How To Avoid Drowning In The Darkness Of Our World

In my Mystery School group a few months ago, I was asked how one can stay positive/retain any optimism in this life, given the reality that there is so much suffering, abuse, neglect and disaster happening on our planet right now.

I was asked how one could retain any kind of positive hope for the future, when it seems like everything is just getting worse - wars, poverty, the climate changing, pandemics, government corruption, violence, exploitation - the list of problems and the ways that humans are suffering is seemingly endless and impossible to fix.

The reality is, life is pretty overwhelming when we look at ALL the things that are happening in this way. The feelings of urgency that can arise when we look at all the ways people are being harmed by systems that CAN and SHOULD be changed, the feelings of hopelessness as we look at all the suffering that seems SO big and SO systemic and ultimately out of our control. The feelings of dread as we look at our changing planet and all that this could mean for our future. The horrendous human rights violations that continue to take place on a moment by moment basis that cause our hearts to break. 

It’s a lot. It’s a lot to take in, it’s a lot to fear, it’s a lot to worry about. It’s a lot of unknown and a lot of chaos.

Many spiritual teachers will tell you to ignore all of this. To see it as a ‘game’ or a manipulation. There are a lot of teachings out there that are geared towards helping people ignore these hard to face realities - thinking that in doing so they are contributing to these realities changing or, at the very least, they are saving themselves from unnecessary pain and stress. Many people claim that these tragic and often avoidable circumstances that lead to deep suffering are all a part of a mental manipulation - and thus to pay them any mind is to be ‘sucked in’ to a reality that isn’t really true - and that we must ‘rise above’ these things in order to be truly spiritual.

Other teachers will tell you that it’s very important that you pay attention. That you keep watching, keep taking it in, that you keep your finger on the pulse of every new occurrence and tragedy, and that you take as much action as humanly possible to try to fix it all. We can be told that if we are in ANY position of safety or security that it’s then our responsibility to be an activist/ally in all causes.

This black and white perspective - either we need to be all in or all out - tends to be something that actually makes the whole thing more uncomfortable, because in real reality, the answer isn’t something that is so straight-forward.

The perspective I’d like to share on all of this, is that there’s a way that we can stay engaged, a way that we can remain involved those things where we DO have the capacity to make a positive impact, and there’s a way to remain involved without drowning in all of it. There’s a way to learn how to distance ourselves in *healthy* ways from those things that we really can’t do anything about and that truly do just drain our energy and capacity. 

The truth is, we have to recognize that a LOT of what we see in the media and other sources that provide us with constant stimulation, is that we are being ‘manipulated’ to a degree. We also have to recognize that true suffering IS happening, and that there are ways we can help reduce that suffering. 

There isn’t a black and white answer to ‘what’s really going on.’ Nor is there a black and white answer for what we should be doing about it.

So this is my perspective. As always, feel free to take it or leave it. Feel free to agree or disagree, and to find what works for YOU in terms of supporting yourself and finding balance in this life of constant stimulation.

To be overwhelmed at times is normal and natural, and there are things we can do support ourselves.

Realizing Our Triggers

For me, it's about realizing that in real reality, there IS just as much good as there is bad.

I know this is hard to see sometimes - and again that’s part of the ‘manipulation’ that IS happening that we DO need to look at. But I promise you that when you zoom out a little, you’re going to be able to find plenty of reasons to have hope for the future even when everything on the television or your social media feed seems bleak. 

One thing we have to understand about ourselves, is that our minds have evolved to heavily favor looking for the 'bad' as a protective mechanism. In order to survive threats in a world that was highly confusing and unclear to us as a species, the fact that we were able to REMEMBER and RECORD and FOCUS ON threatening situations gave us the power to predict them and to protect ourselves. It was a very important evolutionary tool that gave our species one of the many advantages that has led to us becoming the most dominant on the planet.

The thing is that NOW in the modern world, we are less 'under attack' than we used to be, and the bad we see is often coming from things we have no control over, that aren't directly impacting us and isn't actually USEFUL for us to focus on, but it usually doesn't FEEL like that in the moment.

This is part of what the media uses as a tool for manipulation in us.

We have to understand that ALL media - social and traditional - are a BUSINESS. They aren’t there to deliver the most factual, truthful, balanced perspective. Their job isn’t really to inform at this point. Rather, most media sources are working from the place of focusing on one thing and one thing only - profit. 

