As things felt like they were spiraling out of control last week, as Americans and people around the world were inundated with endless videos of street violence in addition to reactionary calls to deploy the U.S. military to cities across the country, the temptation to lose control of one’s mental faculties and basic humanity was heightened.
I saw evidence of this all around me. There was a dark and vicious energy in the air, and it felt contagious.
I’m sensing a very dark and vicious energy out there which seems to be affecting all sorts of people who normally wouldn’t be sucked into it.I need to make a conscious effort to not have it influence me or my thoughts. If you’re feeling the same, try to retain sanity.
The responses to the tweet above were encouraging and demonstrated many others sensed the same thing and were likewise troubled by it. The overall madness of last week reminded me of the months following Donald Trump’s election. In both cases, the worldview of large numbers of people was shaken to its core. I think the root cause of the breakdown in both instances was that many people’s model of what is “normal” was suddenly shattered.
For example, the idea of Donald Trump being elected president was so incomprehensible and concerning to so many, they completely lost it when he won. Likewise, images of American cities burning amidst widespread looting caused another group to crack. Neither group had fully come to grips with how broken and corrupt the U.S. economy and society had become, and that these sorts of things happen when states begin to fail.
The reaction to Trump being elected from many of those traumatized by it was to try to remove him at all costs, even if this meant spreading an outlandish Russiagate theory for three years straight. Likewise, the knee-jerk reaction from many to the riots was to send in the military to crush them. In both cases, those who had their comfort zones shattered responded by trying to make the uncomfortable situation go away as soon as possible. Nobody wanted to ask why.
Why was Trump elected? People are angry. Why did cities erupt into civil disobedience? People are angry. Lots of people are angry, but why? We should probably try to honestly answer that question sooner rather than later. There are a lot of very good reasons to be angry.
That being said, unless your life is in immediate danger, the best response to an event that shocks you to your core is to step back and take a deep breath. You don’t have to like what’s happening, but you should consider what a productive or creative response to the situation might look like, as opposed to immediately resorting to an instant-gratification, emotionally charged, reptilian response. The response to a crisis is often worse than the crisis itself.
Someone mentioned to me that he tells all his friends: “you must stand guard at the door of your mind.” Great advice in general, but particularly necessary during times like these. This is also partly what it means to be more conscious, a topic I’ve written about extensively in recent years (see my series on Spiral Dynamics)….[ ]