The world is a wild, wild place right now. The problem is, when we don’t pause to process our emotions, we cannot evolve. But in order to evolve, we’re going to have to deal with our emotions.
We’re not living in the most comfortable of times. 2020 has been a doozy—and it’s only half over! Many are feeling overwhelmed by what’s happening in the news. It’s difficult to look very far into the future, but you also want to know what you can do to make this strange world work a little better.
There's an important aspect of all this crazy stuff going on many are forgetting—even in the trenches of activism, change, or life on the front lines. And that aspect is your feelings. Yes, that’s right: your emotions.
Now to be fair, it is not always safe to feel your feelings. When you are in crisis or trauma, sometimes your emotional system needs to shut down for a while. You can go numb by drinking, overeating, binge-watching TV, or overworking. You can also go numb by overconsuming information.
When you obsessively sift through the news without any space to process what you’re learning, you ride thrill after thrill, activating your fight-or-flight systems, and drowning your sadness, grief, rage, and shame in a wash of adrenaline and cortisol.
When you spend your days posting and reposting on social media, sharing without taking the time to look and feel deeply into a given issue, you are defending ourselves against something you do not want to feel. Overintellectualizing, overconsuming, and talking more than you are listening are all strategies to avoid overwhelming emotions.
That’s okay. There’s a reason for it. You are trying to survive something that feels unsurvivable. You're trying to understand something you don't yet have the capacity to understand.
The world is a wild, wild place right now. The problem is, when you don't pause to process your emotions, you cannot evolve. You do not shift into understanding. You do not access empathy—and without empathy, you cannot work toward change within and between communities.
When you are in a constant state of fight-or-flight—flailing on the outside, full of sound and fury, appearing to do a lot of stuff—you are actually frozen on the inside. You are not moving. You are stuck in a stance of self-protection. You cannot listen or learn. You cannot imagine a better way forward. You are frozen in fear.
And, again, of course you are doing this. Fear is there for a reason. It is trying to protect your body from harm. Rage is there for a reason. It tells you something is not right, something is unjust, something needs to change. These emotions are necessary.
But in order to evolve as a species and a community, we’re going to have to do it with our emotions. All of us. On both sides of the divide. We have to pull out our shame, fear, anger—even hope—and look at it in the clear light of day. We need time to allow these feelings to move through our bodies so that we can shift into the next stage of our development as individuals and as a human race.
So, yes, you must keep fighting. You must keep learning. You must not hide from the strange truths growing up all around all of us—terrifying us, and making us fear for the integrity of our bodies. But if you don't also slow down to reflect, to feel, to cry, to tell someone the truth about what happens for when you read the news, you won't be able to move past paralysis. Survival is always going to come first. But evolution, I hope, comes next.
Read about why you should lean into stress.