November 21, 2015

How Societies Self-Destruct Following Traumatic News.


Sometimes there is no escape from bad news.

It floods our social media accounts, is on front pages of newspapers and flickers on to our television screens. It can be heard in passing conversation, directly from our loved ones or if we are exceptionally sensitive we absorb it directly from the atmosphere.

All of this news has an overwhelming accumulative effect.

It is sometimes difficult to discern the truth from sensationalism. Often the headlines intentionally use click-bait titles or show disturbing images to capture our attention and draw us in.

Unfortunately, what we see is not always what is actually happening. The majority of what we see has been put there to shock, worry or concern us.

Sadly, when we absorb the information we often feel helpless and powerless to create any change. The majority of stories are written in a way that give us a limited amount of facts, figures and reality, however they do have a heap of fabrication and illusions. They deliver very little information that could direct us towards being able to take action and offer support.

We respond to much of what we see, read and hear by feeling emotional. The friction these emotions cause can then make us feel compelled to express our feelings by sharing our concerns with others through social media posts, conversations and even through our actions.

If we are not careful with how we express our emotions, we can unintentionally add fuel to a volatile situation and cause it to explode, rage out of control and spread like wildfire.   

Whenever there has been a tragic event there are always going to be a myriad of reactions. We don’t all think, feel or believe the same things and there are always going to be conflicting responses. Whenever there is diversity there is going to be an element of fear, as we struggle to understand where each other’s thought processes come from. We think one way, therefore, it can be difficult to understand why everyone else doesn’t also think the same way.

We forget that we all have our own belief systems and much of these have been firmly set in place from our formative years. We have been conditioned to think and feel certain ways and this conditioning is like a deeply carved out route that can be difficult to sway from.

To imagine leaving the path behind that we’ve always known and taking on a new direction can be terrifying, especially when we are shrouded in fear from recent traumatic news we have taken in. We can struggle to believe there may be an alternative way to think so the only thing we have to hold tight to is our original way of thinking—this feels comfortable and safe.

Safety and familiarity is what we crave during traumatic times. 

So, to consider change when we are afraid is an option not many of us choose. We are most afraid of what we don’t understand, so we avoid it or we try to fight it in hope it can be destroyed and eliminated.

We see other people’s views, opinions and belief systems as the enemy. Instead of opening our minds to them we close down and try to close other people down at the same time.

We become critical, self-righteous, we condemn, we are offensive and sometimes downright rude, volatile and even slanderous. Anything. So long as our belief remains open and theirs is slammed shut.

“We are right. So they must be wrong! There is only one way…”

But, of course, that is ridiculous.

There is not only one way. Or two. Or even 10.

There are as many different ways as there are people. And yes, ultimately we think some of these are not great and we absolutely struggle to work out where that thinking has come from. But, it doesn’t make us more right just because we believe they are more wrong. 

We have to go back to the start. Back to the roots. Back to childhoods, schools, educations, cultures, families, friends, relationships, careers, hobbies, interests, ideologies, faiths and on and on and on. There are also mental, emotional and physical illnesses that come into play. So much has been poured into every single emotion, feeling and belief system in every person in the world.

Every memory, experience, feeling, visual, sound and all the billion things that our conscious minds are not even aware of have been added to the mix to produce the eventual result.

We cannot possibly compare our “right” against someone else’s “wrong.”

We have not lived their lives, walked in their shoes, experienced their situations and felt what they feel. We do not know how their minds work and we cannot ever dissect the infinite amount of stimuli that has accumulated to make someone exactly the way they are.

Traumatic news rips societies apart. It rips friendships, families and even relationships apart. We all disagree at some level about so many things. 

Trauma doesn’t just end after the initial impact. It goes on. It ripples through the world and uproots everyone of us in some way at some point in our lives.

The only answer I have is compassion. And that is one of the hardest things to offer in troubled times. Especially when we don’t agree.

We have to open our hearts, our eyes and most of all our minds.

We have to see that our way isn’t the only way. And as much as other people’s beliefs and actions cause us to feel rage inside, we have no idea what things have occurred to make them feel that way, so we cannot possible understand it.

Not only can we find it difficult to understand how someone else is feeling, we will never really understand or know the exact truth behind the news headlines we see. So much of it is an illusion. Almost all of it. There are so many sides to everything and all we have is a narrow tube to look through. The world is a kaleidoscope and we will never, no matter how much we learn, ever, know exactly what goes on. We will never get to the absolute truth.

We are fearful when we don’t understand something. But, we have to see we don’t need to fear fearful. Fear clouds rationality and creates further instability.

And we don’t need to understand.

However hard we try.

We never ever will.



Relephant Read:

Something Everyday People can do to Help the Refugees.


Author: Alex Myles

Editor: Travis May

Photo: Flickr/Hamed Saber


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