I am not an angry person by nature; instead, I think of myself as conflict avoidant. Chalk it up to being a Libra, the daughter of parents who rarely ushered a harsh word to anyone, and a therapist who teaches communication skills. Yet, even this avowed peace-monger has been severely tested since Election Day 2016.
Simply being a decent and kind human being is not something I think of as taking a political stance. Every day, like the rest of the world, I am exposed to WTF is going to happen next? What message will usher forth on the Twitter-sphere? What will I be scratching my head over and laughing at the absurdity—not from the source, because I have reluctantly come to expect it from him, but from those who still believe that the missives come from someone they can support?
I have been a therapist for nearly four decades and have experienced when I have felt “all gived out,” and my reserves are lacking. I know how to rebound from that with good self-care techniques. What makes it easier is that I know I can walk away, take a breather, say “no” to what is asked of me if I don’t have to meet requests since most are optional.
When it feels like we are under siege, such as we may experience with the state of the world as it is at the moment, how can we bounce back?
Outrage fatigue is the term now being tossed about that refers to the sometimes overwhelming sensation of helplessness and hopelessness. We may ask ourselves, what can one person do? I have seen memes written in what I call “bumper sticker-eze” that says, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” There are so many things at which to hurl outrage. Mine fall into the categories of abuse, bigotry, homophobia, sexism, racism, violence, transphobia, xenophobia, destruction of nature, control, bullying, people making literal or symbolic messes and expecting others to clean up after them, entitlement, and narcissism. My protective Mama bear roars and bares claws. Calling on the Hindu Goddess Kali as well, energizes me. To remain within my own value system of refraining from violent reaction, I remember the wise words of Martin Luther King, Jr. “If we do an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, we will be a blind and toothless nation.” That keeps me from slapping some people silly.
According to the Urban Dictionary, outrage fatigue is “the exhaustion and entropy that occurs from too much outrage. [It] occurs in waves, often during peak election cycles. Outrage fatigue tends to afflict politically active people and can be worse when your party is not in power or has a power deficit. It escalates during environmental catastrophes, especially ones that are caused by human negligence. It also develops during troublesome economic times like corporate bailouts and high unemployment. Outrage fatigue may threaten close friendships.”
While some I know are taking news and social media fasts, I feel compelled to remain aware of what is occurring. What can be challenging is using my filters to prevent myself from reacting to posts from those whose socio-political beliefs are on the other end of the spectrum from my own. I know some intentionally provoke responses and no amount of logic, rather than subjective from-the-gut reactions serve to change perspective. My own left of center, tree hugging, crunchy granola sensibilities are as puzzling to some as their hate and fear filled rhetoric is to me.
I have rules for myself that include ‘no name calling or putdowns.’ It doesn’t make me feel any better to use negative descriptors to refer to the current occupant of the Oval Office. I know people who really get off on using disparaging comments related to his appearance. I prefer to refer to verifiable words and behaviors that I challenge.
A few thoughts that help me remain sane and vertical amid ongoing tidal waves of outrageous acts:
- Choose where you want to focus your energy. As tempting as it may seem to want to do it all, and this workaholic has been there, done that, donned the t-shirt, we have only so much time in the day.
- Align with kindred spirits whose beliefs echo yours to keep you from feeling alone.
- When facing others whose values vary from yours, take a deep breath and do your best to recognize where it is coming from. I often tell folks that if I had their experiences that shaped their beliefs, I might do what they do or say what they say.
- Remember that we are all us and have some things in common even as we may see glaring differences.
- Show up, stand up and speak out. I have attended many rallies and vigils to have my presence felt and voice heard.
- Write on! As a journalist, I have a built-in, self-soothing tool at my disposal. It helps greatly to have a container (or several, in my case) into which I can pour my words. I also do it to reassure readers that they are not alone and encourage them to take inspired action.
- Engage in activities that put legs under your beliefs. Back in 2014, I created Hugmobsters Armed With Love which offers free hugs to people on the street, at airports, train stations, rallies, vigils and community events. I have discovered that hugs heal hate.
I believe that we each feed the collective soup pot. If my outrage is used as a springboard for positive change then it spices the soup. If it is used as a weapon, then it sours the soup.
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