Social Question

Linda_Owl's avatar

How can a person keep from feeling overwhelmed by all of the negativity that surrounds us today?

Asked by Linda_Owl (7743points) June 26th, 2011
49 responses
“Great Question” (10points)

We are constantly bombarded by negative news about our out-of-touch & unfeeling government, news about the damage we are inflicting on our environment, news concerning the intolerance represented by all religions, news about looming shortages of food & fuel, news about the dire straights of a too large percentage of the people in the world, news about the decline in education levels, news concerning the increasing negative attitudes towards women (& those whose gender does not fit into the neat boxes society imposes), news about the continuing wars in which the US is fighting, etc. Realistically, how does the ordinary person deal with this inundation of situations over which we have no personal control? We can see all of the problems, but unless you have some level of personal wealth, you can do very little about ANY of these problems. So, how does one cope with the ocean of negative news? Ignoring it will not make the actual situations go away & ignoring it will not prevent the actual situations from having an impact on you – so how does one keep from crawling inside of themselves in frustration & desperation?

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marinelife's avatar

Avoid the news.

Linda_Owl's avatar

Unfortunately, marinelife, avoiding the news will not lessen its impact upon me.

poisonedantidote's avatar

My personal secret, is I just don’t give a shit anymore.

As I go about my day to day life, I just let incidents slide off me. I have my own thoughts and phylosophy on it all, and I just remind my self that in 30 billion years, when the universe evaporates in to nothingness, and time collapses, my problems wont seem as bad as they do at the moment.

It’s not that I let my self get pushed about, I will fight for things, and go through the motions, but deep down I don’t really care. I just have my goal, and while I may look angry, or excited, I’m not really, It’s just manipulation to get me what I want. Except for rare cases when I lose it for real because I can’t let it slide anymore.

Some times someone will tell me “so and so’s child was abducted and killed”. and I’ll say “oh really? thats terrible”... But really, honestly, I can’t bring my self to actually care that much. From a logical point of view I can condemn It, I can appreciate the waste of life, but emotionally, It just wont affect me. Maybe thats desensitization, and maybe it’s something I should look in to. Who knows, all I know is it lets me get on with my day.

I’m guessing my argument boils down to having a thick skin, and I guess you could consider it the ignoring category, but honestly, it’s the way I actually am and think.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Why not devote some of your spare time to contributing to the well-being of others? It can be anything from recycling household items to donating time to a worthy community project.

filmfann's avatar

This question is kind of a downer. Do we have to call it Negativiity?
Isn’t there a more “up” way to describe it?
Instead of “Overwhelmed by Negativity”, how about “Blessed with Opportunity”?

zenvelo's avatar

“Think globally, act locally” is not just a catchphrase, it really affects one’s perspective. The world can be pretty overwhelming, one way to avoid the burden is to focus on what is going on within reach of you.

It’s a beautiful day here, and getting out in nature will let me see the wonder of the world. A little physical exercise will feel great Marriage equality is now the law in New York. My gay and lesbian friends and neighbors are all celebrating pride weekend.

I can take joy in my children that they are becoming great young adults.

These are the days of miracle and wonder! ~Paul Simon

whitenoise's avatar

By looking at the enormous positivity around us as well. And of course by realizing one’s own relativity.

Anyways…. We as an individual are not the center of the universe, so we don’t need to take on the universe either. Look around you and focus on the things that are under your control and change these for the better. That should make you feel good. Reduce the amount of meat you eat. Pick up a piece of trash you come across in the street and be nice to the people around you. Forgive someone. Little things like that.

Then open your eyes and take in the wonder of every day life. Such as the beauty in the eyes of someone you care for, or in the way life always finds a way.

Don’t focus on the big misery. Take on the small.

probably the sleaziest post I ever wrote, but nevertheless straight from the heart

whitenoise's avatar

@zenvelo funny… You were simultaneously writing pretty much a same kind of post I wrote. Cannot help but fully agree with you. GA

Roby's avatar

Watch Fox will see the truth as it is not as they ( the liberal news networks, ABC, CBS, NBC)... want you to see it

WasCy's avatar

Actually, @Linda_Owl, the advice that @marinelife gave was spot on, and it will lessen the impact of the news on you. Because the fact is that far more things in our world “go right” every day (and day after day) than go wrong.

