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News is what people tell us about what we haven’t experienced. We can improve our life experience, and even our situation, when we consume news in ways that are responsible, nurturing, and beneficial to ourselves and to others.
One of the challenges we face when posed with the question, “What should I believe about what people tell me?” is the fact that we are biologically predisposed to believe what people tell us. As we evolved as humans, we developed the tendency to believe stories about potential dangers over things that were potentially neutral.
Imagine a group of early humans walking through the forest together. All the members are spread out far enough so they can see and hear one another, but not close enough to see and hear the same things. Some of the members hear a sound come from the bushes and quickly need to decide if it could be an animal or not. If it is an animal, is it one they are looking for or one that might be looking for them? Have they found prey or are they about to become prey?
A member of the group closest to the sound decides it’s not worth the risk and starts to run. The others in the group see him running, assuming there is danger, and begin to flee towards safety. They regroup on a nearby hill, ready to defend themselves if needed. Suddenly, a large bird emerges from the bush and flies away. Dinner has eluded them, but everyone is safe.
Our need for safety is often greater than our need to confirm what is actually happening in our environment. We are more likely to believe in potential threats, simply because it’s far more acceptable to lose a meal as opposed to losing one’s life. We are wired for defense and that makes us especially susceptible to what people tell us about what we haven’t experienced. Not believing in potential threats can place us in stressful situations. At the same time, believing in unconfirmed threats can make us fearful, paranoid, and disempowered.
It’s up to each of us to question the news we hear, to seek to confirm what others tell us about what we have not experienced, and to decide for ourselves how to respond, rather than running in fear because we see other people running in fear. Yes, maybe there is a tiger in the bushes waiting to pounce. It’s probably a good idea to remain a safe distance away until that theory can be proved or disapproved.
When we choose to run away from any situation in which we have no first hand experience, not only do we increase our own anxiety due to all the terrible things we imagine, we lose the opportunity to experience the world as it is, to grow and develop, and to nurture and empower ourselves.
When someone tells you story of a terrible danger, rather than running away in fear, thank them for letting you know about a potential danger, then do your best to discover the truth so you can take action based on your authentic experience.
When we breathe, we consume. When we drink, we consume. When we eat, we consume. When we see and here, we consume. Whatever we consume, we add to ourselves in some way, shape, or form. We consume to nurture our bodies and our minds. The quality of what we consume directly affects the quality of our life experience. We are shaped by our environment and our relationship with it.
We are social creatures, sharing a high degree of empathy. It’s quite easy for most of us to imagine the sensations and feelings of other people. When we are exposed to people who are laughing and smiling, we often laugh and smile, even when our experience is brought to us through something as remote as a television or computer screen.
Because our minds are equipped with mirror neurons, it’s fairly easy for most of us to experience reflections of what happens to others within ourselves. If you’ve ever cringed when watching someone else getting physically hurt, you’ve experienced this phenomenon. The question we must ask ourselves is, “Am I making conscious choices about the types of experiences and information I am consuming?” Are you aware of the quality of what you consume?
Other questions might include, “What is the feeling or emotional quality of the experiences I am consuming?” and, “What is the likely impact on my own mood or emotional state as result of watching this content?” and of course, “Is the emotional quality of this content in alignment with my personal needs and goals, in terms of how I want to feel?” Answering these questions will help you improve the quality of whatever it is that you consume.
Not all food feeds your body in ways that are beneficial. All food will shape your body, but not all food will benefit your body. All the stories, news, and information you consume will shape your mind, emotions, and spirit, but only some will be beneficial. Many of us live in environments that have been described as a “food swamps,” areas where there is an over abundance of all types of foods, those of quality and those of little or no quality. The challenge it is not having food to consume, but in finding and consuming the quality food that will lead to a quality life.
Today, many of us experience a news and information swamp environment on a daily basis. The challenge is not to find stories, but rather finding those few stories that have the potential to lead us down paths of discovery towards truly beneficial and authentic experiences.
Is it possible to become mindful of the information you consume? Is it possible to recognize, early on, that a show you’re watching contains content that has nothing to do with your intellectual and emotional goals? Is it possible to reduce the amount of time you spend listening to stories that have little or nothing to do with your day-to-day life and which may be fanning the flames of fear in your heart?
If you don’t take an active role in making choices about the stories and sights you consume, you will be at the mercy of those who may be unaware of the potential damage they are causing in the hearts and minds of their brothers and sisters. This is not about sticking your head in the sand or ignoring information. It’s about taking an active role in what and how you consume what is available to you, seeking first to gather the information that supports your needs and goals, and always investigating every story you hear, so you don’t end up running away from life in fear, but walking towards the unknown, curious, and excited to live more deeply.
Cover Art by Cameron Grey