For the news media, profit is a result of one thing and one thing only - eyeballs. This is because they make their money off of ads - and the more eyeballs a media source can claim to have on a regular basis, the more advertisers are willing to pay to be featured - thus, keeping people watching is the actual goal rather than keeping people truly informed.

We must recognize that they know that the things that keep people watching the most are the things that stimulate this fear center of the brain. The stories that activate this deep sense of polarity, anger, disgust and FEAR are the ones that keep us engaged.

The unfortunate reality is, the more polarizing and upsetting a story is, the more traction it’s going to gain. The more balanced, nuanced and complex a story is, the more it’s going to be brushed aside and forgotten.

This is just part of how our brains work.

We are constantly on alert for threat and danger, which triggers us into a ‘fear’ state. Being in this fear state kicks our higher reasoning/logic skills into low-gear and up-regulates our tendency towards black and white thinking, impulsivity and the lack of capacity to take in complex pieces of information.

When we are in this fear state, we are looking for the most simple, straight forward, ‘already-makes-sense-to-us’ explanation for the threat, so that we feel like we can deal with that threat in the best way possible.

Again, this is all VERY helpful when we are face to face with a lion - but it’s not at ALL helpful when we are sitting in our bedrooms, scrolling our phones, becoming increasingly activated into stress with no real place to PUT that stress and no real way to actually DEAL with a REAL threat.

Showing Us More Of The SAME Not More Of The TRUTH

The second thing to realize is that the media shows us more of what we WANT to see, not more of the TRUTH.

Again, the goal of any media outlet is to keep you engaged. It’s to keep you scrolling, to keep you interacting, to keep you watching - and the people who created these platforms understand that that which you are already interested in, that which you already believe, that which already aligns with your worldview is going to hold your attention MUCH more than something that..well, isn’t or doesn’t.

Which means that we are going to be fed more and more information that ALIGNS with the fears we have, the polarized ideas we have, the perspectives we hold about what we’re looking at and so on. We’re not going to be shown the things that balance our perspective, that help show the ‘other-side’ or that help us see that there really AREN’T ‘sides’ in reality but a complex mix of factors all coming together to create a narrative.

This then drives us deeper into fear, deeper into separation, and deeper into STRESS. It creates a feeling of isolation and a false sense of camaraderie - oftentimes around ideas that don’t actually align with real reality.

The more we are on our phones and looking at screens, the more we are vulnerable to being given a narrative about life that isn’t real. The more we are vulnerable to creating perceptions of certain events, groups of people and ideas about how things ‘should and shouldn’t be that again, are missing massive pieces of the reality puzzle.

The more this happens, the more we are going to feel stressed, anxious and out of control - because we are connecting with SO much input that doesn’t actually serve us or anyone else.

It just stimulates, stresses, polarizes and confuses us - keeping us glued to the screen because the brain thinks a threat is happening and thus we need to KEEP PAYING ATTENTION - and this distracts us from actual reality. 

Thus, we have to realize that a LOT of what we see is sensationalized, dramaticized and even CUSTOMIZED to fit our current world view - rather than being a fair, balanced or even factual depiction of what’s actually happening in the world.

Now, this isn’t to say that this is all a psy-ops and nothing on the news is ever real and everything is on a green-screen. 

We just have to be measured in how we look at what we’re being told. We have to be willing to seek out multiple sources and to be willing to assume that at least some of what we’re seeing is being inflated. We have to seek out alternative opinions and perspectives, and we have to be willing to question the motivations and intentions of anyone sharing any piece of information.

In other words, we have to be able to step out of our emotions and into our critical thinking if we want to be able to get closer to an accurate view of what’s happening. This isn’t easy, but with practice and awareness, it does become easier.

We also have to remember that media and social media INTENTIONALLY distribute more of the 'bad' news, more of the inflammatory stuff, more of what gets people riled up, because this is how our for-profit news system makes money. Eyeballs. Good stories, peaceful things, mundane existence doesn't stimulate and excite and thus, it doesn't get talked about/shown.

We have to remember that what’s being shown isn’t the whole picture - not of the events and not of humanity in general. We’re not being given a holistic view of reality - we are being given a view that activates.

With this, I would encourage you to make sure you’re taking lots of time when you’re consuming media about the state of the world to ssssllloooowwww ddddoooowwwwnnn and research what you are seeing from multiple angles. To not take ANY ‘side’ as the ‘right’ one, and to open to the idea that all ‘sides’ are going to have their ELEMENTS of truth. To allow yourself to question EVERY narrative so that you aren’t allowing any personal bias to rule the show. To check in with your body and your emotions as you read or watch, and observe your state. 