The “looming shortages” and “intolerance” and “impact on the environment” is all just dramatic wording for “life goes on”. Turn off the television, take a walk, stop and have an ice cream – and life goes on that way, too.

snowberry's avatar

Get to know yourself at the deepest most personal level. You cannot change the behavior of other people, but you can change how you are about it.

See my question regarding getting groped at the airport. I started out being extremely upset. It felt like I had been raped. It still does. But I am choosing to funnel all my upset into action. I will not let this thing die a natural death, because after all, it’s not about me. It’s one thing to grope an adult; they are doing this to little kids, and who knows the damage done to them?

“I also concede that I needed to experience it so I could understand the depth of evil that I encountered. It also educated me so I could educate others. I will be educating everyone I can think of (TSA people, my governmental leaders, and my friends, etc.) regarding what happened, and what must be done.”

dappled_leaves's avatar

I find a lot of American news is very negative from both sides… maybe try something international, like CBC or BBC. You’ll get the world news that will actually impact your life (and from a different perspective), yet be spared the constant partisan bickering that serves no real purpose. And there are good stories to be found there, too.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@snowberry has a point – if you are upset with what is happening politically at your local level, the most productive thing you can do is try to change it by becoming involved. Downside – that is likely to be more distressing than ignoring the problem, but upside – maybe you can effect some actual change, and you will at least feel that you have done what you can.

The_Idler's avatar

Find somewhere you can lead a healthy, sustainable, co-operative, subsistence life. Although you can’t change anything, you might feel better knowing that, if everyone were to do thus, most of these big problems would not exist.

whitenoise's avatar

@The_Idler “you can’t change anything”.

That’s not true, you just cannot change everything. :-)

SpatzieLover's avatar

I find zero negativity where I spend my time:
I spend a lot of time with animals and children. I spend oodles of time out in the sun while in my garden.

I avoid the news. I rid myself of toxic relationships. It can be done @Linda_Owl.

The_Idler's avatar

You should try living in a different country though. I find the whole social-economic-political-media system in the US really really fucks with people’s brains. Obviously, that’s the whole point, but simply knowing that doesn’t stop it messing with you.

The US is a scarily twisted society, but much more so when you’re inside it. Maybe you need to just go to a country with lower violent crime, fewer extremists, less prejudice & iniquity, and news programming that consists of substance, rather than cartoon scaremongering. Oh and it’s nice to live in places that aren’t plastered with billboards and corporate logos.

Even Canada is quite a bit better…
From a combination of factors, life outside the capitalist-democratic super-power is a lot more relaxed, and you’ll get a calm clarity of vision when looking back at the insane issues that plague American politics and society.

I find that, generally, in terms of being at ease with the world, the more the individual’s life revolves around co-operation, the better.

Your_Majesty's avatar

I always think that it all part of the reality and there’s nothing I could do about it. I don’t find most global issue as influencing toward my personal life. If it happens just let it happens and stop burden yourself with such unnecessary responsibilities.

ucme's avatar

The phrase Don’t let the bastards grind ya down seems appropriate.

_zen_'s avatar


SuperMouse's avatar

@Roby, did you tell the OP to watch Fox News to help her from feeling so overwhelmed by the negativity in the world? That is kind of like asking someone to smoke some cigarettes to help get over their fear of getting lung cancer.

_zen_'s avatar

Fox should be on Comedy Central. With its babelicious women and silly banter, it could be a great comic relief.

marinelife's avatar

@Linda_Owl Yes, it will. The news inflames negativity. If you hear of something big that happened, but two weeks has passed, it will have less impact on you. The positive things in your life will counterbalance the less negative that you hear.

Buttonstc's avatar

Johnny Mercer had the right idea so many years ago.

You’ve got to accentuate the positive,
Eliminate the negative,
And latch on to the affirmative,
Don’t mess with Mr. Inbetween.

You’ve got to spread joy up to the maximum,
Bring gloom down to the minimum,
Have faith, or Pandemonium’s liable to walk upon the scene.

It’s just as true today as it was then and successful enough to have been covered by a multitude of artists all through the years.

