chaos of everything happening

What To Do When The News Scares You: How To Process The Chaos Of Everything Happening In The World

I have been feeling the undercurrents of polarisation for a couple of years now, but just as I did as a child, I squeezed my eyes shut, hoping the waves wouldn't rise. 

It’s too late now. Over the past few months, those undercurrents have become a tsunami - engulfing everything in its wake - that I can’t ignore them anymore at the risk of feeling overwhelmed. It seems that I am drowning in the socio-political horror movie that we are all living (and by we, I mean the world), and I’ve been unable to catch my breath. It has taken me literally months to put into words this soul-crushing feeling. 

I had been reading headlines and hundreds of posts. Taking in snippets of current events this way can have a corrosive effect on the mind, leaving us feeling fragmented and emotionally drained. We scroll, we click, we consume, perpetually convinced that we're informed. But we still need to process it all. 

And the shocking, crushing news?

It doesn't vanish (like the fleeting headlines do on our newsfeeds). It claws its way in, leaving lasting scars beyond the bite-sized tweets and memes.

There is the visceral feeling - gut-wrenching grief, the searing pain of anguish, the helplessness, the hate, the rage, the violence, the threats, the deaths. There is also the relational fallout - the "how could you" and "how could you not". Sure, there are strangers becoming foes on a screen, but there are also connections and relationships built over decades that are being torn apart. 

It’s like the world is experiencing a severe case of cognitive dissonance. Now, let me digress and tell you a story. A scientist named Festinger pretended to join a doomsday cult in the 1950s. The cult leader said the world would end on a specific date, and people believed her, even quitting their jobs, selling their houses, and giving away their stuff. On the big day, nothing happened! 

But instead of getting angry, the group got stronger in their beliefs. The leader just said the world was saved thanks to their "goodness," and everyone went along! It seems kind of crazy, right? What is even scarier is that these findings do not seem to be any different from the world we live in today.  It feels like currently every person is doubling down on their belief system unwilling to hear (or heal). I wonder if there is a single person who doesn’t feel misunderstood now.

See, as human beings, we are not meant to process conflict and trauma this way: devoured in bite-sized chunks, trapped in our echo chambers, where nuance dies a silent death. And so I must go back to what I know will help me and what will help me help others: Listening

Yes, I am listening. Listening to conversations, stories, and people; often even to voices that are different from mine. Reaching out to people within and outside my circle, reading long articles of people who can help me find my centre. We're all trying to understand each other and connect human to human. Building strong bonds despite the divisions. Turning towards each other, not away from conflict. As Peter Levine says, "Trauma thrives when there's no one to listen with empathy.” 

What I am constantly thinking about is what can I do when the voice that I hear is so different from mine, especially when it’s filled with so many strong feelings and opinions with the inability to share or hear. What can I do when all my logic is deemed redundant? No matter how much I explain. The only tools I have are to listen intently and hope that the act someday is modelled so that it leads to a world where more than one voice is tolerated. Maybe, that’s the beginning of peace.

Amid devastating conflict, here are some things that you can do: try reaching out to someone in your life whom you know is close to the conflict, and not just those in your circle. You don’t need to make a point instead make a difference. 

What matters is that you show you care and listen.

Sometimes, that’s all that matters.


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Zahra Diwan

Zahra has over 4 years of experience working with clients within the therapeutic framework. She works extensively with young adults, and maintains a diary on Things That Help Us which is collation of insights she gains in therapy.

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