Phyllis Beveridge Nissila
WHAT THE THERAPIST SAID
Therapist Steven Stosny, Ph.D. has come up with a new category of the kind of rage of which I recently wrote in parts one and two of this series. Stosny calls it, “Headline Stress Disorder.” He writes:
As a couples’ therapist specializing in anger and resentment, I was overwhelmed with distress calls during the recent election cycle. The vitriol and pervasive negativity of the campaigns, amplified by 24-hour news and social media, created a level of stress and resentment that intruded into many people’s intimate relationships. I even named it: “election stress disorder.” Yet, as bad as it seemed in those days, there was an end in sight: Nov. 8.
Alas, from Nov. 9 onward, we’re now having to cope with a kind of “headline stress disorder.” For many people, continual alerts from news sources, blogs, social media and alternative facts feel like missile explosions in a siege without end. (citation)
Stosny advises his clients to reach out, connect, affiliate and show compassion for those similarly affected and to take the moral high ground and resist the urge to react to a jerk like a jerk.
He seems to write from one end of the political spectrum; however, I would add that due to the kind of rage stampeding forth from both sides of the aisle, this applies to all who have been and are embroiled in the seeming unprecedented, emotionally vandalizing, as it were, state of the political landscape just now, left, right, middle, a-political–all.
I would also add, we need to show compassion for those on the other side, as well as our colleagues.
Clearly, therapists, counselors, doctors–you and I–are well advised to take proactive measures.
I often write (from my perspective as a teacher of rhetoric) how the truncated “analyses” of seven-second sound bytes and 140-character Tweets do such damage to critical thinking. One needs time, research, and as much emotional stasis as one can maintain in order to explore the depths of clashing ideologies, reactions, and solutions in order to do them justice; in order to steer the conversations (protests and riots) away from the collective voice at the bottomless pit of rage that easily shouts down reason and takes on a dark life of its own.
Of course, there are those for whom shouting down critical thinking reaps great benefits. As I noted in the last post, it is much easier to corral and control people if they are momentarily blinded by the power of emotion.
So there’s the urgent need to step back, breathe, and look away from the fray to what ELSE could be at the core of the turbulence.
But I see another issue, too, and another solution.
Jesus had a lot to say about that which traps minds and hearts in the dark side. He also had a lot to offer in his own “counseling” capacity to help us not only cope but also hope.
WHAT JESUS SAID
Back in Jesus’ day there was also a lot of political turmoil (when has there NOT been turmoil in a fallen world?).
Ironically, the Prince of Peace faced most of it in the religious realm where some leaders, more secular than spiritual, exploited the people’s quest for the riches from above for their own riches, below. One famous case, back then, involved thirty pieces of silver. In some of today’s religious leadership there are other kinds of betrayers who think religion is another word for a get rich quick scheme…a nifty little business model…(but that’s another post). However, little did they know then, as now, that Jesus, Himself, was/is “the riches” who exchanged His own flesh and blood for our redemption.
Jesus advised on more than just the truth of the matter and how to obtain it, however.
He also warned His followers about the truth of the opposition: not the flesh and blood that both then and now hates, riots, and kills (whatever the era, the nation, the political bent, tribe or tongue) but the engine behind all of it, described by Paul as “the rulers…authorities…(and) powers of this dark world;…the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
Spiritual adversaries that, frankly, don’t care about anybody’s political, religious, national, and/or personal identity or ideology, but only care to destroy us all, roaring about as they do, seeking whom to devour.
And may I suggest it all starts with unrestrained anger.
The good, the bad, and the ugly; the politically correct, incorrect, even the a-political. No matter to this one, aka Satan, because he, working through his minions, some of whom might well be flesh and blood, has a need for annihilation.
And right now, here, after our election, the same dark power finds fertile ground which to plow under as riot seems more the norm to settle differences, rage reigns in more and more circles, and reason bites the dust on the low road.
That said, Jesus–and others who speak to us from the ancient texts– also advised His followers, then and now, what to do when critical thinking and civility get trashed: fight fire with love in all of its manifestations including, as the therapists put it, confrontational love.*
One more thing, this one closer to home.
I was considering whether or not to query some of the ragers in my world about the inordinate anger exploding everywhere, and maybe invite them to consider the bigger, spiritual picture, when this came to mind: “Don’t debate the Dark Side.”
Not, of course, that he or she or they or them or you or me are “the Dark Side,” per se, but perhaps just inordinately influenced by it, some likely unwittingly, because the reality of such a spiritual adversary is scarcely acknowledged in this, so-called, “Post-Christian” twenty-first century. (Hmmmm, maybe that has something to do with the out-of-control rage, come to think of it…)
And of course those smoky-flamey headlines can gang up on the psyche, the mind, and the emotions…
But to start recovery, healing, I believe one does have to consider who might really be at the bottom of all the stressful headlines, seven-second verbal sucker punches, meme-bites, and blinding rage–who is the Spiritual Tornado beneath the turmoil who does NOT want mankind redeemed…
Meanwhile, I was reminded to continue in prayer and love–and in minding my own temptation to drop jaw, shake head, and rage against the sate of things with my own anger by staying my mind and heart on this:
You (God) will keep in perfect and constant peace the one whose mind is steadfast [that is, committed and focused on You—in both inclination and character], Because he trusts and takes refuge in You [with hope and confident expectation]…(Isaiah 26:3, Amplified Bible).
For the steadfast mind of a person at peace is the only lasting antidote.
This is the bigger picture I think we must keep in mind–and in heart.
If we allow the darkness and the Dark One to overshadow that, there really is no hope.
*For a list of Scriptures on confrontational love, reference here.
For a list of aspects of this kind of love, reference here.