1. Remember that to be human is to have feelings. To be unfeeling is to be inhumane.
Changing patterns of emotional suppression or reaction can be the doorway to a new freedom and power.
If you’re presented with distressing information, it’s normal to react with anguish, anger, overwhelm or numbness. But it’s possible to become more comfortable in the face of uncomfortable information, and to direct the energy of natural emotions into healthy and empowered responses. To become more comfortable and empowered requires that we honor the role of our emotions and give ourselves space (and support as needed) to move through them.
Consider that instead of suppressing your feelings about difficult subjects, or reacting to them in an unhealthy or illogical way, that you can learn to use your emotional energy for insight, wisdom and power.
If giving yourself space to feel your feelings is a foreign concept, or you’ve worked to specifically avoid feeling, then this is the time to remember what it means to be a human being and why processing your emotions is a key to your peace, power and freedom.
Our feelings are central to our humanity; to be unfeeling is to be inhumane. Technology lacks emotions. Humans have feelings. There is no good that can come from continuous suppression of emotion and creating an unfeeling persona. On the contrary, connecting to feelings gives access to a rich source of presence, insight, wisdom and power.
Perhaps you’ve confused the healthy allowance of emotion moving through you with the possibility of being overtaken by emotion and reacting in an unhealthy way. It’s an error to equate or confuse the natural flow of feelings with illogical reactions based in emotion. They’re not the same. One is a cause and the other is a reactive pattern. It’s possible to observe the cause and choose a different, healthy response.
Distracting and numbing are strategies we’ve all tried, but ultimately we learn that suppression takes a heavy toll on emotional and physical health and energy.
Suppressing heavy emotions suppresses the vibrant ones, too. The resulting numbness is a poor substitute for the vitality that is your birthright
2. Look more closely at your choices and tendencies around taking in “news” and information.
If you’ve developed a habit of turning away from “dark” information, your avoidance may be for a very good reason. When you come to realize that the “news” makes you feel sad, horrified, angry, depressed, and helpless, you might sensibly conclude that you need to avoid certain media in order to stay emotionally balanced.
Surely you know people dedicated to “staying up on the news” who are angry and righteous. or sad and morose. You may know people overflowing with information, opinions and labels, but who offer nothing that actually contributes to fixing what’s wrong.
Maybe you’ve had a personal approach of “staying in the light” or “focusing on the positive.” Or perhaps your avoidance of dark topics isn’t so much a decision as an impulse.
Perhaps you’ve fallen into one of the political echo chambers where you’re told that you are part of a group that knows what’s right, but that much of the world is crazy and dangerous. The implications are that your political party is the solution and you should focus your frustrations on attacking a group that you have been convinced is not like you and is, in fact, crazy and dangerous. This has the same effect as a magician who directs attention. With our attention on fellow citizen groups, we don’t look at what’s hiding in the shadows and, thus, we are not effective in solving widespread problems.
Whatever your experience has been to date, please consider reevaluating 1) your willingness to learn more from your fellow humans about the truths that are behind the never-ending dramas in the “news,” and 2) the unique opportunity we have at this particular moment to bring about positive change.
First, there are many more options, now, for getting sincere and verifiable information from real people. It’s now possible to bypass media sources that trigger emotional reactivity and promote hysteria; that use division to harden people against each other; and that cause widespread helplessness and numbness. No longer must you rely on organizations that are accountable to power structures you can’t see.
And, secondly, this is a unique moment in time. There’s more momentum than ever behind disclosure, exposure, and healing of dark truths that hold the answers to our collective dilemmas.
When we consult sources directly, we see that the seemingly random stories of corruption and terror are not random at all. They are consistent manifestations of specific, fundamental practices that have been kept out of our awareness. But we can bypass the middlemen (traditional media, government sources and corporate spokespeople) and go directly to the real people whose agenda is simply to share their truth.
Reams of whistleblower testimony and research show us the deeper (nonpolitical) factors that underlie the traumas all around us.
Now it’s possible to efficiently get up to speed on the what’s really going on behind the headlines. This process, referred to as “taking the red pill” as in the movie, The Matrix, is not a pleasant process since what we find in the shadows is appalling. But it’s empowering because it explains what is behind the troubles that before seemed unsolvable. Whistleblowers and independent researchers all around us and before us have paved the way. We just need to listen with discernment.
Through your personal research, you, too, can realize that you can join many others who have come together in organized alliances and in supportive collaboration, bringing an irrepressible power to the effort to bring truth to light, secure justice, and fix what is broken.
3. Practice healthy emotional processing.
How? Pause. Truly, pause. Take some time to be in a quiet space. Notice physical sensations. Allow the breath and the feelings to move through you.
