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Grim And Terrible Things
Category: Druidry Written by Nimue Brown
People are attracted to bad news. It’s something that impacts on how our mass media works, and what it puts in front of us.
Bad news sells. It’s easy to plug into feelings that we have to know about the awful things to have a hope of staying safe. That’s the urge that sends us doomscrolling. The more anxious you are, the more likely it is that you’ll move towards bad news because you’re trying to feel more in control.
I can see that in my own behaviour at the start of the covid pandemic. I scrolled a lot, desperately looking for information. However, once I started finding information I could work with, I started being able to control what I was exposing myself to. Not having everyday contact with televisions probably helps.
I see it here on the blog. When I put up titles that seem hopeful or restorative, I tend to get fewer hits than if I put up something that promises grim and challenging content. Blogs with content warnings tend to be popular. This is a mixed bag. I tackle subjects I think need attention and if I think I’ve got something to say that isn’t being said, I’ll get in. Abuse, oppression, mental illness and inequality are topics I’m always going to talk about. I try to do that in a helpful way.
Like most people, I’m affected by a desire for attention. There’s a temptation around that to write more about the bad stuff, the things I struggle with, the things that hurt. There are quite a lot of challenges that I’ve deliberately never talked about in public, for reasons. I don’t want to mine the worst parts of my own life to get hits and I don’t want to become part of the problem where grim content grinds people down so they feel unsafe and seek out more grim content.There’s a cyclical aspect to this, and it’s clearly not good.
Attention can be addictive. Katrina Townsend’s book, The Anti-Consumerist Druid (reviewed here) exposes the addictive nature of seeking attention online. There are difficult stories that need to be told – we need to know what life is like for disadvantaged people so that we can build empathy and do better. The trouble is that all too often what we end up with is tragedy porn, the fleeting emotional hits we get from terrible stories, and then no way of doing anything about it. That kind of stimulus encourages people to seek another hit – be it by telling the awful stories, or by consuming them. Nothing is actually improved by this.
It’s really important not to approach difficult stories as a consumer. Paying attention to what we treat as entertainment in the first place can help. If you’re consuming media that invites you to observe other people’s misery, even if that feels cathartic to you, it is worth being cautious about it. If there isn’t some aspect of how to improve things, the content is going to be on the toxic side.
When we’re dealing with individual people, I favour being indulgent. Take the time to listen, be supportive, offer comfort, do something restorative if you can. If you think someone is wallowing about in their own misery for attention, you won’t get them out of that by telling them or by trying to make them feel ashamed. Instead, try giving them time and attention over things that aren’t about their personal drama. Whatever is going on in a person’s life, offering them attention in good and healthy ways is restorative. It might not fix the underlying problem, but it does provide comfort. If someone’s self esteem is so battered that all they feel they can offer are their worst stories, then offering compliments and appreciation of other parts of them can help them build their way out of that.
When you are the one overwhelmed by some terrible thing, and needing to talk about it, try not to let it become your entire sense of self. Try not to let it define you. Fight for the parts of you that aren’t in that story and make space for the aspects of yourself that you like. Seek out affirming things that remind you of who you really are, because this is important for trauma recovery.
However many reasons there are to focus on the most awful things, try not to let those things become the whole story.
About Nimue Brown
Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings.
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