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Primal World Beliefs: How Can We Be Optimistic When the World Seems So Negative?

Where do you want to eat?

I don’t know. How about that new place that opened around the corner?

Are they any good? Have you heard anything about it?

No, I haven’t. I’ll ask online and see what people say.

What do you think? Is this a bad restaurant, a tough crowd, or a mix of the two? Would you give it a try or avoid it based on this feedback?

Perhaps your friends don’t like the foods that you do or are very picky. Maybe they had a bad visit after having a bad day themselves. Personal experiences from others frame our own outlook on things. It’s why the first thing people do before making a purchase on Amazon is to check out the reviews. If we all have learned one thing from reading reviews it’s that experiences vary widely and tend to greatly influence our own thinking.

Perception is everything

Recent psychological research out of the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) in 2019 indicates along with earlier data that how we see our world and what we believe about it impacts how we feel, think, and interact in life.

In fact, these “primal world beliefs” can predict how happy or depressed we are, how trusting we are in relationships, and the decisions we make. Every person learns primal world beliefs as a child from their parents as they instructed and modeled us on what they believed.

For example, over the last few years have you been more likely to hesitate to go to social events or frequently decline invitations because it’s just too scary? Do you take greater care to plan the safety needs for your family to socialize? If so, you’re definitely not alone. Many people have a growing belief that the world is a dangerous place – a common outlook as we grow older and see and experience more.

Primal World Beliefs - Maison Vie New Orleans Louisiana Therapy and Counseling - Marriage, Family, Couples
How do you see the world? Is it bright and inviting or is it dark and dangerous? Many people have a growing belief that the world is a dangerous place – a common outlook as we grow older and see and experience more. Though, there’s more to why that is than you think. Image by Joe Plenio on Pixabay.

Primal World Beliefs

There are three overarching primal world beliefs.

Safe (vs. dangerous)
Is the world safe or is it dangerous?

Enticing (vs. dull)
Do you expect the world to behave consistently or do you expect it to be confusing and panicky?

Alive (vs. mechanistic)
Do you explore the world and all it can teach you, or do you believe it is a boring place not worth the time or effort?

Which side of these lines are you on? How are you teaching your children your primal world beliefs, especially as we live in a time of global crises about health, violence and unrest, political divisiveness, climate change, and economic instability?

Psychological research has shown that teaching negative primal world beliefs, like “it’s dangerous out there,” “watch out all the time because something bad will happen,” and “there’s nothing out there for you,” instills negative effects on children and can destroy their mental health. This has been shown repeatedly despite the common parental belief that “it kept me safe, so it’ll keep my child safe.”

Negative primal world beliefs are commonly found in people with depression, pessimistic viewpoints, and poor life satisfaction and physical health, as well as those who are prone to dishonesty, negative emotions, and struggle to succeed.

How do you want your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren to experience life?

Positive primal world beliefs, however, directly impact physical, mental, and professional health while substantially increasing our ability to succeed. This has been confirmed even when people have experienced a major negative life event, like trauma, divorce, bankruptcy, chronic illness, or death. We have all seen stories of parents who are amazed by their child’s positive outlook despite exhaustive cancer-related treatment. That is the impact of positive primal world beliefs.

Positive primal world beliefs correlate with how we live our lives and the status of our mental health. When we see the world as mostly safe, we are more trusting, therefore less likely to experience depression. When we trust others as safe, not trying to harm us, then we are more likely to engage socially, which increases our “cuddle” hormone, oxytocin. We feel happier and more content.

For instance, when we experience the great outdoors, our curiosity is awakened resulting in feelings of gratitude and happiness. Curiosity is a stimulating experience that leads us to share our experiences, like when we travel to new places for vacation and share pictures on social media. That “cuddle” hormone gets activated again when our friends respond with emojis and comments.

When the world is viewed as alive and inviting, we access higher aspects of our connectedness as human beings. We experience spirituality and life purpose. Additional positive correlations to viewing the world through positive primal world beliefs include hope, zest, leadership, humor, honesty, success, optimism, appreciativeness, and the love of learning.

Primal World Beliefs - Maison Vie Louisiana Therapy and Counseling - Marriage, Family, Couples
“Primal World Beliefs” predict how happy or depressed we are, how trusting we are in relationships, and the decisions we make. They also play a key role in how our children experience the world as they grow up, forming the basis of their own psyche. Reviewing, exploring, and adjusting your outlook on the world can be a major factor in how satisfied you and your children are with life. Image by Wil Stewart on Unsplash.

Adjusting negative primal world beliefs to a more positive set

Do you want to change how you are impacting yourself and your family’s present and future well-being? Dr. Jeremy Clifton and his colleagues from UPenn provide guidance through extensive research on how to transition from basing your outlook on negativity to positivity.

  1. Increase your awareness of what your primal world beliefs are and how they may be impacting your life. They suggest starting with an online survey at their website: My Primals. There are 3 survey options. You can begin increasing your self-awareness with a five, six, or 15-minute commitment as you respond to some simple multiple-choice questions, all confidential.
  2. Give yourself grace and consider that you do have the ability to view life through an adjusted set of lenses. We’re not asking you to go from ashy grey to rose-colored glasses, just clean a bit of the ashiness off first. Remember, living is all about learning and growing.
  3. Determine which primal world beliefs have not been useful for you, and then make slight adjustments. It may transition from “the world is dangerous” to “the world is not dangerous everywhere all the time,” and later it could shift to a more positive lens of “sometimes the world is safe.”
  4. Look for what you want to see, not what you have learned to expect to see. Our brains tell us to see what we want to look for. Have you ever started shopping for a new car? You find one you are really liking and suddenly you see so many other cars like it on the road. So, if you want to make a shift from danger to safer, intentionally keep a look out for what helps the world be a safer place – like people being considerate at a busy intersection. Perhaps visit Good News Network to get started.
  5. Incorporate the buddy system. Change takes time and intentional effort. Success is more likely when you and a friend agree to adjust together. A phone call a day acknowledging one another’s efforts is a worthwhile resource.
  6. Feed your brain more of the fuel it needs to keep up with this life goal. Completing the surveys through MyPrimals.com will give you access to encouragement and strategies to keep you on track.

These suggestions may sound simple but it is not easy to change beliefs we learned as kids. It will take a daily concerted effort to change how we were taught from our earliest years. It means rewiring our brain’s way of problem-solving, which is very possible to do. Our brains constantly learn new things and expand. We need to really want to experience life as safer, more stable, and more engaging. So, consider motivating yourself by asking yourself a few questions.

  1. Do I like my life now?
  2. How might my life change if I saw it just a bit safer, steadier, and more inviting?
  3. Who do I know that sees life more positively that may support me in changing?
  4. Would professional assistance be helpful, too?

If you find yourself struggling to make these adjustments on your own, professional mental health counselors have research tools from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) that can put you on the path to success. CBT is designed to help challenge beliefs that are not working for you. Marriage and family therapists also have CBFT tools, i.e., the family version of CBT. We help families work together adjusting their primal world beliefs.

What else should you know about Primal World Beliefs?

Watch family and marriage therapist Susan Harrington, founder of Maison Vie, discuss how primal world beliefs play a major role in how we live and what you can do to transition from a negative set of beliefs to a positive one. You can also contact Maison Vie to see how Susan can help guide you through counseling sessions.