The word “emotion” comes from the Latin word “emotere” and means “energy in motion.” Like all energy, emotional energy is neutral. The feeling sensations and physiological states that result from that energy are what we call our feelings: anger, sadness, joy, fear. And those we tend to label as good or bad. But as you trace your way back from the feelings to the sensations in the body (such as heaviness in the chest, constriction in the throat, throbbing in the temples, and so on) , it’s easier to view emotional energy as a neutral force.
When feelings are deep and intense (or you’re not accustomed to feeling your feelings), then processing emotion can seem to be exquisitely uncomfortable. For so many of us, we never learned healthy emotional processing. It wasn’t taught in our families and it sure wasn’t taught in school. While it may at first be strange and uncomfortable, the process itself is simple. It’s not difficult to get started and make some progress:
1. Take anywhere from 30 seconds to a couple of minutes or more to be with the physical sensations of your feelings and emotions.
2. Begin by noticing any discomfort that the information has brought up in you. Acknowledge and allow your discomfort. For example, if you feel angry, threatened, confused or anxious, simply notice and allow that to be true.
3. Scan your body from the top of your head downward, in search of where you notice sensation. Describe what you notice. For example, is there pressure in your temples or tension in your jaw? Tightness in the chest? Pain in the belly? Search for the parts of the body where you feel sensation and take note of how the sensation is manifesting.
4. Notice any judgment as it arises. Let it go and return to the feeling. Whether your mind is judging the feelings or the source of the information, simply notice and return to scanning your body.
5. Your breathing will tend to get short, shallow or stuck when you’re bothered. So, notice your breath and see that as you bring attention to it, it shifts. Without forcing, gently allow it to flow generously. Relax your belly so the breath has room to expand the rib cage. Release any holding or tension in the face, jaw and shoulders.
4. Observe mental reactions.
Seemingly overwhelming mental activity can be managed when its brought to the light of awareness. When its shoved beneath the surface, it reeks lifelong havoc.
“What we call human nature in actuality is human habit.” – Jewel Kilcher
When exposed to disturbing information, the mind will tend to react by grasping onto familiar thoughts and running powerful, exhausting mental loops. These are conditioned responses and can be thought of as mental habits.
If you learn about someone intentionally hurting a child, you’re likely to have not only strong feelings of anguish or anger, horror or helplessness, but also thoughts that represent your particular mental looping patterns.
But this process needn’t hijack you. The way to manage the overwhelming mental onslaught is not to shove it down but instead to notice it. This is called mindfulness, and it’s a very simple practice. Like being with feelings, it can be very uncomfortable at times, but it’s not difficult:
1. Pause. There is no danger to you right now. Notice that you’re sitting in a chair, with your feet on the ground and your breath is flowing through your body.
2. As you begin to have strong reactions, observe your impulses. Imagine that watching your mind is like watching birds fly by. You’re the sky, immovable in the background. The thoughts are flying through like birds.
3. If you feel like arguing or turning away, simply notice that. Don’t judge the reactions and thoughts or get lost in them; just be curious about them.
4. If at some point you realize that you were lost in reverie – whether distraction or becoming outraged or panicky – simply notice that happened, and return to noticing your thoughts and reactions from a distance, as if you’re a scientist observing an experiment.
5. When you feel stress or strong emotions, you may notice your heart is beating faster or that you feel tension in your belly or pain in your temples. These are signs that your sympathetic nervous system has been activated. This is a perfectly natural response. However, the stress response is designed to help you in short-term need. It creates bodily changes such as an increase in blood pressure because it’s preparing you to flee or fight the cause of your stress. But there’s is no woolly mammoth to run from and, instead, you’re experiencing stressful thoughts that never seem to end. So you stay in overdrive. The objective, then, is to help the stress dissipate in a healthy way through emotional processing, mindfulness and body-based practices.
A sign of significant personal power is the ability to face uncomfortable information and feelings, and to make fully conscious choices. Regaining that personal power is within reach. But this requires stepping back and “watching” the mind. In contrast, if you’re resisting and reacting from stress and emotion, you’re being controlled by past conditioning rather than consciously choosing a healthy response in the present moment.
5. Work on seeing information as neutral.
It might help to back up and remember that we’re talking here about taking in some heavy information — not an experience in the present moment.
Reading about a ritual abuse survivor who reports torture is not the same as experiencing that torture. (Having unhealed trauma, however, means you can be triggered. Learn more here .)
No matter how disturbing or frustrating the information, it’s still just information. By allowing yourself to take it in, you have more data points for consideration.
And yet, learning disturbing information can spark a whole host of emotions which can then spur more thoughts and you can quickly be in a state of despair or overwhelm. So it certainly seems that some information holds a lot of power over us. But let’s look a little closer.
