What the World Needs
Today we’re not only exposed to news (a major source of stress), but also to imagery, opinions, and commentary that spread like wildfire within minutes.
The themes of bad news may vary from time to time, but the message at heart is the same: the world is a scary place, violent, and unjust.
The most unfortunate aspect of the new media is its blatant efforts to hold on to our attention by stirring up and playing on our basic human emotions.
And because of its global reach, bad news hits every part of the globe almost instantly. The wider reach means more pain. The same emotions are now magnified billions of times over.
Collectively, we’re the sum of our parts—and then some. So take a moment and imagine the world’s cumulative fear, or pent-up rage. What effect does that have on all of us?
The answer to this question is not meant to be a criticism of the media, or our state of affairs. It’s an opportunity to notice and reflect on our emotions and responses.
What do you think the world needs when dealing with all the bad news and devastating events?
My answer is:
The world needs to feel.
Yes. We all need to feel the pain—not suppress it, repress it, or avoid it. We need to feel it as it comes up and boils over.
Over centuries and millennia, our collective psyche has accumulated so much pain. All the loss, grief, fear, and anger have been passed along generation after generation, and nation after nation.
And every now and then an event takes place that opens up the floodgates of accumulated emotions—on a collective scale.
But why wait for more tragic events to release such pain?
Why can’t we process the feelings and cleanse ourselves and the world from the pain of the past (and the present)?
Before we explore the alternative, let’s look at what happens when we don’t deal with our emotions.
Humanity has come a long way. But it does feel like we still repeat the same pattern of action and reaction.
An event triggers certain negative emotions, and we automatically react.
Our reactions, even if they’re with the best of intentions, usually come with unintended consequences. What appears to be an appropriate response ends up creating more pain in other unforeseen ways. In our attempt to solve a problem and alleviate our pain, we create other problems and compound the pain.
It’s not the most helpful approach. Let’s take a closer look at our feelings and reactions.
Our collective emotional baggage
This is in no way a comprehensive list, but it’s a good place to start.
Fear is a primal mechanism that’s directly connected to our survival.
Our fears of predators have not vanished; they morphed into other fears and doubts—fear of each other, fear of the unknown, or fear of loss.
Fear gets a bad wrap. It’s probably the most hated feeling. Fear rushing through the body manifests in violent physical reactions that are unpleasant. It’s also associated with traits we abhor, like cowardice and weakness. So we’ve been programmed to resist the feeling and react, instead of dealing with how we feel.
The truth is we all feel fear. There is nothing wrong with feeling afraid. It’s what comes after that we tend to regret later.
Like any other feeling (pleasant or unpleasant), if we allow ourselves to feel the fear without reacting, it will subside.
We can feel the fear within ourselves, our community, our country, and humanity. What we need to do is sit quietly and look within. Feel the pain, and allow it to be. Introspection can be the most loving act towards ourselves and the world.
Anger manifests physically in aggression, and can be rooted in fear.
We want to strike anyone who has wronged us. We feel angry at all the injustice in the world. We judge, make assumptions, and react. And the reaction can be out of proportion. To right a wrong, we leave behind new wrongs that someone else will try to right.
Anger can turn into rage. A slight provocation can get out of control pretty quickly. A peaceful demonstration can turn into a riot in the blink of an eye.
Feeling the anger doesn’t mean that we have to act on it. We can transmute it, not by rejecting it, but by feeling it, and then choosing a different path.
South Africans chose to move forward through reconciliation and forgiveness. Is everything perfect? Probably not. But it’s much better than anger and resentment.
Pride is often viewed with pride. We’re encouraged to feel proud. We should be proud of who we are, our achievements, and our roots.
The issue that comes up with pride is protectionism. We can’t allow anyone to attack the object of our pride.
My country, my religion, my tribe, my family. All are worthy of being proud of, and when that pride is threatened, we react—usually with fearful rage.
If we truly look at all the things we’re proud of, we realize that most of our pride doesn’t make any sense. There is no better or worse—only different.
We can move from pride to love. There is nothing wrong with loving your family, your country, or your religion.
True love doesn’t need defending. It has the power to withstand and endure provocation and ridicule.
When we love, we trust. And when we trust, we let go of fear and anger. And we transform our relationship with each other and the entire world.
I don’t think there is a spot on this earth that hasn’t witnessed human suffering. We all carry the residual grief of our ancestors.
We express our grief through vigils, and unity marches in times of crisis. We can also sit with our own sadness, have a good cry, breathe into it, and allow it to come up, instead of waiting for an outside event to force it out of us.
Apathy and hopelessness
Apathy and hopelessness pervade our world—probably for a good reason. So many things feel out of our control.
We may not be able to act, but we don’t need to go to the extreme and feel like a victim of life.
Feeling helpless is something we can heal by making one tiny choice after another. In choice lies our power. If we can’t change anything, at least we can change how we feel.
Guilt and shame
Hate, discrimination, exploitation, torture, and all other destructive acts come with consequences that reverberate through our collective consciousness.
Healing guilt and shame is something that we all can do. We feel the pain, forgive ourselves, or our ancestors, for not knowing any better at the time. We can also extend a kind and loving hand to anyone we’ve wronged. Whether others accept our contrition, or not, shouldn’t be a reason to carry on with the same painful feelings.
We as a species are waking up and learning from our past. And in this awakening lies the opportunity to feel the pain of our humanity and heal.