We have becomes addicted to, and obsessed with, bad news. The scarier and the more alarming, the better. We are hooked on the adrenaline rush; unable to pull away from the charge that revs us up. The over-stimulation that makes us feel so frenetically and uncomfortably alive. Without which we feel bored, numb, out of the loop and disinterested. Obsessed with the erroneous assumption and false belief that if we have anything less than every last detail, in every moment, in real time, somehow, somehow, we will be unsafe.
In the meantime, we miss that in any given moment, we are not in imminent danger. Death is not in the air. Peril is not contained in the person who stands before us. Because our perceptions have become so distorted, we miss that the body does not know the difference between the real, the imagined, and the distorted. That our survival system will get turned on and stay on based on an image, a story, a repeated piece of information. Ironically enough, the very thing we believe will help to keep us safe (the news, more numbers and maps), becoming the very problem itself. Why? Because a chronically hyper-aroused nervous system becomes the culprit of poor health, death, and lack of well-being and safety in a far more widespread and detrimental way than not knowing what is on the news ever will.
This is within our control. This is a choice we can make each and every time we decide what to turn to. It is a commitment to knowing what works in our lives, and what it is that makes us sick.
One way to begin to understand ourselves better is to become aware that as human beings, we are hard-wired with something many refer to as “the negativity bias.” A proclivity, if you will, of our species to favor paying attention to what is not working. To where the danger is coming from. This is a real asset when assuming for the worst kind of winter when focusing on how much food to store in times when there were no grocery stores. A survival essential when overestimating the likelihood of an attack from a warring neighbor. A must-have when speeding away from wild fires covering the ground quicker than you can run.
But, an absolute disaster in a world being run on fear-based messaging 24/7 in the form of “news” and “entertainment.” Marketing strategies, PR firms, and persuasively designed devices are all intimately aware of, and making use of, our deepest needs. Wants. And fears. Our own biological, personal and social “triggers” being used against us to keep us watching; knowingly and intentionally stimulating and manipulating the wrong things in us for profit.
What is a person to do?
Begin by deciding that you deserve better than to walk around terrified all the time. Create space in your life where you absolutely refuse to be yanked around by external messages that frighten and depress you. Turn away from using the screens in ways that leave you overrun with other people’s thoughts and beliefs to the exclusion of your own. Begin to contemplate some thought-provoking questions. “Is this choice making my life better or worse? Is the sheer volume and repetition of information distorting and exaggerating an issue beyond what is real and true?”
You might even try a thought experiment. “What if there were no screens?” How would that change how things play out? Would we have a different level of understanding, fear, or hope without the constant input of something outside of us?
While some minds may go to the place that says we need all this information to stay informed and safe, is that actually true? And even if it were, when does the “cure” becomes worse than the disease?