Resilience is the Magic Wand You've Been Looking For in an Age Where Fear Seems to be Boss
For people in recovery from addiction, fear is the great enemy. Fear of fear is even worse.
And . . . just when you think the situation can't get any more dismal, here comes a giant evil bug, crashing through the woods, his gaze fixed directly at your flimsy castle walls, ready to destroy whatever confidence you have left. It's the fear of fear of FEAR.
Don't worry. I won't take this flailing metaphor any further than I have already.
Instead, I'd like to talk about the great American tradition that comes around every four years or so—it's the tradition of stirring up fear. And, boy, let me tell you, this year has a bumper crop of fear going around. Yes. It's the magic of a presidential election year.
I'm extremely hesitant to get political online. Mostly because I believe politics do a much better job at dividing people than they seem to bring them together. Lots of folks don't realize the divisive nature of politics, because I believe social media has made the playing field look quite different than it had in the past, when there was only TV and radio.
Think about the last time you were on social media . . . what percentage of political posts did you see that you think you AGREED with the party who posted it?
I'm guessing that the percentage political posts you generally agreed with was somewhere above 80%.
The reason why that number is so high, is because social media distorts your reality as a function of its algorithm.
With as much as I'm online, I have had to take a hard look at the ways social media distorts my reality. You know what I found out? It sure seems like everybody agrees with me and my politics! I know that can't be true though. Something has to be going on! I call shenanigans, Facebook!!
I'm not pulling this conclusion out of my butt, either—many writers (like here and also here, and oh . . . right here too) have questioned how the magic sauce of the Facebook algorithm serves to accomplish one goal: to keep you engaged. (Twitter's a completely different animal, so for the purposes of this little article, I'm equating social media with Facebook only.)
You see, when you post something political online (at least in social media) you're inviting others to: 1) Agree with you wholeheartedly; 2) Fight with you in an endless stream of flaming vile epitaphs, or; 3) Write you off and opt to ignore your postings (or even block you completely from their newsfeed.)
There is a reason why I'm talking about politics and social media today. It's because they share a common goal.
Facebook wants to keep you engaged and active.
Politics want to keep you engaged and active.
The currency in politics for engagement is anger and fear.
The currency on social media during an election year is . . . you guessed it!
Anger and fear.
During an election year, rational arguments and factual data don't seem to matter. For example, it doesn't seem to make any difference that, statistically and historical speaking, we're living in one of the most peaceful eras ever.
And, it doesn't seem to matter which "side" you're on, either. Let's face it, both sides want to rant on about how terrible the other side might be.
(I do have an opinion with this, by the way, and it's that Trump would be a disaster. But this is beside the point I'm trying to make. I can still write it though, because it's my damn blog and I can print what I want, thank you very much.)
In a year where politics have taken center stage, lots of folks (at least the ones with whom I'm connected) seem to be interested in posting how Trump is an idiot antichrist and Hillary is a corporate shill. There are a few renegades who say they're both losers and go with third party candidates. And of course, some people disengage from social media during an election year.
(But we all know they'll come back eventually. Where else would they get their crazy cat videos?)
Anger and fear are not just dangerous emotions for people in recovery, they're dangerous for every human being when they take control of a person's life.
Of course, negative emotions like fear and anger have an evolutionary purpose and can be helpful for you, too. I'm not denying that. Anger helps you seek to change things that are injustices in the world. Fear can keep you from driving 120 MPH everyday on the freeway. But I digress.
Anger and fear become dangerous though when they begin to take control of your life.
For many of us, it's easy to give in (especially during an election year) to our fears. Did you know that statistics show that during election years people often are more stressed out. . .
AND IN 2016 IT'S HISTORICALLY BEEN THE MOST STRESSFUL ONE.
But there is a solution . . .
You know how I've discovered to not let fear and anger rule my life? (I've been doing a lot of work recently with a therapist. Believe it or, they know what they're doing! It's pretty amazing, the changes I've seen in me.)
PURPOSE and MEANING
The more I've embraced what my purpose and meaning are for me in life, the more I've come to see that I'm resilient to the stresses, the difficulties, and yes, the anger and fear life wants to throw at me.
And I've seen this in others, as well.
I'm writing a book which will be my fourth published one. It's a book on resiliency and how a person's ability to bounce back after stress or trauma will be much more effective if they find [qualities I name as] "spiritual assets" to support them. Spiritual assets are nothing more than virtues like courage, honesty, acceptance, and gratitude.
The stories I share in this book blew me away—the things people can overcome is amazing! I know they will for you once you read them, too.
One woman, whose story I share in chapter one, almost died at the hand of her abusive husband. He basically tried to cut her head off with a machete. She survived. Her spiritual asset for her courageous comeback she identified as gratitude for the gift of life. This spiritual asset had made her resilient to additional stresses of life. I would suggest that emotions like fear and anger no longer drive her in the same way because of her gratitude.
Her gratitude has given her a purpose to reach out to other abused women to give them to claim the courage and strength to say NO to their abusers. NO to their fear.
I discovered that everyone I've interviewed for the book has discovered this for themselves. It's amazing really. Fear and anger don't rule them as negative emotions, because they have a newfound purpose and meaning to their lives. They are resilient to the difficulties life inevitably offers!
I connected recently with Noelene Dawes from Australia on social media. She runs a business and website that deals with emotional resilience. Here's a fantastic quote from her page that I read just this week:
I believe that we'd all do better by not falling into the trap that both social media, but also politics, wants us to stumble along and dump ourselves into.
Fear is real. So is anger. They have a evolutionary purpose, but they should not become a purpose in themselves.
Find your purpose, on purpose.
Find your resilience to stress and difficulties by giving yourself a meaning and purpose for life. The more it's about giving, the more you shall receive, by the way.
Share what meaning or purpose you've found for your life. Does a greater purpose allow you to say NO to the anger and fear, two emotions that want to control your responses and affect you adversely?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Daniel D. Maurer is a freelance writer and the head goat-herder and big-cheese squeezer at the institute for super-presto-chango, Transformation-is-Real. He's become less fearful and angry by finding a purpose: to share with others that no matter how low they might feel, that their story is never, ever finished. Because, you know . . . Change. It's Real.™