Dispatch from the Razor's Edge, the Blog of Michael Stephen Fuchs
The Great Secret, Version One

ACCENTUATE THE POSITIVE

Larry David, creator of the hit sitcoms Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm, hails from Brooklyn but has lived most of his life in Los Angeles. On a rare stay in Manhattan to film episodes for Curb – in which he plays himself – David went to see a ball game at Yankee Stadium.

During a lull in the game, cameras sent his image up to gigantic Jumbotron screens. The entire stadium of fans stood to cheer him.

But as David was leaving later that night, in the parking lot someone leaned out of a passing car and yelled "Larry, you suck!"

On the way home, Larry David obsessed about that one encounter: "Who's that guy? What was that? Who would do that? Why would you say something like that?"

It was as though those fifty thousand adoring fans didn't exist – there was just that one guy.

Negativity focuses us on a narrow range – what's upsetting us. A rule of thumb in cognitive therapy holds that focusing on the negatives in experience offers a recipe for depression. Cogitive therapy treatments might well encourage someone like Larry David to bring to mind his good feelings when the crowd went crazy for him, and hold his focus there.

Positive emotions widen our span of attention; we're free to take it all in. Indeed, in the grip of positivity, our perceptions shift. As psychologist Barbara Fredrickson, who studies positive feelings and their effects, puts it, when we're feeling good our awareness expands from our usual self-centered focus on "me" to a more inclusive and warm focus on "we."

Focusing on the negatives or positives offers us a bit of leverage in determining how our brain operates. When we're in an upbeat, energized mood, Richard Davidson has found, our brain's left prefrontal area lights up. The left area also harbors circuitry that reminds us how great we'll feel when we finally reach some long-sought goal – the circuitry that helps keep a graduate student slogging away at a daunting dissertation.

At the neural level, positivity reflects how long we can sustain this outlook. One technical measure, for instance, assesses how long people hold a smile after seeing someone help a person in distress or after watching an exuberant toddler prancing about.

This sunny outlook shows up in attitudes: for example, that moving to a new city or meeting new people is an adventure opening up exciting possibilities – wonderful places to discover, new friends – rather than a scary step. When life brings a surprising positive moment, such as warm conversation, the pleasant mood lasts and lasts.

As you might expect, people who experience life in this light focus on the silver lining, not just clouds. The opposite, cynicism, breeds pessimism: not just a focus on the cloud, but the conviction that there are even darker ones lurking behind. It all depends on where you focus: the one mean fan, or the fifty thousand cheering ones.

- Daniel Goleman

  attitude     happiness  
about
close photo of Michael Stephen Fuchs

Fuchs is the author of the novels The Manuscript and Pandora's Sisters, both published worldwide by Macmillan in hardback, paperback and all e-book formats (and in translation); the D-Boys series of high-tech, high-concept, spec-ops military adventure novels – D-Boys, Counter-Assault, and Close Quarters Battle (coming in 2016); and is co-author, with Glynn James, of the bestselling Arisen series of special-operations military ZA novels. The second nicest thing anyone has ever said about his work was: "Fuchs seems to operate on the narrative principle of 'when in doubt put in a firefight'." (Kirkus Reviews, more here.)

Fuchs was born in New York; schooled in Virginia (UVa); and later emigrated to the San Francisco Bay Area, where he lived through the dot-com boom. Subsequently he decamped for an extended period of tramping before finally rocking up in London, where he now makes his home. He does a lot of travel blogging, most recently of some very  long  walks around the British Isles. He's been writing and developing for the web since 1994 and shows no particularly hopeful signs of stopping.

You can reach him on .

THE MANUSCRIPT by Michael Stephen Fuchs
PANDORA'S SISTERS by Michael Stephen Fuchs
DON'T SHOOT ME IN THE ASS, AND OTHER STORIES by Michael Stephen Fuchs
D-BOYS by Michael Stephen Fuchs
COUNTER-ASSAULT by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book One - Fortress Britain, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Two - Mogadishu of the Dead, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN : Genesis, by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN Book Three - Three Parts Dead, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN Book Four - Maximum Violence, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN Book Five - EXODUS, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs

ARISEN Book Six - The Horizon, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Seven - Death of Empires, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Eight - Empire of the Dead by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN : NEMESIS by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Nine - Cataclysm by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Ten - The Flood by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Eleven - Deathmatch by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Twelve - Carnage by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Thirteen - The Siege by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Fourteen - Endgame by Michael Stephen Fuchs
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