Take your time. Look into things from multiple vantage points and be very aware when you’re being activated.

Return To Community

Next, understand that we simply haven’t evolved to be able to handle the massive influx of information that we’re exposed to now a days.

Our brains simply aren’t caught up to the reality that we can have instant access to what’s happening to people and on the planet in general hundreds of thousands of miles away. We haven’t had much time to adjust ourselves to the constant awareness of situations that are so far from us as to be essentially irrelevant to our day to day experience and to be circumstances we genuinely have no way of interacting with at all - either in a positive or negative way.

It’s not ‘normal’ for us as a species to be aware of anything that’s happening outside of our immediate circle of contacts and our immediate environment. 

We must understand that this new level of contact with the global community is a MASSIVE stressor that again triggers us into a state of fight and flight - because our bodies are going to be reacting to what we’re seeing as though it’s happening TO US - even when what we’re seeing is literally taking place half a world away. 

This kind of global awareness HAS brought with it many, many benefits. The capacity for the world to rally around a cause, to support communities that need support, to bring awareness to issues that may not be directly impacting those watching but that inspires helpful action in those watching is all an amazing thing. Many human rights violations, natural disasters, accidents and other tragedies have caused FAR less damage than they would have/been remedied by the intervention of the global community. This is fantastic and something I think we can all agree is a trait of world-wide connection that we want to keep.

On the flip side, we also have to acknowledge that a lot of the time the news we are looking at is going to be centered around issues and circumstances we have no power to do anything about. We are going to be looking at pain, disaster, mistreatment, corruption and destruction that even if we wanted to, we couldn’t make better. We are going to be exposed to cause after endless cause - and there’s no way we could possibly participate in all of them.

This can lead to increased empathy and understanding - which again is super important. Being exposed to the realities of those who are going through things we will never even see in real life gives us the ability to better understand why people do what they do, to have compassion, and to be a little softer in our interactions with those out in the world.

But it can also bring with it a sense of doom, overwhelm and helplessness - as we are literally unable to do anything to help in the face of immense tragedy and pain. This can again skew our perception in the direction of believing that the world is crumbling down around us, that we have no power to shift anything, and that there are so many places of need that we couldn’t possibly help all of them - so what’s the point in helping even one? It can lead to a sense of wanting to dissociate and disconnect - feeling like the problems we are facing as a species are simply too big, too broad and too far gone for any kind of help to matter.

It can easily lead to a ‘what’s the point’ attitude that ultimately, isn’t going to feel all that great. 

It can lead to overwhelm and a feeling that we need to be participating in every cause and campaign, which again will lead to burnout and a lack of capacity to figure out where our support is actually beneficial and where we are more just running around like a headless chicken. 

We’re simply not designed to be informed on so many different levels. We evolved to take care of and be taken care of by a close community that was tangible to us. Not to be exposed to everything under the sun.

With this again, we have to work towards compassion for ourselves just as much as we are being given the opportunity to work towards true compassion and understanding for others. We must allow ourselves to take breaks, to check out, to not be totally informed on every goings-on on the planet. We need to give ourselves space to really assess where our help can be truly beneficial, and where we are better not trying to intervene. We need to accept that we can’t be involved in everything, we can’t be a part of every cause, we can’t be a part of every remedy and that the problems we are looking at ARE big and overwhelming - but this DOESN’T mean that we can’t be a part of the movement towards something BETTER.

We must shift our focus out of black and white, all or nothing and into something more pragmatic.

Facing the reality that there is a lot, and it’s very overwhelming - but if every person does just what they CAN do to work towards a better future for all of us, we can make a MASSIVE difference.

Thus, we want again to be super conscious of not giving up hope, while also not expecting ourselves to be the saviors of the entire planet. We must find BALANCE in our ability to support. To take on, and to let go. 

You may find some of the suggestions in this video helpful in figuring out how to do this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzf6MozvcB0

You can’t do it all, you can’t be a part of it all, but you can do SOME. You can help SOME things. You can be involved in SOME causes.

Figuring out where you’re able to be helpful is an individual process, and something you must work on within yourself. Making sure that you are paying close attention to feelings of overwhelm or feelings of needing to ‘save’ everyone and everything. Paying attention to when you’re getting burnt out and are in need of a break. Paying attention to any black and white thinking that makes you believe it’s all all or nothing. Then bringing yourself back to balance.

