The good, the bad and the ugly

What and how we feel gives meaning to life. How we feel is in a big way reliant on what we see, hear and read in the media. I wanted to write this post after being effected by the Charleston shooting and many more that happened in the last few months. All the bad news around us can become overwhelming and depressing. I will write about how we can deal with that in our daily life through a look into my personal struggle with this very thing. I can summarize my on-and-off relationship with news in the following popular 5 stages:

1. Denial/Avoidance. I had a pretty protective childhood. As the youngest sibling, I was usually ‘protected’ from bad news and serious events. At this point if I heard a bad news, I didn’t really know what it meant and it was an uncomfortable and odd occurrence. I avoided thinking about it so it would go away.

2. Anger. While growing up, I used to watch the news with my dad. I looked up to his knowledge about the current events. I have been told I used to repeat CNN and BBC news in fake English before I even knew the language. Unfortunately, with age I realized that everything that was actually happening in the world was too much for me – too violent, too sad, too tragic and just too out of my hands to do anything about. Lack of human compassion made me angry. It still does.

3. Bargaining. To calm the angry feelings, I found myself tuning out the world. I had to curb my interest in the world events and politics, because it was overwhelmingly bad. Instead I found websites like Good News and Daily Good. This led to a sharp decrease in my knowledge about what was happening in the world, and eventually I realized that was also unacceptable to me.

4. Depression. This is an ongoing stage for me while I’m trying to work on the next one.

5. Acceptance. A lot of definitions for this stage usually reference ‘helplessness’ – when you have no choice but to accept your circumstances because you think the situation is way bigger than what you can control. Hence, this stage usually directly follows depression. However, I am with the people who think acceptance ultimately leads to peace and change.

Here are 7 suggestions to exercise acceptance in a functional way:

  • Limit your exposure to devastating news (that plays on repeat for 24 hours) for two reasons to keep your sanity (& positivity) and to retain the shock value that gets lost with overexposure and repetition of bad news. You want to keep the shock value to maintain your power over media. In other words, just turn it off.
  • Follow your arrow. Your power is in your ability to not always accept the things as they are. You accept that bad things happen, but you don’t have to accept that they should. You hold bad people responsible and do what you can to help those effected by tragedy.
  • Question it. Know media’s biases. They cover devastating news because they know humans react to fear and negativity quicker. Do your independent research using reliable sources. Always try to read more than one side of a story.
  • Watch your reaction. Keep track of your feelings and emotions. It’s okay to get upset reasonably. However, it’s possible to program your mind by controlling your exposure and reaction. Basically, get your information without getting consumed by it.
  • Express your feelings. Talk to people or write down your feelings so you can make sense of things and/or mutually shake your head at the horrific incidents without feeling alone. Speaking up can start revolutions!
  • Keep perspective. With the never-ending bad news always bombarding us, it’s easy to get caught up in thinking that the whole world is a bad place and all people are evil. However, keep the big picture in mind – media only shows the selective worst of the world. It helps to know that for every bad person out there, there are at least a few hundred good ones.
  • If all else fails, check out the positive media, sites and blogs (e.g., Humans of New York).

I wanted to focus this post on the recent plethora of tragic news, but we can also use these suggestions in dealing with other difficult events in life. As always, your ideas are welcome!

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