Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Not Getting Distracted By Events and Decisions Outside Your Control

“Government want to tell you things you can't say because they're against the law, or you can't say this because it's against a regulation, or here's something you can't say because it’s a...secret; "You can't tell him that because he's not cleared to know that." Government wants to control information and control language because that's the way you control thought, and basically that's the game they're in."  - George Carlin

I've brought up a lot of sobering or politically charged subjects thus far, and I imagine some are thinking I'm some neurotic, raving mess worrying about all this crap. The truth is I keep my sanity by maintaining a level of emotional distance from subjects I recognize are beyond my ability to do anything about, and focus more on the things I can control in my life.

I think it’s no coincidence that mainstream news and government spend an awful lot of their time talking about subjects that are beyond our ability to control or influence in any meaningful way. And it’s also no coincidence that these same subjects tend to be divisive and quick to bring anger and/or fear to the surface. Politics is the most blatant example of this, but other things like the MH-17 crash fiasco I wrote about yesterday are their bread and butter as well.

The idea is to promote a general feeling of powerlessness in the audience. Once overwhelmed with such messages, the common reaction is one of fear and/or anger which tends to lead one to seek help or protection or answers. And what a coincidence, here’s a government mouthpiece telling you “don’t worry, just give us a chance and we’ll protect you and make it all better”. And hey, here is the nice TV news anchor, saying “yes it’s a crazy world, and that’s why you need to keep watching us so we can tell you everything that threatens you”. The motives behind the approach are obvious; the government tends to be given more influence and power, and the corporate media gets more influence and money. I don’t necessarily attribute evil intentions behind this approach and it doesn’t require any dark conspiracy. There are probably a great number of people in both media and government who honestly think they have a higher goal which justifies the means (seeing themselves as protective parents perhaps). But it still doesn’t change the fact that they do not trust you, the people, to analyze the information and form your own opinions on your own. And to be honest I agree that a great many Americans are terrible at forming their own, reasoned opinions. But is it because the majority in society are just inherently unable to make good decisions and operate independently, or is it because they’ve been conditioned into mental slumber by decades of said “guidance”? Obviously I believe that latter is the case and that we have to cut the cord at some point, no matter how painful the initial learning curve might be.

Some of you might be familiar with the terms Circle of Influence and Circle of Concern (if I’m not mistaken the terms are from Steven Covey’s book). For those who aren’t, the Circle of Concern includes the multitude of subjects and things that we care about, and the Circle of Influence includes the things we actually have some control over. The problem is that our Circle of Concern is usually a much smaller group than our Circle of Control… i.e. the things we care about far outnumber the things we have any influence or control over. And that area of the Circle of Concern that lies outside the boundaries of our Circle of Influence is where many people typically get distracted and expend too much of their energy worrying or arguing about. We argue at length about political decisions we have no real voice in, wars and military campaigns we have no ability to stop or change the outcome, and economic troubles that are beyond the scope of any one person to appreciably change. 

The first step in grabbing back full control of one’s life is to determine what issues are beyond your Circle of Influence and make every effort to not obsess over them. Of course you can, and should, still care about and keep informed on the issues. For example, I care a great deal about the US beating the war drums in its handling of the MH-17 crash, the incredible fragility of the national and global economy, the overwhelming abuses and growth of the surveillance state, and the multitude of other BS that goes on. But it’s all about recognizing when you start getting angry or anxious over it and then taking a step back. Or for that matter, recognizing when someone else is getting upset and disengaging from any discussion or debate before they get lost in their anger or fear. One of the red flags I've learned to recognize is that anyone who watches cable news 3 or more hours in the day (doesn't matter which flavor, Fox or CNN or whatever) is someone who probably flies off the handle with any number of topics.

The second step is finding some reasonable actions one can take to mitigate the impact of some of those things beyond our Circle of Influence, and then move on with life. I may not be able to do jack squat about an economy on the precipice of systemic breakdown, but I can build up a savings to insulate me from job loss and I can plan a path to financial self-sufficiency through starting my own business. I can't do anything about the coming energy and resource shortages the world is starting to face, but I can adapt beforehand to use less energy and gas and find small ways to become a little more resilient (like having a solar panel & battery system or having extra food stored away) in the face of shortages or high prices. Once you reduce your exposure to some of these big things out of your control, the fear and anger tends to abate and is becomes easier to maintain emotional distance.

So spend more time in your Circle of Influence and a lot less time watching the news and listening to your elected douchebags. Or at least if you have to watch them, make a drinking game out of it. Take a drink every time the politician says "the American people", "hard-working taxpayers", or "terrorists"... just make sure you don't have a place you need to be for a while.

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