Finally with this point, sometimes the best thing we’re going to do for ourselves is to narrow our scope.

To realize that while there are problems everywhere, the place where we’re likely going to have the MOST impact is in our immediate communities. The place where we are going to be able to see the MOST truth of what’s happening, the broadest perspective and the most BALANCED perspective is going to be within issues that are happening close to home. The place where we’re going to have the BEST chance at a broad understanding of the issues so that we can take truly informed helpful steps towards resolution and better is in all the areas that we have some actual connection with. 

I would suggest that bringing most of your focus and awareness to the issues you can make a positive impact within that are close to you, and then allowing yourself to participate in bigger issues if you still have the time and the resources to do so.

Take care of those in your community.

Take care of those in your city.

Be active in the human rights of those you can see.

Give to those causes where you can have at least some awareness around how the funds are being used.

Let yourself speak to people in a group that you have education and awareness within instead of expecting yourself to be an expert in all things. Participate in your local government if that calls to you.

Nurture your relationships and learn to really BE THERE for those around you.

Be involved in your community.

THIS is going to FEEL the most impactful, it’s going to be the best thing for your empathy muscles, and it’s going to be a situation where you feel the most empowered that steps and effort DO make a difference.

Zoom in, know that you can help in the broader context any time that is truly helpful, and that the more you focus on your community, the more you’re going to SEE impact and the more you’re going to KNOW that things can and do change when we put forth effort.

Keep coming back to community care vs. social media overwhelm and burnout. 

Finding The Good

While there IS merit and truth to the fact that people are hurting, there is pain, there is immaturity, there is greed and corruption, the REALITY is there is EQUAL amounts of light on this planet.

MOST people are living regular days, having regular experiences. Most people are having good experiences. There are incredibly beautiful things happening all the time. There are LOTS Of people out there doing AMAZING things.

The truth is, in our own days there are often MANY good things for us to focus on, to appreciate and to BUILD on as we walk this path of self love.

We must balance our view of the world with the equal reality that many, many people are doing well, are getting by just fine - and even if they aren’t living the lives WE would want to live or that we think is appropriate - they are ok. 

We must allow ourselves to take in the beauty that exists here. The miracle of life. The small moments of joy and peace that happen between ourselves and others. We must allow ourselves to focus on the little connections that make life meaningful. 

We must continually remind ourselves by SHOWING ourselves that there are people out there creating, flowing, connecting, laughing, enjoying, innovating, supporting and otherwise doing really positive things on this planet ALL.THE.TIME - we just don’t hear about it much because again, these stories don’t sell.

We need to intentionally seek out the beauty that exists - not only for our mental health, but also because it is building on the beauty that is a PART of creating a better world.

If we solely focus on the negative, we aren’t going to be in problem solving mode. If we only look at what isn’t working, we aren’t going to have a very easy time coming up with solutions that do work. If we are so fixated on the mess that we can’t see the order we are going to get sucked into the mess - and that’s not a helpful place for us to be!

We must allow ourselves to see what’s good so that we can retain a balanced perception of reality AND so that we can stay in a state of actually being ABLE to be a support where that’s important. The more we allow ourselves to see what is good, the more we are going to be ones who are able to BUILD on that goodness - and that’s a big part of what forward momentum is all about.

Taking the good that exists and expanding upon it, appreciating it, building more things that are like it - it can’t all be fighting against what we don’t want.

We must put in effort to find the good. We must allow our bodies and nervous systems to marinate in the positive. We must create times and places where we are immersing ourselves in all that is beautiful on this planet so that we are coming into our helping work with a truly open mind and heart.

Cynicism isn’t helpful in the long run. It can protect us from hope which can feel like it’s protecting us from disappointment - but in the long run, it’s an acid that corrodes us.

Allow there to be hope via looking for the EVIDENCE that good is currently existing and will continue to exist - and that we can participate in that goodness.

Where Can You Actually Help And Where Do You Need To Relax Into Self Care?

The entire crux of this is the fact that we can’t help everyone and we can’t be involved in everything, but at the same time everyone has SOME capacity to be kind, to be supportive, to be helpful or to take personal action that is moving in the direction of more responsible citizenship every day.

Our service doesn’t have to be world changing or world wide.

Holding the door open for someone, dropping off a few cans of food at the local food-bank, being a kind ear to listen, participating in local affairs - all of this is our power.

