Which Personality Types Are Better at Beating Negative Thought Patterns, and Why?

Negative thought patterns are kind of a big deal, interfering with joy and sometimes even deluding us into making bad decisions. Negativity bias influences us significantly and unconsciously, and it can be a double hit – we’re more likely to slip into negative thought patterns than positive ones, and they’re harder to get out of. But learning to do so might just be the holy grail of personal growth.

Many of our negative perceptions are subjective and elective, yet they can heavily influence our actions – not to mention our feelings. Wouldn’t it be nice to stop unhelpful thought patterns at will or avoid them in the first place? This would make it easier for us to be happy, optimistic, and motivated in life. There’s also something to be said for practicing truly conscious choices more than reactionary ones. Personality types may offer some useful clues about how such ends can be achieved.

Here we’ll consider some key stats from our “Thought Patterns” survey and explore possible meanings behind them. Some personalities report being much less subject to negative thought patterns, and understanding why may provide inspiration for our own personal growth. What can we learn from these folks? Let’s find out.

The above chart illustrates the contrast between personality types nicely. Notice anything about the types that are most likely to agree? That’s right – they’re the four personalities that possess both the Introverted (I) and Intuitive (N) traits. Let’s think about that correlation and why it might be.

Introversion typically relates to a tendency to focus on the internal – Introverts hold a lot of their thoughts and energy inside. Compared to Extraverts, they’re less pulled to engage externally with other people or dynamic circumstances. Their attention is directed more within, and it’s often inner feedback that guides their perceptions and feelings.

The Intuitive trait usually relates to an extremely active imagination – it’s a mindset that values exploring many diverse possibilities more than focusing only on those of high probability and relevance. In other words, it is vibrant but somewhat indiscriminate thinking that embraces theoretical exploration as much as (and often more than) practicality.

Combine those two traits, and you get fertile ground for subjective ideation – creative but self-referencing thought. Seed that with the human tendency toward negativity bias, and we get a possible explanation as to why Introverted, Intuitive personalities are the types most likely to get stuck in negative thought patterns. A negative idea or perception may sustain itself more easily in their minds because it’s like a spotlighted performer in an otherwise shuttered room – the obvious center of attention.

Extraverts, on the other hand, tend to place a lot of their attention on external interactions. Relatively speaking, they value and seek active engagement with other people and circumstances, providing a robust stream of external input that mixes with their internally generated thoughts and feelings. That extra input can make it less likely that they get stuck in a self-referencing thought pattern, negative or otherwise.

The Observant trait also relates to a focus on the present, tangible, and practical. The perceptions of Observant personality types may be based on a realistic appraisal of events more than imagined aspects of the events. For these personalities, negative thought patterns may be less likely to stick around on their own without ongoing events provoking them.

The way that Extraverts and Observant types direct their attention to the realities of their surroundings helps them regulate or reduce their negative perceptions. Is there a useful lesson in all of that for Intuitive Introverts? Perhaps the realization is that this is a method that anyone can practice. If our internal focus is likely to inflate and sustain negative thoughts, the fix might be to situationally shift our attention and energy outward.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in that negative performer onstage, but resetting an attitude starts with opening the shutters of perception to other input. That spotlight isn’t such a draw when other bright goings-on can be seen out the theater windows, eh? (We Intuitive Introverts like our metaphors too!) Allowing ourselves to engage externally with people and activities can not only break a negative thought pattern – it may also change our perception.

Turbulent Thoughts: The Identity Factor

An elephant in the room is the fact that people with a Turbulent Identity are nearly twice as likely as Assertive personalities to say that they often get stuck in negative thought patterns.

Their negativity bias circuits tend to work overtime – but not without reason. Understanding their sensitivity can grant individuals with Turbulent personalities some useful perspective – and control.

There’s an important difference between being hyperaware of negative things and getting stuck in negative responses as a result. It’s very natural to experience a negative feeling when we perceive something as negative, but we often proceed into those feelings automatically – and before anything bad has actually happened. That’s unhelpful, but it’s no accident.

A major driver of negativity bias (and associated negative thoughts) is risk assessment. We’re sensitive to negative potentials partially because we wish to avoid them. However, it’s important for Turbulent personalities to recognize that their risk alarm often goes off unnecessarily, pushing them into negative thoughts with no benefit. There’s no shame in that, but it’s a sequence that can be interrupted.

One technique that can help Turbulent personalities avoid getting stuck in negative thought patterns is to consciously observe their perceptions and thoughts as they occur, before they become negative feelings. Monitoring one’s inner reactions with an accepting yet distanced mindset can help prevent them from getting out of hand – or getting locked into a negative pattern. When our responses are processed consciously and objectively, they may not provoke a flood of unnecessary negative feelings.

Some Final Positive Thoughts

If you’re a Turbulent, Intuitive, Introverted personality, your capacity for negative thought is matched by a deep ability to entertain sublime, positive responses as well. The pendulum swings both ways (hence “Turbulent”), and there’s nothing wrong with you. There’s also nothing wrong with experiencing negative thoughts and feelings – everyone does. Getting stuck in them may cause problems, but there are some practices that can help:

  • Open yourself to external input. Seek the company of others. Engage in a vigorous, distracting activity. Breaking out of a negative pattern is easier when you mix in fresh elements and shake things up.
  • Pay attention to the present and your surroundings. Focusing on intangibles and potentials isn’t always the best way to reset a negative thought pattern. Staying grounded and realistic can balance out worried what-ifs.
  • Consciously observe your negative thoughts. Evaluate your thoughts without shame or judgment, and then set them aside rather than letting them run away with you – and expect to repeat as needed.
  • Be patient with yourself. Negative thought patterns can take time to break out of, and it’s something that takes persistent practice. Try, try again, and recognize every step forward as valuable.

Further Reading