode 472”

In fact, research shows that it takes about 7 positive messages to combat 1 negative one. And teams that can build and maintain that ratio are the most successful ones. (Losada and Heaphy, 2004). So as part of building our community resilience, we need to strengthen those positive messages.

Because positive messages just don’t stick. So at Parents for the Planet, we have a couple of techniques to connect positive messages together, so they stay better in your mind and don’t get overwhelmed by the strength of the negative messages that you can so easily find if you’re a planet parent.

1. We connect positive stories together linguistically. 

We have common themes that connect positive stories together, like “the youth will save us if we let them” or “centering indigenous knowledge” or “everything we need is here already” or “Happy New Species!” 

These language patterns mean that when we post a new story with the same language, our minds connect it with other stories using the same language. That story doesn’t get stored as a one-off moment. it gets stored in connection with all the other stories with the same phrase. Suddenly, that story isn’t just a story, it’s part of a pattern of stories - and patterns are stronger. Patterns are louder. Patterns have meaning and continuity, and a sense that there has been this kind of good news before and there will be this kind of good news again. 

In effect, these phrases are our “Once upon a time.” Every story that starts with this phrase is connected with every other story that does, and the feelings those stories have evoked.

2. We saturate and connect positive moments.

Yesterday, we had a single thread on the group, with hundreds of images from the Global Climate Strike all over the world. Some images were small and intimate, some were large in scale. But the repetition of them, the labor it took to scroll through them and open up all the comments and see them all, reinforced the scale and the connections. Making it all into one long long stream connected all the images and events into a single MASSIVE positive moment, a HUGE one that was overwhelming and loud. It is one thing to have a vague sense of this movement being worldwide. It is another to watch it unfold in real time, from the Solomon Islands all the way around the world to Hawaii.

There are lots of negative things happening. And they all stick, deeply, until we can feel overwhelmed and defeated. One of the many skills we need to hone as we go forward is this one: the ability to recognize and amplify the positive where we find it.

© Parents for the Planet, LLC 2015-2019