Sunday, October 18, 2009

Getting Out of Sync, part 2

Yesterday I described what can happen when your life resonates with the outside world and how to minimize the potential for entanglement by either reducing the level of detail in your story or by saving the story for afterward. The same principle works in reverse. Simply put, if a story upsets you, it is better not to follow so closely while it’s happening.

As I like to emphasize frequently, it is important to put the biggest part of your attention on what you are doing and on situations where there is something you can do. That’s important because the quality of your life depends mostly on the quality of your action, and you can improve your action by paying more attention. It’s a problem, then, when a story resonates with you so well that it grabs your attention, even though there is effectively nothing you can do about it.

A friend, after reading yesterday’s post, recounted her experience of watching the satellite pictures of Hurricane Katrina at the point when it was the largest hurricane ever seen in the Gulf of Mexico and appeared to be just three days out from the Mississippi Delta and New Orleans, an area that would take three days to evacuate because it was a three-hour drive to get to higher ground. The area was just starting to think about evacuating, and my friend imagined herself in the city, rallying everyone she knew to get out of town while there was still time. In reality, though, she was not there and knew no one who was still in harm’s way. She stayed up late into the night watching the news reports, gripped by the drama of the situation, but there was nothing constructive she could really do.

This happens when a story we come across resonates with something we are already feeling. The story might be a disaster, rescue, injustice, controversy, prediction, competition, or campaign. It does not matter whether the story comes to us through mass media or a personal account. We can get entangled in the story and lose track of where we are, and forget how separate our own situation is.

It is common enough for people to worry and lose sleep over news stories that psychologists have a range of suggestions and solutions to offer. The most basic thing you can do to protect yourself, though, is to get out of sync with the story. That is, don’t follow the events in real time as they are happening. Keep yourself updated in a way that is suitable the distance between the story and where you are. If there is a huge fire in your own town, it is probably prudent to keep up with the latest developments once per hour. But if the fire is three counties away, there is probably no reason to follow it more closely than a few minutes once a day.

Creating this distance is easier said than done. When a story resonates strongly, it seems larger and more important than it is. One way to put a story in a more constructive context is to ask, “How much will my actions affect the way it comes out?” If a certain kind of story always seems to grab you and distract you, you might try to find out why you resonate so strongly with it. What is the pattern and where does it come from?

If you look at this in terms of law of attraction, being a resonant match for a random story from a distance means you are not being a very strong resonant match for the things you are trying to accomplish. You can improve your own success by reducing your resonance with stories that don’t really involve you or the things you want for yourself.

Whether you look for this level of insight, the basic technique is still to avoid following the story in real time if it does not involve you directly. Continue to follow the story, but day by day rather than minute by minute. When a story bothers or upsets you, just getting out of sync with the story takes away most of the effect that the story might have on you.