None of us have to be globe changers if we all just do what we can do in our communities. We must remember that.

Community support is truly the way forward - so the more we can learn to deactivate our fear response, to empathize without drowning in hopelessness, and finding where we can be of legitimate support - even if it’s in the smallest way - THIS is how we navigate the overwhelm of the negative we see.

For me, it's about recognizing that if I’m going to focus on the negative, I’m going to do so from a vantage point of looking for where I can be of positive use. I’m going to look for where I can offer support, where I can be a part of the change, where I can support those who are a part of the change.

I also let myself be sad sometimes, angry, upset about the whole thing - that's ok. There will be days where life feels heavy and I think again that's a normal part of being alive. These feelings will come and go, and so long as we don't HOLD ONTO THEM by fixing our focus onto the evidence to support that this is ALL that's happening, we will find that it doesn't take over our lives. It's a thing we process when it comes up, we look for if we can be a part of the solution in any way, and then we return to building our own lives the best we can.

We must make room for this emotional processing because again, we’re not robots and we can’t simply take in a whole bunch of bad news and expect ourselves to be fine. We must process AND we must take care of our mental health by focusing on the good that exists, by focusing on the good in our own lives, by making sure we are working within our capacity and not over extending and by working through any ‘savior complex’ that we may have.

No one of us is going to ‘save’ the world.

We are all just going to do what we CAN, what’s in our SCOPE and that’s it.

Remembering too that your BIGGEST impact in this life is how you live your life day to day. The grand gestures and big acts are good - but they aren’t your legacy.

The change you make on this planet is in your day to day lived experience.

Focus on that more than anything. Your impact in each moment.

THIS is your power. 

Do what you can. Process what you need to. Take steps away. Look to your community. Be involved in the areas you can be involved in without overextending. Know that you’re not going to fix everything, but that you can be a positive part of SOME things - and that’s enough. Do that.

From there, I make sure to always INTENTIONALLY look for the good things. To train my mind to see what is working, what's going well, what feels good, what others are doing that is great, how others are loving one another - because again ALL of this exists.

It is a practice not to let the mind go into black and white thinking. To not let the mind convince us that because there is pain and corruption that it's ALL pain and corruption. Again most people are just living their lives! Nothing big is really happening at all.

We must be diligent both looking 'out there' and looking at our own lives for what is good. Because the mind will get into the habit of doing this, and this is actually the BEST way to figure out where we can improve not only our own lives but the world in the way that we can - we build on the good. We look for the good and we work to enhance it. If we only focus on the negative, we do disempower ourselves.

Balance is the key.

Have compassion for the parts that see the bad. DO acknowledge what is hurting, how things make us feel, the fears we have about the future and use the tools in the course to both self soothe and to find where your power is. Be kind and gentle to yourself on days where everything feels heavy. 

Look again for anything that is calling for change, and then soothe as much as you can. 

From there, look for the positive. To train your mind to have a BALANCED perspective - not all good or bad, but more in alignment with TRUTH. 

Then focus on what's good, build what's good, participate in that which is life affirming.

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Getting off of the self improvement path and onto the self love path is hard.

Because everywhere we look in society, we are TRAINED to be in a perpetual state of self improvement.

We're trained to be in a perpetual state of feeling like we aren't enough, like our pain is a reflection of something being 'wrong' with us, like if we are failing to live up to the expectations of those around us that this means that we are flawed, broken and messed up and we're trained to CONSTANTLY feel like we are lacking something - because this is what keeps our society functioning how it functions.

Learning to understand WHY we have the habits we have, why we self sabotage, scapegoat and numb, why we can't seem to 'get it together' in our relationships, health and careers, why we have emotions, why our thoughts don't seem to help us move forward and why we struggle so much to be nice to ourselves is a MASSIVE key to building a life that actually works for us.

Learning where we don't need fixing, healing or changing, but rather where we need SUPPORT, self awareness and tools to help us EXPRESS and GROW is even harder work.

Knowing how and when to actually implement the tools I share, and learning how to use these tools on a regular basis is hard.

Learning to understand our emotions and how to question our thoughts and perception is hard.

All the information you can find here IS the information - but figuring out exactly how to apply it - that's the difficult part.

Enter, The Aliyah Mystery School

I've made a comprehensive video for you all about the school and you can check that out in the post below.

This path isn't for everyone, but if it's for you, you may find it really supports you in ways that nothing else has!

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