Must be something to it. It’s not necessarily the circumstances in which you find yourself, it’s the way you view them which is the determining factor.

That which you choose to focus upon expands. If all you focus on is negative, it will seem as if that’s all there is in the world.

Michael_Huntington's avatar

@ucme Upvote for Motorhead. You ace of spades.

dannyc's avatar

Remember that no matter how bad it seems, things are actually in many ways in better shape: less disease, no slavery, increasing rights for all people of all genders, persuasions, more connectivity and ability to dialogue with anyone in the world, a trend to increasing democracy… The news focuses on the negative, you do not need to do so. The world is not perfect, but we can all help a bit. Fluther is a good way.

ucme's avatar

@Michael Huntington That’s the way I like it baby, I don’t wanna live forever…..

flutherother's avatar

I spent two weeks once in a remote bit of the West coast of Scotland with no Internet, radio or TV. It was liberating, I can recommend it. It gives you a different perspective.

King_Pariah's avatar

Become more negative than everything around you then everything around you seems a bit better.

Linda_Owl's avatar

While I appreciate all of the suggestions you have made, it really does not change anything. The things that are going wrong will impact all of us (sooner or later). It may take a little longer here in the US, but it also might not since we have been used to a much higher standard of living than has a large portion of the world. Don’t take me wrong, I know that the world will continue to exist, but I think that the human’s ability to live on it may be on its way out (along with a large percentage of both the flora & the fauna). We, as a civilization, do not seem to have any cohesion, no true concern for each other – only the seeming need to succeed at the expense of someone else – no concern for the environment of our planet that makes it possible for us to live here. I do recycle everything that I can, I volunteered extensively until I broke my back (which definitely limited what I am capable of doing), I sponsored a child in Africa until she was taken by terroristic rebels when she was 13 yrs old, I have always tried to figure out who (among the candidates) was the best choice & I have always voted – but it just has not been enough to stem the tide of greed & unconcern on the part of our government & Wall Street. Trying to ignore the news is a waste of time (& watching/listening to FOX is DEFINITELY a waste of time!) – not knowing what’s happening is worse than not knowing. I cannot just up & leave the US for another country, all of my family is here (& besides that, no country is immune from the looming problems). Moving out of the city would be great (where I could at least garden & grow food), but I lack the financial resources to do this. So I am stuck along with everyone else, trying to ride out the storm. There simply are no easy answers.

SuperMouse's avatar

@Linda Owl so was your question rhetorical? P.S. My husband broke his neck (C5 complete) and has done more to improve his part of the world since his accident than most do in a lifetime.

Linda_Owl's avatar

No, my question was definitely NOT rhetorical – I was (& I am) seeking real answers as to how people are coping with the constant influx of negative information – I am looking for ways to deal with real world situations in order to not give up.

SuperMouse's avatar

So why poo-poo all the excellent advice? The reality of this world is that humans are forced to co-exist with pain and tragedy. The best any of us can hope for is to learn, grow, and hopefully leave the world (or at least our corner of it) a bit better.

WasCy's avatar

You’re definitely spending too much time hearing too much of the (too superficial and too-much-too-bad) news. The world is not going to hell (any more than it has always been since we started to communicate about it, tens of thousands of years ago), and in fact it is getting better and better for more and more people all the time. But you don’t hear about that on ‘the news’; all you hear about there is what is not going right – and there is admittedly a lot of that, too. But if that’s all you focus on, then that’s all you’ll ever know.

I’m going to be 58 this year. The world I live in now is not the one I was born into and raised in. In most cases it is far, far better. But if I chose to concentrate on all of the things that I used to take for granted, and have lost, it would break me down completely. The only world I like better than the one I’m in now is the one that I might wake up in tomorrow.

That’s not something that can be taught or commanded; it’s entirely up to you to want to or decide to change your outlook. When I wake up to a rainy Monday morning, for example (or even a rainy Saturday morning), then I’m as happy as I can be – just to experience it. It really is “all good”.

If I were facing continual pain or hunger then I might have to find a different way to maintain a positive outlook, but for now, any day I can wake up and get out of bed in the morning is a great day.

