Handling the most challenging news

There’s a conflict of interest that’s been simmering in my mind recently, brought on by the random loss of a life in the storms in Amsterdam, closely followed by Remembrance Day.

It’s this.

As an engaged citizen, and empathetic and responsible human being, we want to acknowledge these things, and to be in harmony with the feelings of everyone who cares or has lost someone. On the other hand, as a person who understands the necessity of positivity to our own well-being and success, we know that exposure to such tragedy is negative conditioning which holds us back.

(If you’re not familiar with what I say about positivity hope and optimism, I should pause to say that this is a repeated and non-controversial research finding, not merely an unsupported philosophical position ☺).

Back to resolving the conflict.

How can we strike the right balance between engaging with the real world and optimising our own mindset? Obviously where that balance lies is a personal choice. Here are four thoughts, not all of them will resonate with everybody, but I hope you will find at least one of them helpful:

• Scheduling. Go ahead and read/think about it. But decide how long you are going to let the item enter your thinking and your conversation. Maybe an hour for something less serious or up close, maybe a month for a tragedy in the family (insert your own figures). After that be disciplined about excluding the item from your conditioning ie don’t read or talk about it any more.
• Minimising. Read the headlines, or maybe the first & last paragraphs of an article, or perhaps a broadcast news item – once. Avoid watching on the news time & time again, avoid pity party conversations, think about other things.
• Reframing. Find a less upsetting &/or more positive way of thinking about it. EG in my examples at the top of this, the lives that were saved, the scale of the tragedy not being greater, the freedoms war in the 20th century has won, the selfless courage and unconditional love so many showed.
• Counteracting. Seek out additional positive conditioning over and above your normal habit to counteract the effect of what’s happened. Reading, listening, watching, or self-talking something that’s positive and moves you emotionally.

It is possible to be informed and engaged without wrecking our hard won positivity. Indeed that’s the best way to be – for both altruistic and selfish reasons. Be disciplined, avoid rumination, focus on what makes you stronger and more able to deliver the life you want for yourself and your family.

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