My husband and I have not had television for a few years now. One of the things this has done is to shield us from all of the devastation, pain, and loss being constantly highlighted on the news. We stay in touch with important topics, but we are able to pick our news source and the amount of time we stay tuned in. This has made it very easy to shield ourselves from unnecessary anguish and fear.
On my recent visit to Chicago, I was inundated by television news. Some of it was benign celebrity sightings, but most of it was either real world disasters like the attack in Nice and the death toll in Chicago or editorial news shows bent on instigating and provoking their watchers. Both are very painful to watch. One because of the sadness I am powerless to directly affect. The other because it is vile emotionally-charged hatred. Adding to the negativity being broadcast on this visit, I also experienced the real pain of a family member taking his own life and the death of one of my clients.
Feeling firsthand what many experience daily either in their lives or by watching the current turmoil in the world, I searched for the right message to share. The answer came back in something I consistently preach. Focus on what you want to experience.
Responding to terrorist attacks with fear only breeds more attacks. Responding to loss with inconsolable grief only adds more grief. Responding to hate with hate only creates more hate. Our response to events creates our experience and also determines if we continue the cycle or if it ends with us. We don't always have the ability to change people and events, but we can change our experience of them.
Respond to aggression with compassion. No one causes pain unless they are in pain. A recent client of mine was extremely abrasive when we first met. She constantly attacked everyone who wronged her. Over time, she finally revealed that not only had she spent too much time in an extremely toxic work environment but had been abused by her first husband. My client had been acting out to protect herself. Once she realized she was safe with me, she was a completely different person. The fear was gone and so was the aggression.
Respond to loss with acceptance. Honest grief is understandable and necessary when we lose someone dear. Trying to hold on to a life that is no longer there or filling ourselves with could have/should have guilt, causes pain. Through acceptance of our new situation and of the inability to go back, we can receive some relief.
Respond to hate with love. Hate is based on fear. Fear of those different than us. Fear of being vulnerable. Fear of being attacked. Focus on love not hate. Find common ground. Look for unity not separation. Release a focus on differences and seek out similarities. Hating those who disagree with our views only creates more hate. Instead, love those with different opinions and see if that opens an opportunity for true dialogue.
The one tool we always have is to create peace within ourselves. We can not change circumstances or the choices of others. We can, however, always choose peace for ourselves. Calm your mind and your thoughts. Center yourself in peace. Then notice how when you release yourself from the chaos around you and focus on peace, you not only feel better but many times, you can send peace to those nearby.