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? 


  1. While we shouldn't put our heads in the sand and detach completely from what is going on in our country and the world, I decided a few years ago to take my brother's advice and watch less news. I used to be a news junkie and it just made me upset all the time and did nothing to alter anything for the better. While the world seems in turmoil, I've felt remarkably calm, just tuning in enough to be reasonably informed. The other thing that I've felt strongly compelled to do is pray for our new president and for ALL leadership in all levels of our country (and beyond). These are such hard times to make decisions that are rarely ever easy to make and that will inevitably make some people angry. We ALL need God's wisdom, His truth, and His direction to make the right choices. And we need His love to love our neighbors with His great love. Remember to pray for our president, our leaders, and our people—that will change hearts in this great nation.

    1. Thanks, Liz. I am praying, as are so many people.

  2. Susan, you essay today is wonderfully astute and well written. I agree with all your points. Thank you.

  3. Excellent advice. I was also thinking along these lines. It seems no one is listening to the other side at all - there is no dialogue, just each side putting out their opinions. So sad to see the polarisation.

    1. Trench digging instead of bridge building. Any fool can sling mud, but it takes energy, time, and planning to build a bridge...not to mention two sides that want to meet in the middle. Sad, indeed.

  4. I follow Jill Sprott, a scrapbooker and an English teaher.

    She shared a quote by Thoreau on her Blog this week that helped me learn how to evaluate:
    If the injustice is part of the necessary friction of the machine of government, let it go, let it go: perchance it will wear smooth -- certainly the machine will wear out. If the injustice has a spring, or a pulley, or a rope, or a crank, exclusively for itself, then perhaps you may consider whether the remedy will not be worse than the evil; but if it is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law. Let your life be a counter-friction to stop the machine. What I have to do is to see, at any rate, that I do not lend myself to the wrong which I condemn.
    -- Henry David Thoreau

    1. What a wonderful quotation. Thanks so much for sharing that and the link, Janet.

  5. Usually I don't react impulsive. I am a taurus which means I do have alot patience and I am well tempered. My Libra ascendent teaches me there is always a front and a back of the medal. I usually don't judge as long as I do only know one of two sides.

    But of course I can and I will react if someone is slewing the red rag long enough. And if this happens: take your legs and run...

  6. Hello Susan: I too decided to watch less news, all I see and hear is BAD, really, really BAD and it's depressing. I feel our Nation is still very divided and everybody on both sides of the political spectrum, refuse to really listen and try to arrive at a decision that will benefit everybody, not just the privileged few.
    I've asked myself the same question: "Where do we go from here?" How can we, as a Nation, take pause and reflect, seriously, about what is dividing us.
    We can't let fear and ignorance rule our lives, we need to understand and embrace our differences. There are bad apples in every barrel but that doesn't make the other apples taste less delicious.
    If we let fear and ignorance prevail, we most certainly loose ourselves in the misery this will bring, not only to us now, but to the generations to come after we are gone, thus we will be the instrument for perpetuating the very things we should be fighting against.....IGNORANCE AND FEAR.
    Thank you for sharing your amazing writing and thoughts on your blog.
    Maria Rodriguez.

    1. Thank you, Maria. The media favors negative news that strikes fear or stokes anger. There is so much GOOD and WONDERFUL news out there...but you have to know where to look to keep a more balanced perspective. Fight the ignorance and fear!

      Blessings to you and all who fight for unity and compassion.


Thanks so much for taking time to comment!