You would question and possibly laugh at me if I told you that I balanced my checkbook by only adding up all the withdrawals from my account. Clearly, such a tactic would not give me a very full picture of my finances. It would leave me in a state of panic. Yet, that is what happens as we listen to and read most news sources – news sources that focus on what goes wrong.
I am not sure what it is about the dramatic and tragic headlines that grab our attention. Yet, it is seems like something in human nature makes them very addictive. Perhaps, we get an illusion of control, when we try to be in the know about what is wrong and then spend time analyzing the stories we hear. And as people, we like to be in control – knowing what to expect and having a sense of power in our world.
Some of us believe if we are on top of all the headlines, we can protect ourselves from tragedy and pain. At some level, this may be true. AND, at another level, if the focus is solely on the doomsday headlines, our world view becomes unbalanced and the lens through which we look at the world clouded. We lose sight of what is going well.
Our fear and anxiety driven reactions, as noble as they are, become taxing on our body’s, our souls, our psyches, and our minds. These reactions driven by the adrenaline rush are not sustainable – as is evidenced by the frenzied actions that die out soon after a big tragedy.
If you are one of the people who finds yourself anxious and amped up by the headlines, and focused on tragic news stories, I encourage you to take another tactic. Create some balance. Using the analogy of reconciling a check book, don’t just add up the deficits. Look at the inflows. I am not suggesting that you become Pollyannish, as that would give an equally unrealistic view of the world. It would be like only adding up the incoming revenue streams on a ledger.
We are in a fortunate time in history. Information is so easily available to us. With relatively little effort, we can learn about what people are doing to prevent or reverse some of the tragedies in this world. We can learn about all the efforts to bring about justice, peace, harmony, balance and health amongst people and in nature.
Call on your news sources to applaud them when they report on these efforts that have a positive impact in the world, and ask them to report on more. When talking about a headline with your family, friends and colleagues, also talk about the counter forces that are remedying what is or what went wrong. For truly, the world is filled with so much that goes right. When we know what goes right, we can build upon it and spread what is good.
As I learned restorative justice principles from my mentor and friend Beverly Title, I learned that to rectify a harm, we need to identify and build on assets. We also need to be realistic and accept that there are harmful circumstances and situations; and, it is our responsibility to protect ourselves from them.
I remember when my son was young, and he and I were at the airport, he got into a state of panic after hearing that there was a plane related snafu. He became afraid to fly. After holding him and listening and identifying his need for safety, I reminded him that hundreds of thousands of flights are safe for everyone that is not. This did not mean that we should take the risk of flying an unsafe plane or not buckling our seat belts, but rather that we could relax into knowing that chances are pretty high that we would be safe as we flew on that day. We were safe because so many people have made it their mission to make air travel safe.
While the news is depressing and heartbreaking, there is so much that is right in the world. I hope today you take the time to take stock of the “good” and the “bad”. If you are prone on focusing on the bad, I challenge you to take stock of all that is glorious – nature, amazing people, the powerful movements that have helped us get this far towards social justice and stewardship of our planet. Yes, we have major set backs, yet we are making progress. For those who tend towards being Pollyannish or turning your face away from the tragedies, I challenge you to notice those. I surmise that with a balanced perspective, adding up our assets and liabilities, we can make great progress as we draw on our strengths to correct the harms, and as we take the time to celebrate all that goes well.
Jessica Dancingheart is a personal and organizational consultant. Find out more at www.openingtopossibilities.com.