Other Viewing the world in a negative lens

Warrior Chicken

Viewing the world around us with a filter that’s set to identify threats and danger is one of the unfortunate features of ptsd. Even though it’s possible to focus on the positive and remain optimistic, there is often a tendency to notice the negative by default….as a survival mechanism of sorts.

I’m curious to learn how others view the world around them. For me this all comes on the heels of a rather heated discussion I had recently after a colleague pointed out an older person with a child and said how the child looked “really really sad”. I accept that I was triggered, but am not sure if it’s my own history that influences my perspective, if it’s my profession, how I am in general, or a combo of all of those.

My immediate reaction to what I saw was suspicious and negative. While my colleague tried to convince me that it couldn’t possibly be that the child was sad because they’re being abused….I was working hard to convince them that it’s important to not immediately assume that abuse isn’t a possibility. In that situation I was using the idea that the person was guilty before being proven innocent.

It’s not to the extent of concluding the person is guilty, but that negative lens leads the first impression.

So, I’m wondering if others with trauma histories have noticed anything similar in how the world looks. (Doesn’t have to be an adult with a child, can be anything). Just that first impression we have feeling out of whack with what the majority of society.

Does it bother you or do you feel it has a benefit?


when i started psychotherapy, i was quite the doomsayer. show me a rose and all i could see was thorns.

fast forward half a century and i am skeptical that the other extreme is any better. roses DO have thorns and refusing to see those thorns is likely to cause unnecessary injury and pain. life is a question of balance. i have designed electrical circuits and know that a circuit won't work without both positive and negative charges. i shoot for a realistic perspective that life is and always will be a mixed bag.

as for psychoanalyzing random strangers i have never met and am unlikely to ever meet, i remind myself that i do not have access to the needed information. i am currently caring for 3 young orphans who have been with me since the tragedy which took their parents in september 2019. not even **I** can tell by the looks on their faces whether they are grieving their parents or the kitten that just ran away from their childish enthusiasm. or are they sad about the bubble gum i did not buy them yesterday?


Current events are a great example, at least here in the US. Myself, whether from my attachment trauma history or from my lifelong love of and study of history and current events, I am very aware of the danger ahead and can easily visualize several options for the day after the day after tomorrow. I keep up with events and research things that help me understand the situation. I am also old enough to remember what the USSR was like.

i seem to feel very differently than the media people, who seem to think this is a merely a show, something to watch but that will never affect them, and from others who take the view that why bother to know about things you cannot control, who cares what happens over there, etc. Sometimes those responses seem to me to be their own defenses acting up, refusing to acknowledge that their world might be forever changed by this.

Is my response a trauma response or a healthy response? It feels healthy to me. Maybe that’s how you know? I dunno.
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I tend to see the negative filter as a protective mechanism as well. However I make a distinction between the negative filter and hypervigilance. Due to various events I experienced growing up, as well as my natural personality, I've always been a negative person - even before my trauma. My hypervigilance, which I acquired post-trauma, usually leads to catastrophizing which, unlike my negative filter which just expects disappointment, usually manifests in destructive expectations of others towards me.

In the past this has led me to assume that people in my life don't just think of me poorly (my negativity bias) but are actually wishing me harm (hypervigilance). Both are unhelpful, but one is much more destructive to relationships than the other.

A recent case in point: I had to email an instructor about an issue that came up in class. It took a lot for me to actually do so because I expected that my email would be seen as unwelcome or stupid. I completely failed to take into consideration that my instructor is a therapist and he actually wanted to know that something was bothering me.


It’s not to the extent of concluding the person is guilty, but that negative lens leads the first impression.
How does it change the thoughts when you contemplate: okay, the kid may have been profoundly sad. But, maybe it's because he has childhood cancer and starts treatment tomorrow?

I get overwhelmed by how horrible humans can be to each other, and I can get completely lost in that sadness. When I start thinking "abuse is probably involved", it doesn't matter that statistically I may well be right. It's not hypervigilence anymore.

Hypervigilence: noticing the emotional state of every single person in the room.
Projection/triggered: assuming that abuse is involved in how people are feeling/behaving, when a thousand other reasons could apply.

I deal with the "overwhelmed by human horribleness" (it's a problem I know I have, and I know it interferes with my function and ability to just be present) by going out of my way to balance it out with other evidence for my brain.

I know that my brain will (or at least, theoretically can) make new neurological pathways to interpret situations. But I need to give it plenty of new information to do that.

For me, that's also involved putting boundaries around situations that perpetuate the bias of my cognitive distortions - trying to starve those old distortions of evidence as much as I can...which is probably "avoidance"...whatever!!

But also, noticing that once I get drawn into that emotional whirlpool, I need to extract myself. I'm not helping anyone by getting overwhelmed with perceived distress in others. I need to ground, and throw some ACT skills at the situation: noticing is good. But start using skills to bring myself back to my present once noticing becomes an emotional, internal whirlpool.


I have a massive tendency to constantly look at "what's wrong here" what's wrong with this picture/environment/person?

It can be useful because it can give you/me insight into how to improve things but it's also really f*cking annoying and can make bad situations worse when you start kicking off about things and relationships get f*cked up. Especially when you have a history of communicating badly and your actions and words just explode as a negative freak out leading to everyone hating you. But enough about me!

It's tough. When you've been traumatised it's hard not to look at the world without a distorted negative lens. But if you acknowledge that it can happen then you can be aware of it and try to change that view and/or question your initial thoughts.


I've been accused of having a generally negative view of the world. I don't trust people generally to do the right, compassionate thing, but I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. I tried really hard to change and kind of did for a number of years, but now it's worse than it ever was. The change came about because I was told again and again (by just about everybody) that things were just not as bad as I put out, and I got tired of hearing it. So, to others in my circle, I was as positive as I could be.

While I think depression and all the stuff that caused the PTSD certainly affect how I see the world, I try very hard now to look at things in an educated and informed way. It's hard when you do that, because there's a LOT of negative in the world. And I don't think that is looking through a distorted lens.