Let's reason | When too much bad news gets to be a bad thing - Part II
Take a second and try this little experiment with me. Imagine a lemon. Hold it in your mind. See how yellow it is. Smell its aroma. Now cut it in half with a knife and sink your teeth into one half. Taste the strong sour flavor. What happened to you? Nearly everyone who does this experiment will begin to salivate.
The point of the experiment is a simple onethe things you think and imagine can often have a physical effect in your body.
So when we hear and see the things that happened to someone, we may begin to have slight physiological responses, sometimes similar to what the victim experienced. And by seeing them over and over again or listening to them being recounted over and over, we are allowing small traumas into our bodies and minds. Is this what we really want to be doing to ourselves and our children?
The research on vicarious traumatisation indicates that "Breaking News" increases our experience of anticipatory anxiety (the feeling that something is going to go wrong anytime now).
The headlines on the front of the paper and the content of the stories are worded to catch our attention and to hook into our already existing fears. This is not an indictment on journalists, this is mere behavioural psychology. Specific words lead to increased worry that we are not safe and should listen or read on to find out more.
Being alert and aware about what is happening around us is a necessity; we should process emotionally unsettling information, develop adequate coping skills and grow from it, especially in these times. Nevertheless, it is important that we understand that too much of a negative thing is harmful and we are best served by limiting the amount and type of images and videos that we consume.
At some point, we have a duty to ourselves to turn off the TV, and stop viewing and sharing graphic images online and in social circles.
If you ever feel like you're not able to cope with your feelings of anxiety and worry, seek support from friends and family, and if it is overwhelming, find a counselor or psychologist.
I'm not saying media is to blame, what I am saying is that, over time, we have become a society that pays significant amounts of attention to the negative things that are happening around us. Inadvertently, we are demanding more of it and the media, social and otherwise have responded. We are unconsciously building a society that thrives on fear and unsettles our feelings of safety and well-being. And it's up to us to change that dynamic.
- Dr Susaye Rattigan is a clinical psychologist and life and business coach. She is currently practising at Health + Wellness, Sagicor Montego Bay Shopping Centre in St James. She specialises in women's health issues and empowerment, with a focus on success and empowerment strategies. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.