I would never look at Mr. Ed the same way again. It was the late 1980s. An epidemic of kidnappings and Satanic cult infiltration gripped the land. Sometimes they were separate epidemics. Other times, they were packaged together in a bizarre, fuzzy blend of fear. No longer was it safe to run unattended through the mall, dodging clouds of cigarette smoke and gargantuan abstract sculptures of questionable aesthetics. We were mandated to roam only in packs. We were pushed like cattle through long lines to have our finger prints and birth marks catalogued. We sat through strange school assemblies where we learned how to recognize signs of the beast (not the roasted one carved by the Grinch) and were warned about Ozzy Osbourne, Dungeons and Dragons, and vans driven by candy-wielding strangers. Even Mr. Ed, the famous talking horse, was danger in disguise.
Times were dark. Our milk cartons told us so. The news told us so. Geraldo Rivero told us so. Even Oprah (pre-Oprah, Oprah) told us so. The world was going to hell in a handbasket, and we choked on the fear that thickened the air.
Fun fact: As it turns out, although bad things happened, there was no epidemic. Some folks got a few things mixed up, data were flawed, and everyone got sucked into a snowballing machine of widely propagated misinformation and mass hysteria.
So thank you, non-epidemic, for the scarred childhood and deeply-rooted adverse reaction to mountain-embellished cargo vans and men in face makeup.
Why am I bringing this up on a Friday, when you are trying to decompress and go gently into your weekend? Perhaps because we are so close to Halloween, and the candy, flocks of closely-guarded children, and devils are giving me flashbacks?
No. But, I’m so glad you asked.
You see, I’ve been watching folks a lot lately. People I know. People I coach. Strangers who pour their souls out through social media and blogs. As I look around, I see a baseline level of seemingly generalized anger, sadness, and anxiety weighing people down and keeping them small. I see worry fueled by perceptions that the world is a dangerous and frightening place. And, as I listen to our dialogue about the state of humanity, I see similar parallels to my traumatic childhood non-epidemic.
As I observe the emotional weight and worry…the brewing belief that evil lurks behind every corner…I pick up a whisper of something concerning. We have begun folding inward instead of reaching out. We are slowly cutting the threads that connect us. We are allowing the emotional weights to guide our words and actions, and in many ways, we have begun to allow the dehumanization of humanity itself.
It all breaks my heart. So, as you head into your weekend, I’m asking you to take a small step to help stop the non-epidemics before they become real epidemics of a different kind.
At this point, we are all aware of how detrimental the news and social media can be to our psychological (and potentially physical) health. We know the media pushes out significantly more negative stories than positive ones. (Hence the saying, if it bleeds, it leads.) We also know our brains are biased to pay attention to and remember bad things. For every one bad thing, we must counterbalance it with multiple good things to create a decent recipe for calm in our minds.
I believe most of us wonder deep inside, “Is it really this bad? Is there something we aren’t being told?” But I think we often then stop and don’t seek answers to these questions. We hold on to what we think we know. We let our brains go unchecked, and they drive our attention and memory to everything scary and horrific and awful they can find. They then use this information to “predict” futures that make us throw out perfectly good Heavy Metal records and prevent our kids from playing in our own front yards. And the pushers of information put more fuel on the fire because we crave it, and their job is to compete for our attention. Yuck. So what do we do?
For us to escape the non-epidemics of hell brimstone and fire, we must question our beliefs and perceptions and actively hunt for a balanced picture of humanity. For example, do you know the world is becoming less dangerous and violent over time on countless fronts? And, have you heard that people are doing an incredible amount of good…an almost unfathomable amount of good? In The Fear Factor: How One Emotion Connects Altruists, Psychopaths, and Everyone In-Between, my brilliant friend and former colleague, Abigail Marsh, lays out compelling evidence of a caring, compassionate human race. From altruistic kidney donations to billions of dollars donated to charities each month, people are kicking a** in the good department. After years of being subjected to mocking jokes, Pollyanna is waving a big middle finger at her detractors.
We find what we seek. So, my ask of you going into your weekend is to break free of the “epidemics” and seek a bigger perspective beyond the negative information bombarding us daily.
To get you started, here are some positive sources of news and information.
And, here are a few questions of course as food for thought:
- What is your perception of the world right now? How does this perception influence your emotions, thinking, and behaviors?
- What negative perceptions or beliefs do you have? When do they keep you from playing big?
- How might you evaluate “epidemic” fears you have? What would you need to let them go?
- What sources of positivity can you go to when things feel dark or grim?
Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments; we’d love to hear from you.