How to Deal with the Pain of Empathy
I hope you’re doing well! Over the last several months, the news has seemed particularly nasty, so I thought I’d send out a post about how to deal with the constant influx of bad news, negative media and messaging, and generally living in a world where we see so much suffering.
I felt the need to write this because, for a few days in June, the news that came through my Facebook feed and email inbox made me incredibly sad- to the point that I sometimes felt incapacitated. My heart was bleeding and it just wouldn’t stop. I got off of Facebook for two solid months so that I could begin to make sense of the seemingly endless suffering that plagues life on Earth.
The world is full of both unbounded wonder and unbounded terror. The mind can only take in a small bit of this at any time, and it tends to focus on what needs attention, which are generally fears. To make matters worse, mainstream media cherry picks the most potently upsetting things that are going on in the world and broadcasts it through every possible outlet. So staying peaceful requires you to be intentional about what information you take in, what you focus on, and how you process that information.
So here are some pointers to help you feel peaceful in a crazy world.
- (1) First and foremost, always remember that your thoughts and emotions might occupy your mind for a while, but they are not your mind, and they are not you. This is important because when you are bombarded with poisonous information, it’s easy to get stuck in thinking that you will never feel good again. Your emotions that arise in response to bad news are temporary residents of your mind, but they will pass.
- (2) Make a practice of immersing yourself in something positive every day, preferably both in the morning and before you go to sleep. Find a few YouTube channels or books that empower you, and make them part of your daily routine.
- (3) Use negativity to fuel your sense of purpose. Problems actually do fill roles in our lives, one of which is to give us meaning by giving us something to work on. Train yourself to ask what how you can be the change when you learn about things that upset you.
- (4) You will never be able to solve everything. So choose your battles, and do them well. Beyond that, if something is out of your control, it is perfectly okay to let it go.
- (5) Consider cutting out mainstream news. I promise that nothing bad will happen to you. If the sky is going to fall, you’ll find out one way or another, so don’t worry that you’re missing out. You might even surprise yourself how much more productive and effective you are when you don’t have so much weighing you down.
- (6) Never feel obligated to experience pain because others experience more pain than you. Your suffering never has, and never will, appease anyone else's. You owe it to nobody to suffer over the perverted actions of a few individuals. The best thing you can do for others is to be happy and share your happiness.
- (7) Lastly, like I said in (1), you are not your emotions. When you put space between yourself and your feelings, you will gain a lot of power over how you feel. There is great freedom in being able to see your pain as separate from you and allowing it to exist within you until it passes.
I hope this helps! Always remember that your inner peace is in your control and that you should never let anyone, or anything else, take it from you.