“It’s important that what thoughts you are feeding into your mind because your thoughts create your belief and experiences. You have positive thoughts and you have negative ones too. Nurture your mind with positive thoughts: kindness, empathy, compassion, peace, love, joy, humility, generosity, etc. The more you feed your mind with positive thoughts, the more you can attract great things into your life.”

Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

In the new world of instant information, we are being increasingly exposed to increasingly oppressive material. Much of the time this material is served to us on a platter marked “legitimate and important news for you from trusted sources.”

Like most people, I find top 5 and top 10 lists a fun and efficient way to find out quick information or glean the latest trends on any number of subjects. However, as a part of my research, I visited actual brick and mortar libraries filled with great information on the subject from the authority minds that know.

I have deep respect and appreciation for the individuals and writers who wrote the wonderful books from which I sourced additional, supporting information. However, with the internet and its instant access to almost anything at all might cause you to ask why I would bother with the actual library.

Well, dear reader, while there is a lot of information available on the Internet, I wanted to find factual instances recorded and published by others I felt had made it through a system of filters. Perhaps that’s why you’re reading this lengthy blog post now, instead of surfing the net for “top ten empathy tips”.

Of course, I found and included a lot of information that I did access via the Internet. However, I felt the integration of some of the books in the brick and mortar library with some of the older factual, and philosophical information on related subjects such as Narcissism and Neurotics which has been around considerably longer than any official studies on Empathy would be essential to delivering a thoroughly researched manuscript.

My husband and I went to the library and loaded ourselves up with piles of books on every related subject, great books too, some by very famous and well-respected authors! These books are instrumental in helping me to understand how to relate to my own readers some of the other great supporting material which is available and they may wish to also read.

However, in many books, I might even say in most of them, I’ve found that I have been exposed to some pretty harsh stories about the dark side of empathy. Some of which falls right in the middle of “What has been seen cannot be unseen” territory.

I guess this shocking content is a device of the authors relating the information to help make us aware of the serious experiences they or someone they know of have had in order for them to have required a change, either in themselves or as a precautionary tale for others.

I’m not denying that it may be necessary to divulge such harsh and horrific truths about serious experiences and conditions that sadly are all too real.

Now even if I did experience any one of those harsh circumstances these people related, and I mean really terrible, I would not be experiencing the mental anguish and fearful feelings of all of those saddening, maddening or frightful stories, all at once.

But I’m an individual, sitting in a comfy room with no one harming me or subjecting me to anything, even unpleasant, let alone oppressive. And yet, I did empathically experience those things to the degree that they won’t be easy to wipe from memory.

“Oh, they’re just stories about things,” you may say. Giving due respect to the author of any book you may find in the bookstore, you may give the negativity or harsh violence carte blanche, citing that the subject matter of such a serious nature requires that nothing short of an in-depth and closeup look will do.

You also might find yourself to be exposed to the kind of negativity and harsh disregard for human experience that a great many people in this world face daily. This exposure may be causing you to become emotionally calloused and lose your natural empathy, or conversely, emotionally bruised and become so sensitive that you become uncomfortable even risking another encounter with these harsh stories, images, people, etc.

And you can probably blame those sources you thought were innocents right off the bat… the news.

No, the news is not really your enemy. Back in the day when I used to watch the news more often, I found that I liked a lot of the segments. I liked feeling “in the know”. I liked being up to date. Until I found that most of the things we’re exposed to on a regular basis can very much affect us.

Now here’s the question, if you’re a truly empathic person and you want to do whatever you can about all of the world’s ills, can you actually do something?

You Have To Choose Your Battles

Let’s follow that same thread of thought to progress the idea behind this adage, “You have to choose your battles.” Let’s now make a substitution and take out the word battles, and replace it with the words mind space.

“You have to choose your mind space.”

I mentioned here in another post that I conducted a personal experiment in taking a bit of time back from some of my social media channels and other news in general. I found that when I’m only searching for academic material or other focused searches, I am just not exposed to the same number of atrocities as looking at mainstream TV news or online news.

I found it nearly impossible to avoid being exposed to some of the most horrific stories I’ve ever heard, on a daily basis! Each day of exposure ensuring I get an unasked for dose of gore and atrocity.

Watch for it yourself, every day. You’ll know the image when you see it, and you might be surprised at just how regularly that emotional button is getting pushed. Once you see it happening to yourself, you will be better equipped to notice if you are getting calloused or bruised.

We have to be vigilant of our exposure to even the most trusted media sources. Gone are the days when the body of a slain person from a war-torn country might not accidentally-on-purpose slip through the filters during a TV news report. If children are watching, how do we expect it will affect them?

Did I need to see that, or even just hear about that, story. If you lived in an earlier time, access to knowledge of all of the bad things that happen in the world would not be available to you. You might find out about a few horrible happenings. You would be less likely to be mentally bombarded with every intimate detail of all of the world’s worst acts committed upon others, all at once, every night at five, six and eleven. With retrospectives on slow news days.

Wow. How many 20 minute batches of time is that in a day? In a week? In a year? In a lifetime? You have to choose your mind space.

But you say, I have to pay attention so that I remain up to date. I want to be “in the know” and feel good about how I may be able to “be there”, to participate, and help the world by watching.

If you truly feel that you need to stay exposed to violence and negativity in order to help those inflicted with them, I commend you. If I were as strong as you and I wanted to help others, I would sign petitions, join rallies, donate monies, march for the cause and help organize functions to help increase awareness and advocacy of my chosen interest. In fact, I do participate in some of the above mentioned helpful practices. But I stay away from the news.

Now I believe that even if you have the energy of ten people, and that even if you can involve yourself in many multi-tasking situations effectively that you will still not be able to cure all of the world’s problems.

Maybe you find that you do not feel overwhelmed by too much exposure to media and that this does not affect you. However, continued exposure to any kind of media, good or bad, does incrementally affect how we see the world. So even if unlike me, you’re not knowingly disturbed by negative media, you may still be (and likely are) affected by it.

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  • LINDSEY LIEB

    CEO and Founder of Happego

    : lindsey@happego.app

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