To arrive is scary. What will be our journey, if we are already there?
As I’ve watched the supersonic work pace of Barack Obama, I’ve also been annoyed with the curmudgeonly spirit of many commentators.
I believe they are scared. Not because of anything Barack Obama may or may not do, but because Barack Obama may be the person we all want to be. If it is possible to be articulate, poised, present, warm, honest, then we don’t have to be scared, hesitant, insecure, insincere and most of all ‘outsiders’. We can just ‘be’ and ‘be accepted’. To arrive is scary. What will be our journey, if we are already here?
Don’t let disappointment be an excuse to delay arrival
Nonetheless, I was very disappointed by the bombing of Pakistan. Sending an unmanned drone into a civilian building seems to me a murderous act. How can we defend this? I would like this to stop.
We want what we don’t like not to be
My emotional reaction to this event follows a spiral that, I believe, is quite common when ordinary people follow politics and world events. I read the reports and I felt disgust. Then I felt judgmental. And then I wanted to reject what disgusted me.
And when reality does not cooperate, we sulk
But the source of my disgust is in power (and popular). Rejection is not an option open to me. So, I felt down and dejected. Feeling that there was nothing I could do but endure the undurable, I withdrew, at least emotionally, and felt alienated, despondent and dejected
Curmudgeonly behavior is a mark of esteem in UK but it is “wet”
It is very likely that many people who express a curmudgeonly view are going through a similar process. Something specific disgusts them, and they allow that one point, important as it may be, to allow them to feel despair about all points. Positive psychologists call this ‘catastrophizing‘. We go from one negative point to believing that we lack control. Not only do we believe that we lack control on this issue, we go on to believe that we lack control on other issues too. And we don’t stop there. We go on to believe that we will always lack control, to the end of time. In other words, we feel that what has gone wrong is persistent, pervasive, and personal.
So what am I going to do?
Put the strength of my feeling in words
Well, this issue is important to me. I am sickened by the bombing of civilian targets. I am ashamed it was done. I leaves me uncomfortable and embarrassed and feeling that our condolences are woefully insufficient. I don’t even know how to express this adequately.
Be a player
But it is also wrong to write off the hope that has come to the world. One day I may be in a position to influence decisions like this. And if I am to open a conversation with influential people, I need to be informed, and much more informed than I am now. So I will become so.
List specific small things that I can do
And for now, should I meet my MP, who is a UK specialist on the conflict in Afghanistan, I will ask him. I will tell I am unhappy and that I want to know more. And though the whole matter makes me want to throw up, I will listen and learn.
Stay where the decisions are made
If we want the world to be as we wish, we cannot pick up our toys and go home every time we don’t like something. I am afraid the art of politics is to be where the decisions are made. Sometimes we have to stay and engage.
Stop the decline into ineffectiveness
Positive psychology does not say that the problems of the world will go away. But it does help us not sink into despair and become ineffectual.
Come with me!
- Is there something that makes you angry and fearful? Are you overgeneralising from one issue, thinking it is ‘persistent, pervasive and personal’ – catastrophising?
- If you put aside your general despair and remain in the forum where decisions are made, what do you need to do to become more effective at influencing our collective decisions?
- And having thought this through, can you see a way that you may be able to influence events in future?