Written by: Jorinde Berben
Image credit: Jorinde Berben
I’m a sensitive person, in all areas of life. I’m sensitive to smell, noise, other people’s emotions and the possibility of rejection. My sensitivity is in many ways my greatest strength: it helps me connect to others, empathise, care deeply about nature and enriches my creative abilities. It also makes some things much harder, such as dealing with the bad in this world: the horrors of war, human trafficking, abuse of power, deliberate cruelty, exploitation of natural reserves, etc.
There are times when the knowledge of all this bad stuff is so overwhelming I feel physically sick. It can also make us feel powerless, enraged and desperate. All feelings we would choose to avoid if we could, right? And in this case, we can, right? We can choose not to watch the news and avoid reading about the evils of this world. We can focus on the positive, on beauty, on love, knowing that we are increasing that which we nurture. It’s tempting, and necessary as well, but there’s also an important reason not to close our eyes to the bad things that are happening.
See, if we are not willing to see something, we can’t possibly muster any motivating to change it. It takes knowing the ins and outs of a bad thing to turn it into something good. We have a greenhouse in our garden that is often victim to pests. It takes researching the diseases on each plant to learn how to remedy them. And yes, the problems of this world are far more complex than leaf blight, but it still takes understanding them to deal with them, not looking the other way.
‘Alright,’ you say, ‘but what about all those problems we can do absolutely nothing about? I feel powerless in the face of large banks, political parties or criminal organisations. What can I possibly do to change any of that?’
And you’re absolutely right. Often, there is nothing we can change about the situation. There will be victims of these events, and there’s nothing we can do about that. Except be there. And that is less trivial than it sounds.
When someone has been the victim of terrible events, abuse of any form, exploitation or disaster, they need their pain acknowledged. When we refuse to look at the severity of what has happened to people, we can’t validate their experience. If we refuse to believe that children are being trafficked, we cannot listen to their stories and let them share their experience. And it matters. Deeply.
So what can you do when you feel like there’s nothing you can do? You can appreciate all that IS good in this world: the fact that you have food on the table, people who love you, children who are safe, bosses who value what you contribute. You can recognize that there are many, many more people who are also appalled by the bad in this world and wish for it to be different. You can find hope in the goodness of others, the beauty of nature and the resilience of the human spirit.
Of course, it is also important to take our own limits into account, here. There is no use in researching current slavery practices in Africa if you end up feeling paralyzed and are unable to function afterwards. And protecting our state of mind is also paramount. As someone who suffers from depression, I know that there are times in which I am just unable to deal with the news, and there have been weeks on end in which I did not read any news or didn’t turn on the radio.
I’m also aware of the tendency the media has to focus only on the negative, which can make our outlook on life very bleak. It helps keep large masses under control because it renders them hopeless and, as a result, often inactive. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t know about it. It just means we need the full picture to see truth.
As with everything in life, it’s about balance, about knowing yourself and knowing what will strengthen you as a person versus what will weaken you at that particular moment. I’ve found that being able to face adversity, in my own life but also in the lives of others and on a larger scale, has made me at the same time more sensitive to pain and better able to bear it. I’ve come to know it more intimately, and through that process, have also learned how to hold it better, for myself and for others, if that makes any sense at all.
Of course, this is just my opinion, my point of view. And it has evolved over the years, and will undoubtedly continue to do so.
In the meantime, I’m curious to hear what you think! Do you believe it’s better to avoid negative news altogether? What about events we are powerless to change?
As always, thank you for reading and have a lovely weekend!