This was the theme of a couple of conversations I had this week with people who are dear to me. But it’s not just about the current times — at any point in your life, if you choose to find grievances with the society you live in, you can.
Of course, sometimes the societal problem is not “out there.” It affects you personally. Like being stuck at an airport because of a sudden change of immigration law. Even if it’s not you, it could have been. I am not against taking a large, societal challenge and recognizing that indeed it is your issue.
On the other hand, any time you get too emotionally absorbed in “problems,” it’s a sign that you are projecting similar sensations from your past. As a child, we used to have smaller circle of influence, plus we couldn’t help but internalize our parents’/guardians’/families’ problems as our own. Viewing yourself as a leaf tossed around helplessly in malevolent stormy sea is a particular interpretation you are (probably unconsciously) choosing to bring up because you had situations like that earlier in life that you haven’t fully processed yet.
Being upset doesn’t solve problems. And frankly, taking actions driven by how upset you are doesn’t solve it, either. It may appear to fix the immediate problems, but soon you will find that something else will take its place and keep you feeling exasperated. You can spend your life being upset, going after one problem after another, never actually finding the feeling you so desperately need — the sensation of safety, that all is well in your world.
If you feel extremely upset to the point of being distracted or consumed, the first order of business is to use this as an opportunity to process your own emotional baggage that is causing you to react in that manner. As always, my message to you is not that you shouldn’t feel the way you do, or that you should suppress your feelings and force yourself to be calm. Instead, pay attention to your feeling without judgments, without thinking thoughts like “I shouldn’t have to feel this way” or “I must fix this problem so I will feel better.” Act it out if it helps you feel it strongly — crying, screaming or punching pillows all help you physically embody the emotion. Many of us are conditioned to sedate or distract ourselves from feeling uncomfortable emotions. Resist that temptation as long as you can. (Though taking breaks is not unwelcome.) The more intensely you feel it, the sooner it will abate.
It’s counter-productive to dismay and lose hope. Cooler heads are more futile ground for inspirations and creative solutions than ones filled with drama. When you embody peace, safety and trust in your life, then you become the best change agent to larger tides that are causing distress in our societies. If strong emotional reactions are preventing you from becoming that, though, it simply means you are given opportunities to work on that. Embrace your feelings without believing the stories they are telling you. Nobody can take away your hope or disturb your peace, unless you let them.
Once you process the feelings, then it opens the door to a real view of your world, where your sights are clear to recognize how you can take actions, contribute to solutions, and spread hope and love. You become an empowered contributor, not a resentful reactionary.
And that’s what the world really needs. A liberated, rock-solid you, whose unfailing principles and faith shining through where everyone else sees chaos and darkness. Such a presence alone will make a difference. Your simply showing up will add energy to the promotion of peace and justice.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for that to happen.