In a polarised world, one can feel like they need to choose a side. After all, we are a social species that thrives on a sense of belonging. To achieve this, we follow trends, invest in fashion, style our homes, use language, and share habits that are accepted within the culture that we identify with. This can contribute to a beautiful sense of harmony and community. It creates familiarity and this can feel safe.
In order to belong, there are often rules that are both spoken and unspoken. This creates a sense of order and structure. It creates a status quo. It’s all fairly simple, that is until we are confronted with difference. Throughout history, we have seen that human beings are fairly resilient until they are confronted with people who look, talk, think, or behave differently to what we might be used to. We actually capitulate when we come into contact with new, novel, or different ways of being. History has taught us that, so often, the initial instinct has been to smash, destroy, shame, blame, and eradicate anything that isn’t normal or familiar. We incarcerate, medicate, institutionalise, and exclude people to keep the status quo. We judge people who are different as ‘bad,’ ‘wrong,’ ‘stupid,’ or ‘dangerous.’ If that doesn’t work then we buy guns and artillery in preparation for war. That is until time ticks along and we gradually start to get curious.
We realise, in time, that difference wasn’t necessarily a threat that needed to be destroyed. We start to open our minds and hearts, and create space to learn and understand the rationale behind the difference. As more time ticks on, we might even start to adopt some of the practices or traditions that were initially so intimidating. Then, at some point we integrate and assimilate as one. New norms are formed and new rules are established. And the process starts again. We get comfortable until once again we are confronted by something novel that we feel we have to eradicate.
Is it fear? Is it ego? Is it an eversion to change? Who really knows. What we do understand is that fear has quite a significant impact on our thinking and decision making capabilities. When we detect threat, we have these primal parts of us that want to fight, run, freeze or fawn. We are also a lot less empathetic and compassionate when we are in a state of anxiety. This impacts on the way we function in relationships. We are more likely to see others as dangerous and can tell ourselves that the intensions and motives of those who are different are putting us at risk. This of course perpetuates fear even more.
So in a crisis of fear and panic, how can we learn from the past and our ancestors? Can we do things differently? Can we tolerate differences in opinion without needing to coerce, shame, and wage war? And if not, is there a way that we can personally acknowledge and work through our own fear processes so that we don’t lose access to our empathy and compassion for self and others?
3 Tips To Stay Grounded in 2021
- Get Curious – Spend some time each day reflecting on how you are feeling? How does your body feel? Are there particular sensations that you notice as you scan your body? Do you have any tension or pain? How are your sleeping and eating habits? Do you feel on edge or detached? Are there any patterns to your thinking? Is there an obsessional nature to your thoughts? Are you able to connect with happiness, joy, love and compassion? The purpose of curiosity is not to judge yourself. It is simply to notice. To bring your awareness inwards so that you have a better understanding of what you might be experiencing.
- Practice Kindness – If we are going to get out of fear then we need to practice kindness. This relates to ourselves and others. The fact is, most of us are doing the very best we can under the circumstances. Most people are not out there trying to hurt us or harm us. They are trying to do their best based on what they have been taught and shown. Sure, we are going to have differences in opinions. Is there still a way that we can listen and understand with kindness? Can we try and see things from their perspective with gentleness and compassion? Could we even offer help or support rather than judgement or hatred? If this brings up things for you, go back to being curious. Why might I be finding it hard to access kindness? What am I scared of? Who taught me that?
- Unplug – Too much of anything creates imbalance. Setting limits and boundaries is important with anything, including technology. We all understand that most online platforms are designed to keep us engaged. They are sophisticated in the way that they promote narratives and information that plays into our fears and promotes division. Technology also helps us to connect and can be a wonderful form of entertainment. Monitoring how we use and interact with technology is important. There are so many hobbies and activities that can help our nervous system out and we need to make sure we are accessing as many as possible. Remember that we all have the power to create and dream up amazing things when we give ourselves the opportunity and space to do so.
-Sarah Campbell, Director Ascending Psychology