Linda_Owl's avatar

I apologize, SuperMouse, if you (or anyone else) thought that I was “poo-pooing” the suggestions that were made by those who responded. However none of us really have our own personal “corner” of our world – our globe has no corners, we are all interconnected – what affects one of us, affects all of us. Realistically, we must all assume responsibility for each other – it is the only hope that we have. And, WasCy, you are right about the condition of the world, but remember, just because the world will continue – it does not mean that people will be able to continue to live upon it. A large portion of the people on our world are experiencing continual pain, & continual hunger, and this is not being adequately addressed by those of us who are not – this is not being addressed because too many people fail to realize how interconnected we all are & until we do, the bad situations will continue to exist – I was, & I am, seeking ways in which to cope, in the hope that the bad situations all around the world, will improve.

GracieT's avatar

I volunteer- the people that I meet while doing volunteer work help me to keep a good attitude.

syz's avatar

I can only assume that the @Roby comment was a joke?

syz (35649points)“Great Answer” (3points)
woodcutter's avatar

I twist the cap off a pint of JD, and throw it somewhere, (the cap).

SuperMouse's avatar

@Linda Owl there is no need to apologize. I hope some day you will find something that truly inspired you to see past the troubles of this world and enjoy some of its beauty.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@Linda_Owl, the world is always going to have pain and despair in it. But it will also have joy and love and laughter, and ridiculous good fun. Humans have an extraordinary capacity to live alongside tragedy, whether it is up close and personal, or at a great distance (which it must always be, somewhere, at the very least). All you can do is to find a level of engagement that allows you to live with the difficult things. For some people, that means ignoring the pain of ourselves and others, for some it means rolling up their sleeves and combatting it every day. Most of us live somewhere between those extremes. We all do what we can in the moment, and what we can do changes a lot within a lifetime. You’ll find a way to cope, I promise. And you’ll laugh and love and have ridiculous good fun – which remember, is one of the things that does keep us going through difficult times.

Linda_Owl's avatar

That is part of the problem, SuperMouse, I do see the beauty that our world offers….. and I also know, dappled_leaves, that people do have an extraordinary capacity to continue to live despite tragedy. What I do not understand is the “why” – why do the despoilers of our planet not care about its beauty, why do the oppressive governments do the things they do to people? All I know is, that despite people’s capacity to love, to admire beauty, to struggle to live against over-whelming odds….. we could (& should) be doing so much better in our civilization by now. I thank all of you for your responses. I think I simply hit a really low point this morning & the problems of the world felt like they were closing in on all of us. Realistically, they are – but as it has been pointed out in your responses, each of us can only do what we can do to the best of our ability & once we have done that, we can tell those that we care about that we love them & try not to sink under the problems of the world.

jerv's avatar


I embrace my cynicism and try to make it humorous. I laugh so I don’t cry.

obvek's avatar

This last week, I have happened upon a few relevant concepts/ideas/people that may provide you with some answers. I can’t say I’ve applied them myself, but friends and family have enthusiastically. Beyond the following is my own feeling that this whole ball of wax is in large part about remembering who and what you are. There’s a bit of the Wizard of Oz in all this. You’re already wearing the ruby slippers, you just have to remember they are there and know what they are for.

Regarding understanding the role of the media it is useful to understand the work of Edward Bernays. The oft-ignored question to remember is “who” the negative messages are from. Remembering this helps discard a lot of fluff and junk. Look up “The Century of Self” on Google Video. It’ll drive this idea home in fine enough detail.

So I have sort of “white Buddhist” friends who recently introduced me to the work of Joanna Macy. She’s an 80 year-old philosopher/guru and activist who’s most significant narrative in recent times is the idea of The Great Turning. This is the idea that people around the world are waking up to the destructive path we have been on and who are working toward and desiring a shift away from industrial capitalism and consumerism as it exists today. Joanna Macy’s books, I believe, have fairly specific and prescriptive steps for being more joyful and creating change on different levels (including change within systems). From what I have gleaned, the process always begins with a moment to express or cultivate gratitude for one’s opportunity to experience life in this time.

