I’ve been turning off the radio lately when the news comes on, and I haven’t been watching TV news for quite some time. When I first started this boycott, I worried that perhaps I’d be out of the loop and uninformed. But weeks later, I realized I was still getting all the relevant information I needed. The things I consider important still filter in, or I can seek them out.
What I don’t hear is what I’m specifically trying to avoid: the fear-mongering that comes with most of what we call “news.” Indeed, so much of what I’ve seen, read, and heard through the media has at its heart one basic message:
Live in fear.
Yes, friends. Be afraid! Of the economy, immigrants, socialists, Republicans, terrorists, Muslims, eggs, drinking wine, not drinking wine, your belly fat, your jeans, diseases you don’t have. Live in fear of not having enough, of not being enough. Be afraid of THEM for what THEY will take away from you. It’s the American way.
But I’m going to let you in on a big secret, one that a mentor shared with me that totally rocked my world. Are you ready?
Most fear has no real danger attached.
Let me say that again: most fear has no real danger attached.
Fear is a natural, primal reaction linked to our survival instinct, and in and of itself, it functions well by helping us to set boundaries and stay safe. But irresponsible fear, left unexplored, can cause untold destruction to our bodies, our relationships, and our world. Take a moment right now to gently ask yourself if any one of your fears has any real and imminent danger attached. Unless you live in the jungle and the object of your fear has fangs and claws, what you’re scared of probably won’t kill you. Once fears have been examined, they lose their potency—it’s like looking under the bed for a monster. When you see it’s actually just shadows and dust bunnies, you can sleep much more soundly.
If you believe that economic indicators are the way to know whether or not you’ll get a job soon, you will probably carry that belief with you into an interview. While you’re afraid, you won’t spend what money you do have, which means that the local economy will continue to spiral downward, making employment prospects even worse. So did it really help you to listen to a journalist give a selective financial report on TV? If you ignore those indicators and instead joyfully prepare for the moment when you shake hands with your new boss, I bet you’ll be on payroll much sooner. Or maybe it’s time to start your own business, go back to school, or any number of other possibilities. It’s really up to you– not a talking head – how you look at the economy.
Likewise, if you believe that humanity is violent and the world is a difficult place, the evening news will confirm this for you. If you’re undecided or ambivalent, your mind will be made up for you soon enough if you keep tuning in. And you’ll conduct yourself accordingly, carrying those heavy beliefs about your neighbors with you like rocks in your pocket.
I challenge you this month to try to watch a news broadcast of your choice with these ideas in mind. How many monsters can you count? How optimistic do you feel? Does it really serve you to have these pieces of information? Check in with your body and see if you can feel yourself becoming tense, fearful, or downcast. Consider how all that might affect you over time, and if you’d like to shift that.
Most of all, I hope that you’ll remember not to let anyone tell you to be afraid. You can be optimistic and openhearted and still be responsible and grounded. You can choose how, where, and when to get your information. There are even sources that report on good and productive news (like Yes! Magazine).
The first step in getting our downward spirals to start spinning the other way might just be to change the channel. Will you try it with me?