In my twenties, I watched a lot of TV. As those were my making babies-nursing-babies years, you could find me in the world’s most comfy leather recliner trying to de-stress from a hard day marketing and advertising wares; babe on boob, eyes glued to the boob tube. I watched a lot of true crime shows, 20/20 et al.
While I was feeding my babies, I was inadvertently feeding my pain body. I had no idea I had a “pain body” until Eckhart Tolle in A New Earth, explained what the ugly this was, and for me, it stuck like nothing else I’d read on the subject.
Any negative emotion that is not fully faced and seen for what it is in the moment it arises does not completely dissolve. It leaves behind a remnant of pain. … This energy field of old but still very-much-alive emotion that lives in almost every human being is the pain-body. (pp.141-142)
I like Todd Haven’s post on the concept on beliefnet, excerpted here:
Emotion is energy. Thought is energy. Negative energy has to go somewhere (unless you’re a duck and you can flap your wings [pp.137-139]) and so it goes within and chums around as part of the ego. We can call it a pain-body and it’s wise to know about it since we, ultimately, mistake the pain-body for ourselves from time to time.
Loving bad news is of the pain-body. Many, if not most, news outlets quite consciously don’t sell news…they sell negative emotion. Periodically I’ll look at the homepage of a trusted news source and just read negative term after negative term and remind myself that that is not a representation of what the world is really like, but rather a tabloid-sensibility existing for purely economical reasons. (Bold, mine. I mean, seriously, amen to that.)
I studied A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle when Oprah included it in her book club. You could say it was a turning point for me. Many things began clicking, things I’d started years before, letting go of negative emotion and negative stories on a wicked reel in my mind. One of my favorite quotes I latched on to in 2001: “I won’t let circumstances dictate my joy.”
But I hadn’t fully grasped what I was doing to myself -feeding negative energy into my OCD brain. I’m an excessive thinker and I had to stop negative thoughts from being what I obsessed over. I have to be careful what I let in because it causes a tornado that’s hard to dissipate.
Another highlighter moment in Tolle’s book: “Do you want peace or drama?” That one was an arrow to my heart. I was done, done, done with the drama, but removing it from our lives can feel like stripping tar from our skin. It took awhile. Now, thankfully, I keep the drama in my stories.
When people start conversations that begin with, “did you hear about?” I typically will stop them and tell them if it’s about violence or acts against a child, I don’t want to hear it.
Am I just putting my finger in my ear and yelling ‘la-la-la-la-la?” Well, yes and no. I mean, bad things happen EVERY DAY, EVERYWHERE. I’m not “shocked” by the news, though it thrives on shock value, and it’s only getting worse. Yes, the news is heartbreaking, but do I want to live my life being “heartbroken” over every bad thing that happens? No. It’s not being insensitive – but just the opposite. I’m too sensitive to the news, I can’t control what happens, I don’t want to play “what if” to avoid that happening to me, because, friend, I’ve been there-done that since I was a little girl. IT DOESN’T WORK. I went to bed every night with bad thoughts and didn’t even realize how paralyzed I was in fear and anxiety until I was an adult.
So, yeah, writing is my outlet and by studying neuroscience (and neuromarketing for my career as a marketer, brand strategist and author) I understand more about how the human brain works, what triggers us to do and say the things we do. It’s given me the lightbulb moments for my own life that makes it not only bearable when truly shitty things happen, but being able to coast through it with grace and a positive attitude. Not to say I have a slap-happy smile on my face all the time, either. Hell, no. But what I’ve learned to do is to curate what goes in and control what comes out. We are what we think. We’ve all heard that.
My solution: opt out. Though it’s tempting to click on the kajillion articles about the latest BIG BAD WOLF story out there (right now it would be the Aurora mass murderer), why spend even one moment on that story when you could be living life with those who love and need you and SERVING YOUR PURPOSE?
True, I deal with ugly situations through creative writing, but there is a happy – or satisfactory -ending. I have control over what happens. When did I stop watching true crime shows for good? When I turned on the news one night and I knew the person who had been murdered. Not only knew him, but loved him. (God’s love.) Yeah, he got a slew of national shows devoted to his murder. His wife (and her lover) are behind bars. But I’m no longer watching.
I am fascinated by human behavior – one of the many reasons I love to write – but I cannot let the negative aspects of it spill over into my real life. I must keep it on the page and live my real life in the present moment as much as possible. I cannot tell you how much this change has impacted my life. I get more accomplished, I’m more successful, my relationships are more rewarding, I value my family more (without thinking harm will come to them), I’m happier with the little things and less jarred by the bad things; I’m more creative than ever. I’ve opened up a channel that was blocked before.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Are you addicted to bad news? What purpose does it serve you? What are some joyful things you could be doing instead?