I’ve been thinking about this article on How Not to Say the Wrong Thing. The concept is simple, if someone is closer to a tragedy or source of emotional pain than you are, you should not vent your feelings in their direction. Instead you should do your venting and emotional sorting to someone who is further away than you. It is a good concept and works very well with personal situations.
The trouble comes when there is an emotional event of National or International proportions. We’ve had a barrage of these recently: mass shooting in Orlando, bomb in Iraq, bomb in Saudi Arabia, bomb in Turkey, Brexit, the deaths of black men by the hand of police officers, and now the shooting of police officers in Dallas. I’m sure I’ve missed something. When an event of this proportion hits, it is hard to tell who among our acquaintances is closer to the epicenter of damage. This means anyone who vents on the internet is likely to accidentally dump inward on someone who is also hurting. I watched the wife of a police officer be wounded by the mother of a black son and vice versa. They both needed to be able to sort their feelings, speak their fears, but ended up making each other more upset.
I am also thinking about this article on What it Really Means to Hold Space for Someone. It describes what it means to hold space open for someone else to grieve and process emotions. It also taps into the Dump Out Comfort In paradigm in a description of how people who are holding space for others also need someone to hold space for them.
I don’t know how to hold space for everyone who is injured in a giant event. I don’t think a single person can. I do think it is possible for me to read the angry words of a friend and try to reserve my judgement and anger. I can learn to recognize that the opinions expressed in the grip of strong emotion are going to be more radical and extreme than the person would usually allow. If the person is allowed space, they are more able to talk themselves down from the extreme. If they are forced to defend their statement, they’re more likely to become entrenched in it.
I’m worn out from the tumult and from all the emotions I’ve felt at each wave of news. Reading my social media streams is a storm of emotions battering away at any calm I try to maintain. In contrast, the world outside my computer is unchanged. My flowers are growing, I have packages to ship, I have the minor crises associated with mental health to manage. My neighborhood is not the scene of any of the tragedies. Reconciling it all is complex, I’m not certain how I will sort it. I just know that hasty action will not make things better. I shall strive to be like the Ents in Lord of the Rings (which I’ve been re-watching), slow and considered in the way that they approach the world, but decisive and unstoppable once action is decided upon. I have lots of feelings, I need to match them with actions that will make the world better.