Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Radical Self Care: Suggestion Number Four

Just in case you need a reminder or are new to this are the first three posts on Radical Self Care

Suggestion One: Have a Hobby or Two

Suggestion Two: Cultivate Comforting Rituals

Suggestion Three: Say No to What Deserves a No

I've gone rather silent in the past weeks. Interestingly (at least to me), I've written several posts for the blog and Facebook, and deleted all of them. There's been a LOT of reacting to the events of January, and much of the reaction--on both sides of the political divide--has made me sad and reflective.

Where do we go from here? How do we turn knee-jerk reaction into effective response that brings our nation and our world together in compassionate, productive, healthy ways?

I was pleased that the Women's March on DC (and all over the world) stayed safe and non-violent, not least because my sister, niece, and nephew were marching in DC and friends were marching in Atlanta, Denver, Cincinnati, and Dayton. Without exception, all my friends and family who marched felt inspired and uplifted by the experience, but I watched, concerned, at the viciousness of some of the signs waved, the gloating and insults of the Trump camp toward those who were marching, and the completely appalling nastiness on social media toward Trump's ten-year-old son.

In the spirit of my series on Radical Self Care, inspired by Anne Lamott's excellent turn-of-phrase, today's post suggests a way to exercise radical self care in the midst of all this weirdness, conflict, fear, and anger.

Practice the Pause.

That's right. Pause. Reflect. Don't react. At least not yet, not right away.

It's helpful to remember that when we get a piece of information, it's only one piece of a much larger and very complicated puzzle. There will very well come a time when reaction is necessary, helpful, and just. You might even have encountered such moments in the past weeks. Wisdom includes being able to know when to react, why you're reacting, to what purpose you are reacting, and how to react to achieve that purpose.

When you react without pausing to think, especially in negatively charged situations, you contribute to the chaos.

We often regret our reactions when they are made in haste and high emotion. We read a post on Facebook, are immediately outraged, share widely, and then learn that the post is inaccurate, misleading, or an outright lie. A friend posts an opinion we find offensive, we slam them hard, and suddenly we've lost a friend over nothing more than a poor choice of words.

Much of what we encounter in media these days is specifically written or photoshopped to generate strong emotions...often fear and rage. When you feel those two emotions sparked by something you encounter either in mass media or social media, pause.


Ask questions. Who is sparking this emotion in me? Why would they do this? How are they trying to manipulate me? Does this issue truly matter, or is it superficial, distracting me from more important issues? Is my reaction worthwhile and productive, or am I being unhealthily manipulated?  Does my immediate reaction represent my true self or am I being manipulated to serve someone else's agenda?

Emotions come and go. Pause, and let your character manage your reactions, not the temporary and changeable whims of emotion. Are you kind, compassionate, thoughtful, helpful, constructive? Let your reactions reflect your best self.

How many of the people who speak or write hateful, hurtful, angry, self-centered, condescending, racist, destructive words see themselves as hateful, hurtful, angry, self-centered, condescending, racist, destructive people? Perhaps more importantly,  do they see themselves at all? Have they become so superficially reactive to the world around them that they simply don't pause to think, to reflect, to fact-check?

Slow down and take care of yourself radically in the midst of the media drama.

Practice the pause.

Have you reacted recently without thinking? What were the consequences? Do you regret it?