We are in chaotic and uncertain times. There is a wave of expanding collective anger and pain that is palpable.
It is an understatement to say we are all being challenged to salvage some sense of peace when confronted with social and political unrest entangled with financial, personal, and health worries. I have seen a great deal more emotional stress, headaches, neck pain, back pain, and overall bodily discomfort in my patients. It is never too long that emotional pain becomes physical pain.
We seem to have hit a pivotal point in society where hatred, destructive dialogue, division, anger, and blame are at an all-time high. Civility, kindness, acceptance, and love are strangely absent. Today and every day, we have a choice to make.
The news and social media are the platforms for expressing this discontent and anger. It has morphed into a means of spreading fear and mistrust or canceling anyone who thinks differently from us. Name-calling, ridiculing, and brandishing opinions as though they are Truth and fact has become a common thread perpetuating this growing anger and unrest.
We seem to have lost the ability to have intelligent conversations with those of differing opinions and beliefs, insisting that others who believe differently than us are “wrong”. There is vehement push back, resistance, self-righteous attitudes, and defiance when our beliefs or opinions are challenged or not accepted as universal Truth. Our ego tells us that if perhaps we shout loud enough we will change the minds of those who think differently. We instinctively know and have seen historically that this is false.
It becomes easy to bully, belittle, dehumanize, and lump groups of people into ‘categories’, as if to ‘shield’ ourselves, simply because they think differently than we do. This is a form of bullying. In doing this, we are perpetuating the negativity, anger, hate, and division that is already escalating. We have now become part of the problem.
The news and news media have always portrayed the lowest common denominator of human existence and is designed with one objective in mind: to activate the portion of the brain ( Amygdala) that creates fear.
More than ever, news media and social media bombard the fear brain, inciting anger, divisiveness, and “me against them” thinking and mistrust of others. This promotes a stress response in the body by upregulating our “fight, flight, freeze, and fear”, Sympathetic nervous system. This is our built-in survival mechanism however, it is not meant to be responding every day, all day to perceived ‘threats’. The consistent hyperarousal of this nervous system is responsible for many chronic health conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, compromised immunity, depression, anxiety, muscle tension, chronic pain, and insomnia.
I sat quietly this morning in solitude considering the choices we have and the lessons we can learn during times of testing.
We have a choice to reduce the amount of time we spend watching the news or engaging in the various forms of social media. Setting time controls and boundaries can go a long way toward restoring our inner peace. Those who watch the most news, experience the greatest levels of anxiety.
We have a choice to disengage when someone is choosing to express vitriol, name-calling, personal attacks, and other bully tactics. There is no place for this in any relationship or even when expressing our views on a social platform.
We can make a choice to refuse to be offended, as carrying an offense and being easily offended brings the heavy burden of resentment and bitterness, stealing our health, peace, and joy. When we are easily offended our rational brain is hijacked, and our emotional and fear brain is in the driver’s seat. We are essentially giving our control over to someone else, allowing them to influence our reactions and remarks. We may strike out in defense as I have seen countless examples of those who have said they “Can’t be friends with someone who votes for so and so, or who believes such and such.”
We can choose to have an open mind and hold space for duality; simply understanding that two very different ideas can co-exist at the same time while understanding that there is rarely one truth that summarizes a complicated issue. As Steve Jobs has said, “Have strong opinions loosely held.”
We can choose to allow a larger perspective, as pettiness and insisting we are right, cancels our joy, and contracts our world. We need people with other viewpoints to expand our thinking. We don’t have to change our minds but new knowledge can expand our minds if we are secure enough to receive it.
We can choose to have healthy boundaries especially with those who for whatever reason, are angry or abusive. We may have to take inventory of the types of interactions we engage in, protecting ourselves as needed. Distancing from toxic relationships may be necessary if boundaries for decent behavior are not respected. Those who attack or hurt others are often experiencing pain themselves, we can have empathy. Empathy builds resilience.
We can choose to focus on the good that we can do; how we can contribute our energy positively to the greater good or a cause that is important to us. Other questions we can consider: What can I do to lift up myself and others? What is within my control and what is not? How are my underlying beliefs and prevailing thoughts contributing to my unrest, worry, anxiety, and stress? Ultimately, it will be our health that is negatively impacted.
We can choose to make peace our primary goal. If we can cultivate ways of choosing peace, safeguarding peace, and residing in a place of peace, despite external circumstances, we become a very powerful agent for change. Developing healthy habits that protect our peace of mind, may mean limiting the time we spend watching or engaging with news and social media. Instead, we can use our time to listen to soothing music, take a walk in nature, express ourselves in a journal, play with a pet, pray or meditate, or simply breathe.
We can choose to nurture our faith rather than our fears. This is not an easy task at times such as this, but this is precisely when it becomes most valuable.
” When you judge another person, you do not define them. You define yourself…When you respond with hatred to hate, you’ve become part of the problem which is hatred, rather than part of the solution, which is love. Be a person who refuses to be offended by anyone, anything, or any set of circumstances.” – Wayne Dyer.
This above quote by Dr.Wayne Dyer holds tremendous wisdom. Indeed, It is a very difficult call for us to uplevel our responses in a time of chaos and uncertainty. If we can achieve it now, it will be a skill that we can turn to, again and again during other trials.
“I have told you these things so that in Me you may have perfect peace. In this world, you will have tribulation and distress, but be courageous and filled with joy, for I have overcome the world.”- John 16:33