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  • Marie Trout

How to Survive the News during a Pandemic

These days, when I watch the news, I often end up feeling emotionally charged. I feel powerless and confused. I feel tribal, overwhelmed, fearful, alone, and depressed. I feel sold to.

I don’t know who to believe, what to think, and what to do.

All commercial or cable news programs are designed to keep us watching. They hook us with taglines and cliffhangers right before cutting to commercials.

Cable news channels:

· Provide information that is designed to match our political leanings and further our outrage.

· Play on our emotions and manipulate our understanding by having opinions of talking heads color facts with opinions and interpretations.

· Flash scary-looking messages across the screen accompanied by attention-getting jingles.

· Encourage people they interview to share their indignation. Like bullfighters agitating the bull, they drive the conversation in ways that keep us adrenalized.

· Repeat the same message again and again, which manipulates us to accept it without questioning its validity.

Some channels additionally:

· Feature almost exclusively the talking points of people whose agenda is to make democracy and government fail and who want federal programs and institutions gone. They decry publicly funded healthcare, social and environmental programs, and many kinds of oversight. They root for corporatism and unregulated private enterprise.

When watching commercial news, my blood pressure rises and adrenaline pumps through my body. I am hypnotized, entertained, reeled in, and my emotions are in uproar. In that state, I feel disconnected from any form of inner guidance or wisdom.

So what to do?

At a time when information and situations are in flux and constantly change, it is important to stay informed. This is my survival guide for news acquisition:

1.I limit my exposure to cable news. I still watch here and there, but as soon as I feel myself getting “hooked” and emotionally engaged, I turn it off.

2.I check in with my local government for updates and news regarding the current pandemic. For national developments, I check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website and that of the World Health Organization to get a global perspective. Since I have family in Denmark, I also check the Danish Health Department.

3.I have various apps on my phone that allows me a selection of news and articles from various countries, including the US. I skim through and pick sources that offer backup reference for facts, and provide analysis and not opinion.

This kind of news acquisition is boring, but it allows me to stay in touch with my faculties rather than feeling sold to.

Now, being informed, I still feel unsettled and afraid. The situation around us right now is not comforting. But there is a difference between having our emotions manipulated by others, and having our emotions engaged because the situation calls for it.

The problem right now is that there is very little we can do. The facts make us agitated and afraid, while the best advice from authorities is to stay at home and hope for the best.

It is counter to what our emotions tell us, which is: RUN, FLEE!

Being locked in our homes, we are deprived of many of our usual diversion tactics and distractions. We are forced to face ourselves.

The situation calls for wisdom and wise action.

Wisdom is difficult to define. It frames our experiences. Here are ten ways to recognize it.

1.Wisdom emerges when we have digested the facts enough that our emotions no longer call all the shots.

2.Wisdom calls on our experience to add perspective to what we observe.

3.Wisdom relies on our intuition to see beyond that which is obvious.

4.Wisdom leads to insights that offer a sense of peace rather than agitation.

5.Wisdom sees different perspectives and factors them into a more complex and nuanced context.

6.Wisdom is never uniform. You cannot create organizations or political parties on its back.

7.Wisdom is fleeting by definition.

8.Wisdom can be sought but not be guaranteed or contained.

9.Wisdom can emerge from traditions and practices or arrive in a flash of inspiration.

10.Wisdoms seeks peace, reconciliation, and understanding.

In short:

I want to be armed with facts so I know what is.

I want to connect to insight and wisdom so I know how to act and be as situations change.

These are difficult waters to navigate. But it helps to have a plan for how to remain clear-headed and open-hearted for the journey through it.

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