A message from Will on collective stress and social media:
It seems lots of people have been struggling in recent weeks, and there is a real sense of collective destabilisation, and so if you’re feeling any of that, please know that you’re not alone and that you will get through it.
I’m also seeing it on social media, where the comments appear to be getting quite acute. It’s so interesting to observe the correlation between collective stress levels, and the amount of online antagonism that follows.
As a culture, we’re absolutely rubbish at taking responsibility for our sh*t. We’d much rather vent it somewhere, blame someone and possibly even gang together and bully an easy target for some perceived indiscretion.
Unfortunately, it leads to a lot of weaponisation. When someone is feeling emotionally triggered, one of their defence mechanisms is to try and find any strand of complaint, even if it’s from years ago, and weaponise it to distract from their own shortcomings, and to avoid having to deal with their stuff. The ego feels the need to protect itself from an uncomfortable truth, and so it uses attack as the best form of defence. But at what cost? When we unfairly and emotively attack someone, it leaves an imprint on them that may scar them for life. Either that scar rears its head later on, and they find themselves venting that negativity onto someone else, or they put their barriers up to protect themselves, but often those barriers stay up long after the situation has died down and they’re not as emotionally available to others, and likely not to themselves either.
This chain reaction of attack and defence then circulates throughout society, and we resort to tactics like passive aggressiveness, manipulation, or intellectual justifications for our so-called behaviour. And all the while, the emotional dominoes keep falling, and of course boomerang back to us before we’ve had a chance to catch our breath. It raises the temperature of our interactions, and instead of being a cooling influence on the dynamic, we may get sucked into the drama and add further heat.
You see this a lot, not only with the phenomena of weaponisation, but increasingly with a phenomena you could call Weapon Eyesation. This is where people are more and more earnestly on the lookout for somebody who did or said something ‘wrong’, and then hitting them with a verbal or digital volley. It’s no longer overtly about defence…their situation is clearly so acute that they actively and hypervigilantly need to go looking for trouble, for something to raise their hackles and for them to be able to self righteously bring down their newfound adversary.
By constantly having an enemy. By constantly being engaged in some kind of battle, such a person never has to look in the mirror, and address what they’ve been avoiding for so long. It can actually get to the stage where they take a perverse pleasure in winding other people up. We can get a sense of feeling elevated, any time we put others down. But the sense of elevation is a very low grade, egoic one. Our heart doesn’t get elevated. Our true sense of self doesn’t get elevated. It is the faux, surface-level sense of self that we construct to win people’s favour and to try and earn their respect and love, that enjoys a momentary sense of inflation. But this house of cards rarely convinces us, or others of our true worth, and this uncomfortable truth eats away at us, and may cause us to habituate our toxic jousts with others.
So if you find yourself encountering such dynamics, maybe step back from adding fuel to the fire and contributing, and instead, use the situation as a mirror to see if there is any element of you that wants to get stuck in and ask yourself why.
Notice when you are feeling defensive, hostile, indignant, and ask yourself, what insecurities are driving this behaviour? Are you feeling hostile towards yourself? Are you feeling vulnerable? The first step to being a better human is owning what you feel. Use meditation, journaling and any other techniques you’ve learned to tune in to the underlying feelings that are colouring your thoughts, words and actions. And rather than amping up the situation by venting negativity on others, find a way to transmute the feelings by acknowledging them, and give yourself a break for not yet being the perfect human you seemingly wish to be.
Spread love, compassion and kindness, not criticism, judgement or hatred. As the hippies used to say, make love, not war. For when it comes to matters of love and truth, I’d rather be a hippy than a hypocrite.
Let this be a summer of love!