Is Bad Stronger Than Good?

Have you held (or are currently holding) a grudge?
Do you have a plethora of positive experiences in your memory?

It may seem as though that one hurtful word a person says to you completely erases the 100 kind words they said before or after, and the hurt feelings seem to last a lot longer than the positive ones.

I used to think maybe I was just a spiteful, overly-sensitive person because the hurtful, unkind words seemed to affect me more than kind words.

But, maybe it's not just me.
It seems that social scientists have seen this same trend among all people, and have decided to dig a little deeper and find out if bad is actually stronger than good.
I recently read an article for my Advanced Family Processes class and it really got me thinking: is bad really stronger than good? My first thought was, "Of course it is! Good always prevails."

However, this article is not about good forces vs. evil forces, this article analyzes past data to show that bad experiences (car wreck, betrayal, and even smells) create stronger and more lasting emotions than positive experiences (getting a raise, kind words, tastes). The article has page after page of empirical evidence to back up this theory (48 pages to be exact), and it actually makes sense.

For example, John Gottman, one of the leading experts on marital relationships, asserts that in order for a marriage to thrive there needs to be a healthy ratio of positive and negative interactions. This ratio is 5:1. This means that for every negative interaction you have with your spouse you need to have around five positive interactions to make up for it.

If you think that is a lot, think about this: Ezra Taft Benson once said that in order for parents to have a healthy relationship between their children they need to have a ratio of 8:1!
Why is it so important to have more positive interactions than negative interactions? Negative interactions evoke stronger feelings and those feelings last much longer than emotions evoked from positive interactions.

I wanted to share this article this because I feel that the concept and application are extremely important for family relationships.

If we want to have healthy relationships we must have a high ratio of positive interactions, but most importantly, we must lower the amount of negative interactions. Although the above ratios may not be entirely accurate for every person and every family, the principle is the same: we need to work on minimizing the amount of negative interactions within our family relationships.

If you are interested in reading the article I would recommend reading pages 6-9--this section is about relationships. The rest of the article covers learning, child development, emotions, memory, etc. They are really good if you are interested in exploring the effects of negative experiences in other areas of human life.

Baumeister Article

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