Facts and knowledge are not in themselves good or bad; they’re just information. How you react to and use knowledge can indeed be positive or negative, but the information itself is neutral. For example:
Information: A knife is sharp. (neutral)
Option: You can use a sharp knife to chop vegetables for a healthy meal. (positive)
Option: You can use a sharp knife to threaten someone with harm. (negative)
But you also have options to take no action, and to resist the information. The following examples are tongue in cheek but may help to highlight resistance patterns.
1. You can question the accuracy of the information and refuse to entertain the plausibility of a knife being sharp while making no effort to check sources or investigate the veracity of the information.
2. You can demand more and more evidence, steadfastly refusing to entertain the idea until such a time that the messenger delivers objective science proving beyond a doubt that knives are sharp.
3. You may find yourself always a bit confused or distracted whenever the topic of sharp knives comes up. You never seem to have the time to really focus on it.
4. You can find fault with the messenger who reported the information: perhaps she dresses inappropriately or exaggerated her qualifications to get a job early in her career. You can use these faults as reason to ignore the information.
5. Perhaps you have noticed a number of stories in the media reporting crimes where the victims were held at knife-point. You may become disturbed to learn that the criminals are increasingly reported as using sharp knives to torture, maim and even kill innocent people. The news may become so overwhelming that you decide it’s in your best interest to turn away from the subject of knives altogether. It seems that indeed knives may be sharp but you can’t think about it; it’s too upsetting.
Those are exaggerated examples to make it more clear how we resist information, not entertaining the potential of it being true, or not giving it attention. The point is to step back from whatever the reaction is, and instead of believing the the thought, just noticing it. It’s entirely possible to learn disturbing information, to notice feelings of sadness or anger, and to process them without them becoming overwhelmed.
The way that we initially react to information is based in great part on how our egos function: the self-identity and belief systems that humans naturally create to make sense of the world.
Uncovering the influences on your beliefs that were previously unseen may at first be disorienting (as it never seemed possible to think differently about some things as they seemed to simply be the way things are). But ultimately it’s incredibly freeing. You regain personal power that had been lost. And with a new perspective, you feel calmer because things make more sense. You often see options you couldn’t see before, and you respond in ways that are in alignment with your values and desires
6. For now, just keep learning without a need to fully understand what you can or should do in response to the information.
As you’re ready, actively search out a couple of sources that you trust to learn more about the subject you’re interested in learning more about. On Bird’s Eye View, every page will list resources that you can peruse.
Be assured that as you move through the normal, conditioned reactions and actively consult trustworthy sources, things will unfold. At some point, your innate power will be reactivated: you’ll gain more clarity, you’ll become acquainted with more resources, and you’ll know what to do next.
If that sounds unrealistic, and it seems that the only sensible thing to do is to go out and save all the victims or topple the power structures TODAY, then be assured that’s just your mind doing its stress thing, winding you up in a way that’s more likely to lead to overwhelm than to effective action. Instead, pause, breathe, and let it sink in a bit. As you’re ready, learn more.
The process we go through in awakening or deepening our understanding is an irreplaceable part of our individual growth. It’s impossible to predict how its going to feel to be more fully educated, to know who you will connect with, or what opportunities will present themselves. After you get more information, things will become more clear in a way you can’t yet know.
7. Reduce distraction and overwhelm.
Unless you live in a remote location, you experience an overwhelming assault to your senses everyday, causing an overactive nervous system. Because of how the nervous system works, this means you’re living in a body with a constantly activated sympathetic nervous system. That equates to being in a constant state of “overdrive” or revving the engine while the brake pedal is pressed.
To be able to do much of anything, whether it’s for yourself or for others, you’ll need to have control over mental and sensory overload. The simplest ways to get immediate benefits are to kick social media addiction. Consider this:
1. You’re under no obligation to expose yourself to the onslaught of “news” peddled 24 hours per day.
2. It’s not in your best interest to peruse the latest travel or food pic from a colleague you haven’t seen in seven years.
3. You needn’t pay attention to the latest tweets from politicians and actors.
4. You can skip notices about the latest fashions, sales or what is now “viral.”
5. You need not spend your precious life energy at the whim of others who earn money and gain influence from the attention you give.
8. Turn away from the screen and focus on real interaction.
Avoid the daily drama on your screen. Even if your time online is focused on issues and problems you want to help with, the fact is: compassion fatigue is real and constantly taking in “bad news” depletes you.
Constantly sitting with your face in a screen while others deliver an onslaught of problems that tear your heart out helps no one. It only takes a limited amount of study to know if there is a problem that you want to help resolve.
