• Dealing With the Stress of Horrendous News Stories

    ***We interrupt our regularly scheduled blog post for a special blog post about dealing with the barrage of atrocity we’re faced with day in and day out on the news.***

    we all share the same world

    Sadly, heinous crimes are committed across the globe all the time, and lately two of them have reached a fever pitch of coverage in the media: The Stanford Rape Case and the mass shooting at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub. I wasn’t going to mention either of them on my blog but I woke up today (Tuesday) feeling a need to say something.

    You don’t need to have friends or relatives in the LGBT community or know any women who have been victims of sexual assault (although you probably do, since at least 30% of women are sexually assaulted in their lifetime*), for these crimes and the subsequent news coverage to affect you emotionally, mentally, and even physically. *Only a guesstimate given the high number of women who are assaulted and don’t report it.

    I’m going to do my best to stay neutral, but I’ll probably fail. I don’t apologize. Not even if I upset you with an opinion that you don’t agree with. #SorryNotSorry

    There are many things we can do to minimize the rage and grief that we are feeling right now. This is not to say that anger, sadness, confusion, etc. are inappropriate responses to these crimes, only that should’t be wallowing in them. Instead we should use those emotions to spur us into positive action such as helping or advocating for victims, pressing for changes to laws, etc.

    So here’s my advice:

    • Remember that everyone involved is a fellow human being with families and friends who love, and are loved by, them. Every perpetrator & every victim is someone’s child. We now know the Orlando shooter was probably a closeted gay man. My gay friends say he was likely self-loathing and that self-loathing is not an uncommon occurrence in the gay community. Given some of the awful things people have said prior to and in the wake of this tragedy, as well as the rise of anti-LGBT legislation, I’m saddened but not surprised at the amount of this  self-loathing, especially in those whose family and/or faith are ultra-conservative. That doesn’t excuse the heinous act of violence that he perpetrated, but it does make him human. I can’t put myself in his shoes because I can’t imagine the amount of hatred and violence within oneself that’s needed to commit such an atrocity; but I can put myself in the shoes of one of his family members and imagine the horror and grief that he has caused them, and that helps me to remember that, regardless of how damaged or deranged, he was a fellow human being. Each time we turn someone into an “enemy,” make them into something less than human, or create an us vs them situation, we lose a bit of our own humanity. We also lose some of our empathy for others. When that happens we become more and more capable of committing the same type of atrocity that we are condemning.
    • Don’t blame an entire group for the actions of one, or a few, of its members. There are extremists in every group and larger groups have a proportionately larger number of extremists than smaller groups. By the way, they also have proportionately larger numbers of non-extremists. Go Figure. Coloring an entire group based on the actions of a few is simply wrong. It allows us to think of an entire group of people as sub-human, which erodes some of our humanity and most of our empathy and compassion in the process. Think about it this way: If someone who claimed to be a member of a group you belong to (religion, race, sexual orientation, sport, profession, etc.) committed a heinous crime, would you want your entire group painted in one broad brush stroke with that criminal? Of course not. To be fair, we don’t do this with every criminal. For instance, I haven’t heard a single person insinuate that because a swimmer with Olympic aspirations raped a woman on the Stanford campus that all swimmers are rapists. Perhaps we only do this with the non-white or non-christian criminals. If you’ve heard of a particular crime in this country where all whites or all christians were deemed to be criminals based on the actions of one white person or one christian, I’d love to hear about it.
    • Turn off the news/social media/radio – you don’t need to… correction… you shouldn’t bask in the horror of the latest atrocity 24/7 just because someone’s still talking about it. You don’t even need to finish reading or listening to a story about it if it’s making you feel as if you’re going to stroke out. Read enough to be informed, but avoid the clickbait whose only purpose is to rile you up.
    • Two wrongs don’t make a right. The criminal committed a crime; something  that we as a society say is wrong. If we then commit or advocate committing a crime against that criminal that’s also wrong, no matter how justified we may feel. Period. I’m reminded of the wise words of Mahatma Gahndi: “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”
    • Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. For what it’s worth, wrong things don’t have to be criminal. This means that while hacking ISIS supporter’s Twitter accounts and posting gay porn on them after the Orlando massacre may seem very funny, it’s also very wrong. If you don’t want someone hacking one of your accounts and posting something you would find offensive, don’t do it to someone else. We all learned this in kindergarten, how have so many of us forgotten this simple tenant of living in harmony with our fellow beings?
    • Talk with people who hold different beliefs and opinions than yours. It’s amazing what you can learn and how much you can broaden your worldview if you talk with people instead of shouting at them. Imagine that someone who disagrees with you begins shouting about how stupid, or gullible, or bigoted you are. You’re going to go on the defensive aren’t you? Of course you are. It works both ways. When you call names to those who hold different beliefs or opinions than you, you put them on the defensive. No matter how great a point you just made, if you’ve put them on the defensive they won’t hear it. Buuuttt… if you can honestly say to them, “I want to understand where you’re coming from, can you explain why you think x is a good (or bad) idea?” you’ll start a conversation where the other person is going to be in a much more receptive frame of mind to also try to understand your views.
    • Love and forgive the ones you don’t agree with whether they be perpetrator, victim, or social media commenter. This one is hard for me, I admit, but I do it as best I can. That doesn’t mean that their harsh, bigoted words don’t anger or sadden me, it just means that I don’t hang onto that anger. I continually remind myself that they are a fellow human being who’s doing or saying what they believe to be right, even if I feel they are as far off the mark as someone can get. And don’t think for a moment that forgiving them has anything to do with condoning their words or actions, far from it. It also doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be held accountable for their actions. Forgiveness is what allows me to not stoop to their level or retaliate. It’s also what allows me to move forward with my life and not get stuck in a haze of hate and anger myself.

    I’m sure others have already put these sentiments out there much more eloquently than I have, but eloquence isn’t the point. The point is that we escalate our own stress when we stew in hatred and resentment. It’s to remind everyone that we must share this planet with our fellow human beings and that we can only peacefully coexist on this planet if we recognize the humanity that’s present in everyone.

    Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that. ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

One Response so far.

  1. Nancy Heller says:

    Thank you for your ‘Dealing with the Stress..’
    I appreciate your candor and eloquence.