A week ago 22 wildfires spread through Northern California causing death and destruction. This was one week after a gunman murdered and injured hundreds of people in Las Vegas with assault rifles. Hurricanes and floods have been hurled at the earth lately at an alarming rate. There is a rise of dictatorships in the world, a world rife with human rights abuses and political and economic instability.
I was consciously aware of not wanting to weigh the bad over the good when my youngest sister wrote on our sibling thread, “It feels like the world is falling apart.” When your eye looks at all the bad news today, it is impossible not to be dragged down and feel distressed.
The only antidote to becoming overwhelmed by what we see at times like this is to consciously look the other way – not to ignore the bad but to focus on what is good in the world and where possible be part of the solution. Here are some responses from looking toward that good.
My oldest sister wrote, “My grandsons keep me grounded.” That led me to look at videos and photos of my two grandsons, which made me smile and feel more hopeful. Social media burst with experiential lessons on racial, cultural and class difference sensitivity, stories of heroic helpers in these current crisis, spiritual guidance, and philosophical support. My brother and his wife in Marin County worked around the clock as nurses, treating wounded fire victims from nearby Santa Rosa. A colleague in Northern California sent out “cliff notes on mental health disaster relief ” along with resources for fire victims and how to help them. One of my brothers, a few hundred miles from the epicenter, said that inhaling the smoke from the current fires re-traumatized him from a more deadly fire he experienced in Colorado. He said he could not sleep. I taught him some trauma releasing exercises so his body could relax and rest. I do believe we are meant as a species to be able to experience and then transform trauma.
Stephen Porges, an eminent neuroscientist who wrote, “Polyvagal Theory”, said in a recent webinar that the world will be made up of the “survival of the gentlest”. He means to say that though we hail from ancestors who were the “fittest” or we would not be here, part of being “fit” is to know how and when to be supportive, protective, kind and take actions that are loving and compassionate. So either you believe like some dictators, arsonists, and murderers that the world is made up of “losers and killers” (with “killers” being the good guys) or you can turn your eye in times of trouble to focus on giving, helping, loving and being reminded by the faces of innocent children, that our common gentleness will humanize us and help transform trauma into an ability to forge ahead with hope, even in these tough times.