Secondly, my “Asian Buddhist” relatives have introduced me to the world of Nichirin Buddhism and its ancillary organization called “Soka Gakkai” (meaning something like “value creating society”). Nichirin was a 13th century lower-class Buddhist who basically rebelled against the fat cat elites of his day (rulers and priests/monks). He believed leaders should serve the people and also sought far and wide for Buddhism’s highest teachings to raise the consciousness of the lower classes and bring more equality into the world. He was persecuted and jailed in his lifetime by the Japanese elite of his time, but managed to record thought and understanding of the Lotus Sutra, which he believed to be the highest or most important of the Buddhist Sutras.

Nichirin Buddhism was resurrected in the early 20th century by Japanese educators who saw it as a way to rebel against the imperialism and nationalism that permeated Japanese education and society (including state-sponsored Shintoism). From that came education, outreach, and political pushback via Soka Gakkai.

That all is just to say that Nichirin Buddhism is the “religion” or practice and that Soka Gakkai is an org that centers around Nichirin’s teachings.

Among Nichirin’s tenets is the idea of “turning poison into medicine.” I can’t get too prescriptive beyond the name of the idea, but the organization’s followers (including members of my family) embrace a three -prong practice of chant, education/study, and I don’t remember the third thing. But this excerpt from Wikipedia explains the relevance of the chant used:

Nichiren taught that by chanting “Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo”, which means, “Devotion to the mystic law of cause and effect through sound and vibration.” to the Gohonzon (御本尊), a mandala he inscribed with Chinese and Sanskrit characters representing the enlightened life of the True Buddha, anyone can bring forth their inherent Buddha nature and become enlightened.

My cousin, in particular, who is not a nutcase, believes this chant has helped him change his life significantly for the better.

I suppose this is all just to say that we are enticed in so many ways to give up our “Buddha nature,” however it is characterized, through the erosion of “true” spiritual practice and by ceding our spiritual power to those who deceive us with fear and chaos. Whether they are deluded or not is another story, but I have seen firsthand how both my white and Asian Buddhist friends have retained their sanity and personal power through rituals that keep their personal power and positivity top of mind. Certainly, tar much is preferable to trading it in for ritualized and habitualized worship of every ugly and evil news story.

Oh—also, Google “totalitarian agriculture.” Understanding this will help you understand that a root of the problems we are facing today were seeded (almost literally) thousands of years ago when agriculture rose to dominance. It’s just good perspective to realize this problem reaches further into the past than most of us try to imagine.

plethora's avatar

Stop watching the news, silly. You solved your own problem. The negativity comes via the news outlets that you watch and listen to. Their one goal is selling advertising time, so they broadcast whatever will attract listeners and watchers. And they are succeeding with you.

GabrielsLamb's avatar

@Linda_Owl I disagree somewhat. I avoid the news on purpose and usually the only way it ever directly impacts me is when someone feels the need to fill me in on the events aside from the news itself.

If I don’t personally know, it doesn’t matter.

but that being said it may impact the world, or my geographic location or other people around me but what you don’t know at times really genuinely can’t hurt you.

That being said it also prevents you from being a part of the solution, but that too is a sacrifice that at times affords you the sanity you need to be proactive in other ways.

Sometimes the news can just be nothing more than a useless endless drag on the spirit.

snowberry's avatar

And honestly, the media is so hell bent on selling news rather than reporting it, they will just avoid telling the truth (it’s not as interesting), and interview someone who has a controversial opinion, but no facts to back it up. We’ve lived through 2½ years of that nonsense.

GabrielsLamb's avatar

@snowberry Hence every single instance of having to fight your way through Home Depot every supposed catastrophic storm that is supposedly about to hit that almost never does…

*Except for Catrina… I think they dropped the ball on the magnitude of that mess QUITE!

dabbler's avatar

Grasshopper, experience equanimity in all your life and be overwhelmed by nothing.

Fill the void with @jerv‘s method of “embrace… cynicism and try to make it humorous. I laugh so I don’t cry.” Or smoke a doob – One way or another If you laugh enough you might get distracted from your existential angst. [ August is existential angst month, are you in training? ]

Nullo's avatar

Easy. Be overwhelmed by wonder, instead. Look for something that you don’t understand, and study the sucker until you could write your own book. Then find something else.

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