Take a Deep Breath
Today’s post revolves around a subject I’ve been thinking about since early 2017, when I noticed much of the population separating into pro-Trump or anti-Trump factions that were becoming increasingly tribal, vitriolic and hostile. I wrote about it in the piece, Lost in the Political Wilderness, and things haven’t improved much since. Fortunately, around the same time I came across the theory of Spiral Dynamicswhich provided me with a useful framework through which to understand consciousness and the importance of guarding your mind and emotional state in a world that encourages fear, tribalism and anger.
Though we live in a time where more diverse information is available at our fingertips than at any other period in human history, we’re still presented with news and narratives via specific channels; whether that be an alternative media figure, a mass media outlet or a tech giant algorithm. The news and commentary that somehow gets in front of us on a daily basis shapes our view of the world just as it always has, and this in turn triggers certain emotions – joy, sadness, anger, fear, inspiration, etc. There’s space for all that in a human life, but the ones I’m most interested in for the purposes of this piece are fear and anger.
For the vast majority of us, fear and anger should not dominate everyday life, and when they do manifest, it’s important we recognize and think about it consciously. For starters, the moment you read a headline or an article that triggers anger or outrage, I suggest taking a deep breath. Then ask yourself if this is something that genuinely deserves your attention, or is it perhaps an intentional distraction of some kind. Politicians and media outlets alike tend to make a living off manipulating your emotional state so be careful what you allow these sources to do to you.
Nobody reading this has the time to be outraged about every possible thing there is to be outraged about, so I suggest being as selective as possible when providing space in your day for this sort of emotion. Many of the issues people become enraged about on a daily basis have been intentionally manufactured or put in front of them for the purpose of pitting people against one another — in other words, for dividing and conquering — or for the purpose of distraction.
Which brings me to the next point. How can you tell if you’re being manipulated in a way that isn’t good for you or society at large? For one thing, if a piece of news or information results in you being disgusted or hostile at a vast collection of other people you consider to be on the “other team” politically speaking, you’re probably being played.
Irrespective of where you stand on the ideological spectrum, most people aren’t saints or sinners, we’re just flawed but decent people trying to do the best we can. Any news or commentary that encourages you to despise a large group of other humans simply because they vote differently, or come from a distinct culture to your own is generally not doing you or anyone else any good. Any time you find yourself triggered in such a way it’s important to be as conscious as possible of what is happening and why.
Although there are certainly major issues worthy of disgust that require serious attention, we only have so much spare time each day and a limited amount of emotional energy to spend. My suggestion is to spend your days consciously and wisely, and avoid being played and manipulated. Moreover, the best thing any of us can do on a daily basis is work on ourselves. Most of our energy is best spent trying to be better, more loving, and more understanding in our everyday conversations and relationships in real life. Just as anger and outrage can be viral and result in self-fulling negative societal outcomes, kindness is likewise contagious.
We’re all here for such a brief time and most of us (myself included) don’t always guard our emotional space as carefully as we should. Fear and anger are natural human emotions, but should be dealt with consciously and with care. Next time you find yourself being triggered, take a deep breath and ask yourself if it’s worth your time and energy. If not, move on. Life’s too short.
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