Instead, focus on interactions in the real world.
Start simple: a walk, gardening, shooting hoops. When you’re ready, you can move closer to the story that is calling you: child safety, environmental stewardship, political corruption, spiritual growth, whatever captivates you.
And when you’re ready, you can move closer to the story that is calling your attention. If you decide you want to help your neighbor, produce a video, start a business or a non-profit, lobby politicians, vote, run for office, buy local, start a neighborhood garden or tool exchange, get a law changed, influence foreign policy, volunteer for your favorite organization or whatever, then go take a small step in that direction.
9. Consider that learned helplessness is a tool of oppression. Learn to overcome it.
Learning about disturbing truths can make you feel powerless. And if you think about it, it’s hard to imagine a more horrible feeling than a sense of helplessness: to be unable to stop something that should be stopped, unable to fix something that is broken, unable o make a difference in the world. What a dreadful feeling. It taps into some deep stuff, and most of us would rather run as far away as possible than to dip into that hellish pit that can’t possibly lead anywhere productive. So we find a distraction, or fall into the habits and patterns we know so well. Anything is better than to step into the misery of feeling helpless in the face of an overwhelming situation with no apparent way out.
We’ve been the unwitting recipients of horrifying and traumatic information for our entire lifetime: wars, violence, economic despair and environmental degradation have formed the very fabric of our lives.
We’ve been taught that these problems are too big. They never get better, so there’s no sense thinking there’s anything we can do.
And the nonstop onslaught of catastrophic news? It just ensures you never completely escape, no matter how far you run. The heaviness is always there in the background.
Wow, think about that. This is the belief system that we’ve learned by osmosis. And it’s the very definition of learned helplessness.
It feels like a weight. And that heaviness is what keeps you separate from your innate divinity and power, and from your fellow beings. That heaviness is at the root of most distraction-seeking and addictive behaviors.
Here’s a more specific example. Let’s say that you see that a CIA whistleblower has reported that intelligence and national security agencies have ballooned into a 14-agency conglomeration called the Shadow Government that is operating outside of the law. It’s not accountable to elected officials and uses secrecy and intimidation to exert control over all aspects of American life. That’s some pretty disturbing news about wrongdoing. And how does our mind react? Here are some possible things your mind might say:
* Oh, like that’s news… corruption in the CIA? It’s not like I haven’t heard that before.
* I’m busy and it’s not like there’s anything I can do. Filling my head with bad news sounds like a horrible dead end. I need to have a little time free of bad news or I’ll go crazy.
* It’s not like we can get rid of the country’s intelligence agencies; they’re our major defense against all the true horrors in this world.
* This is the job of the politicians. That’s why we hire them: to oversee that stuff.
* My political party has said it’s determined to fix this problem.
Let’s acknowledge that those sorts of thoughts are manifestations of learned helplessness. To name something and bring awareness to it leads us to a place where change and choice become possible. It’s like when you’ve got tension in your jaw that’s creeping up into your head. You have to realize it’s there before you can think to do things to lessen the pain, such as moving your mouth around and massaging your face. Likewise, the first step in overcoming a negative influence in our lives is to notice and accept that it exists. It’s instinctive to NOT give such things our awareness. That seems like a smart way to NOT give it our power. But in fact, it just goes underground and has no chance of resolving.
But here’s the deal: a sense of helplessness is a learned pattern that can be unlearned. The goal is return to feeling the inherent power that is your birthright and to have it fuel courage, persistence and resilience. It is to know that no matter what has happened in the past, you can walk into any situation you choose, and know you have the power to persist in a way that makes a difference. The feeling of powerlessness is a fraudulent belief that we can choose to reject.
Knowledge is power. Dark and heavy stuff is a lot more complex than relieving tension in your jaw, but the process is the same. You have to acknowledge what’s happening before you can take responsible action.
You are inherently powerful. This is the sort of truth that people have been writing books about, and sharing from teacher to student since as far back as we can find written records. The bottom line is that when you fall into the conditioning that tells you that you’re just brains and a body who is born, lives a material existence, and dies, then it’s like staying locked up in an unheated house without windows, shivering. But if you unlock the door and walk through it, you enjoy the glorious and warm sunshine. Okay, if you haven’t been working with this truth, that all sounds like a lot of platitudes. If that’s the case, then you should stop everything else you’re doing and work on uncovering your innate power. Follow your curiosity and your heart to a teacher or teaching or activity that resonates for you and can be your pathway to greater awareness.
10. Take more responsibility.
Seek the truth or hide your head in the sand. Both require digging. – attributed to Andrew Nolan
Get lots of ideas and support here: Who Can You Trust? Development Discernment.