When there are natural or manmade disasters -- even if they are half a world away -- most of us are glued to the television or our favorite news source on the Web, checking frequently for the latest update. We can become completely obsessed with what's happening.
This obsession is actually there for most of us all the time. That's why news sources are as popular as they are. When the event becomes big enough, however, this obsession can become painfully obvious. It's not that there's anything wrong with keeping informed about current events and responding appropriately. It's just that, at times like this, many of us have a hard time disconnecting from what is unfolding.
A great example of this is the recent devastating earthquake, tsunami and resulting radiation threat from the damaged nuclear plants in Japan, and how these events are affecting the psyche of the world. The world stock markets are reeling. People across the planet are stocking up on supplies, including iodine. Many of us are losing sleep, changing plans and feeling deeply disturbed by what's happening. Some people are even having a hard time just functioning normally. I, myself, stopped watching commercial TV over a year ago; however, I find myself checking Yahoo! News several times a day to see the latest updates.
When there's a major event like this, most of us start projecting: "What if this happened to me, or near me, or near someone I really care about?" Although projection is natural, it's not the best use of our energy, and it may cause us to overreact and to hold in mind disaster for ourselves and those we care about.
Fixating on a crisis will also cause us to feel all sorts of emotions that we ordinarily suppress, many of them disturbing or confusing. At one extreme, we may be horrified and feel compassion and a desire to help. When we watch others suffer, we often sympathize with the people we are watching, and it almost feels as if it were happening to us. We can even take on the symptoms of the people experiencing the event, as though we are actually there as it is occurring. And, at the other end of the spectrum, our natural desire for drama and excitement may have us secretly wishing that things actually get worse. This is then followed by feelings of guilt for not having more compassion and inwardly punishing ourselves for our lack of caring. Either extreme can be uncomfortable to experience.
There are some simple steps you can take to become less obsessed with disaster, and yet still be compassionately involved with your fellow man. Doing these things will engage your mind, heart and being in positive and life-affirming ways, making you part of the solution instead of part of the problem.
Allow Yourself To Take Some Constructive Action To Contribute To The Solution
It could be a donation -- no matter how small -- or reaching out to help someone you know who's disturbed by what's happening and lending them a friendly ear. When we allow ourselves to take action to help others, even small actions, this not only contributes to the overall solution, but it immediately makes us feel better, as well. When we help others, we get out of our own suffering and naturally move toward our innate caring and compassion.
Allow Yourself To Pray
Prayer often soothes the heart and helps us turn over our feelings of powerlessness to a higher source. If you're not someone who prays, another alternative would be to feel the love that you are and allow it to shine into the event as it is unfolding.
Here's a simple way to do this: Sit quietly and focus on what's actually here now, beyond the chatter of your mind and emotions. As you do, gently allow yourself to go past what is on the surface of your awareness -- beyond the thoughts you are thinking, the sensations and feelings you are experiencing, the images and sounds that occur -- until you find the peaceful, loving presence that you are shining through, more and more. You can then simply focus this loving awareness on the event as it is occurring as a way of supporting the whole. This is also calming and beneficial to you.
Take A Moment To Acknowledge How You Actually Feel, And, As Best You Can, Allow Yourself To Welcome What You're Feeling
When we have any strong emotion, we tend to resist it, deny it or try to make it go away. This only exaggerates how we feel and causes a lot of unnecessary suffering. Once you've allowed yourself to feel how you feel, there's a feeling of immediate relief, as well as a greater ability to create a healthy distance from the event and to act in ways that are helpful to what's actually going on.
Next, You can Take This A Step Further And Allow Yourself To Let The Feelings You Have Around The Event Go
If you'd like to explore letting go, you can ask yourself these three simple questions:
- "Could I let this feeling go?"
I know this may seem way too simple, but I highly encourage you to try it. The simplest solutions are often the most elegant and effective. After all, if I were to describe how to breathe, I would simply say, "Breathe in, and breathe out. And repeat as necessary." Nothing could be simpler, and yet little else is more critical for survival than breathing.
At times like this, it's important to remember to take care of yourself in intelligent and nurturing ways and, at the same time, do your best to contribute to the solution rather than the problem.
I hope you find these suggestions helpful. You can use them not only when there's a major event unfolding in the world, but any time you're feeling a little lost or you're overreacting to what's going on with any of life's challenges.
All of our hearts go out to Japan and we wish for its speedy recovery. Click here to experience a simple process you can use right now to support yourself and Japan.
This post is based on the principles explored in the new movie, "Letting Go: Transform Your Life, Transform the World," featuring Hale Dwoskin. It is the culmination of over three decades of experience with a simple, powerful, elegant and easy-to-learn technique that shows you how to tap your natural ability to let go instantaneously of any uncomfortable or unwanted feeling, thought or belief. For more information, visit www.LettingGo.tv.