Monday, July 21, 2014

Escaping the Fog of War

News channels are overrun with war news this month, and it is easy to get caught up in the narrative of missiles, fires, machine guns, secret payments, show trials, dead bodies, and debris. Keeping up with the world’s news is good in principle, but it has become a problem if you are anxiously awaiting each day’s news hoping for a quick or clear resolution that may not be on the way anytime soon. The stress that goes with this level of emotional involvement in war news can match the stress of actually being directly involved in a war. You can feel helpless focusing so much energy on problems that are too far away for you to do anything about, with too little information for you to know with any confidence what is really going on.

The answer is to tear yourself away from the news and make up a simplistic story for the way it might all work out. I admit this is completely counterintuitive if you are in this situation. It sounds as if you are escaping from reality into fantasy. It is actually close to the opposite of this, though. The value of the made-up story about the distant news is that it makes it possible to return your focus to your work, your daily challenges, and things you have some control over. In other words, it helps you get back to reality, or at least the reality that matters in terms of the quality of your life and your ability to improve the world around you.

Don’t be afraid to completely tune out the news for days at a time if that’s what it takes. There is a very good chance that you won’t miss much. After all, a big part of the reason why war news is so dominant right now is that it is summer, people are on vacation, and news rooms are having trouble finding any news of real substance.