Back in the day, I used to watch this TV cop show called “Hill Street Blues”. Every show was packed with humor, pathos, drama, excitement, the whole nine yards. And every show would start the same way – all the cops would be sitting in this big room, the gruff-but-lovable daily lecture cop would be setting up the program by running down the list of threats and potential threats of the day, and he would always end the meeting by saying “Let’s be careful out there”. Then all the characters would rush out while making witty observations, and proceed to get beat up, mauled, shot, chased, bloodied, and occasionally killed, if somebody’s contract was up for renewal and he wanted more money than the producers were willing to hand over.
It was a great show, and won many awards. Like I said, it had a lot of humor and emotional range. But strangely, it started to affect my mind in peculiar and unforeseeable ways. I began perceiving the world as a dangerous place. My happy-clappy small town of Spokane started to become darker and riskier. People on the street took on sinister characteristics; someone coming towards me with intent (even though the intent might be to ask directions) morphed into a frightening potential assaulter; groups of people behind me on the street seemed like dangerous plotters of damage to my person, despite the fact they might be singing a high-school fight song and laughing their heads off. Going outside at night was totally creepy, even though the likelihood of an attack in my part of town was virtually nil, and as we know, it is night in Spokane from 4PM til 9AM during certain times of the year so a lot of my normal activities were becoming stressful evasive maneuvers to avoid potential danger.
Why was this happening to me? Was I cracking up or what?
IT WAS THE DAMNED TV SHOW! Week after week I subjected myself to an intense parade of images that were threatening at the least, and often fatal to people I cared about at the most, because you can care about an actor on a show you like. (That’s the point: if you care, you get involved, keep watching the show, and maybe even buy some of the crap they advertise between scenes.) Brains don’t really seem to know the difference: they process information about a loved TV character the same way they do about a real live loved individual. And that means, when bad things happen on your favorite TV show, it messes with your head, big-time, and that’s what was happening to me.
So I pulled the plug on that baby, quit watching the show, and within a couple weeks, was back to normal, i.e., not a raging paranoid.
So today I open my Email from Mike Huckabee (I like to keep in touch with a lot of conservative people so I can hear what they have to say straight from their own mouths). Lead line: “Billionair
Scary stuff. Not exactly supported by evidence though, because it turns out he’s talking about some guy from Newsmax who predicts all kinds of mayhem to come. BUT – the operative term here is “PREDICTS“. Not fact. A prediction. Kind of like when you pay five bucks at the fair to have somebody read your Tarot cards.
It is interesting to me how many conservatives rely on this technique. Like the NRA. “If you ban assault weapons in Washington DC, only criminals will have guns because “…it is a slippery slope!” Um, prediction. Not fact, prediction. Worst case scenario, at that. Like the baseless spoutings of Glenn Beck, he of the charts and black Marks-A-Lot, who has thankfully receded back under the rotting log from whence he came. Like the headlines from a certain conservative news outlet: “Campaign Exposes a Scary Trend”, “Sununu Says Obama Is Lazy and Detached”, Well, when you call something “scary”, I guess it becomes – scary! Pretty up-front manipulation there. And in these difficult times, we have a guy who is “lazy and detached” leading the Free World? More subtly worded, but also pretty scary, if not for the fact there is NO EVIDENCE WHATSOEVER that the current Prez is either of those two things. Now if you said it about W Bush, THAT assertion had PLENTY of evidence, even while the guy was in office.
The bad thing is, a lot of the time these cheesy predictions are trumpeted from the heights as FACT. For example, your taxes are gonna rise 1000% if Obamacare isn’t repealed! Your granny’s gonna die because the Dems are gonna kill her with death panels! The Muslims are massing at the border and they’re gonna take over your Safeway! And blah, blah, blah. Not IS, but GONNA. Partisan-driven prediction, all of it.
As my little dissertation about “Hill Street Blues” demonstrates, fear is powerful, it is insidious, and it operates at a level outside of our conscious minds. But it can be overcome, because when they aren’t acting like a bunch of brainless sheep, human beings can be very courageous. Remember the subway bombing in London? The good citizens of that city chose to continue to use that transportation, and in doing so, sent a message to their attackers that said, “Your intent was to terrorize, but we are not afraid.” Same thing for the Shanksville 911 folks: they overcame their fear for the greater good of their fellow Americans, because guaranteed, if they didn’t, that plane was going to hit something in our nation’s capital. By virtue of their brave action, not only was much loss of life avoided, but the whole point of the terrorists – to instill terror – was defeated.
However, it takes effort to defeat the fear that is planted in the mind by baseless predictions and worst-case scenarios.
First of all, cut off your exposure to negative broadcasting! Remember when that little old lady in the audience told a Republican incumbent that watching Fox News “scared” her? His advice was to turn off the TV, which earned him a trouncing from Rush Limbaugh and he lost in the primary. BUT IT WORKS! Guaranteed, if you cut off TV news of any kind, you will become less fearful practically overnight. Reading the news can be a little scary, but fear loses its punch when you don’t have flashy images and sincere looking people you think you “know personally” filling your senses with bullpucky.
The second way to beat fear is to DO THE RESEARCH. If somebody says something that contains words like “could”, “might”, “possibly”, “maybe”, and the rest of those words that render statements implication instead of fact, LOOK UP THE ISSUE in many different venues and try to ferret out the truth. Even if you decide, well, yeah! This is scary! – at least you have the FACTS, and that simple possession of the facts renders things less scary because you UNDERSTAND.
The third is to avoid contact with downer people, or at least avoid certain subjects they want to yak about. These folk are confidence vampires. Like all the crazy email that your (usually) far-right-wing family member sends you about stuff that MIGHT happen if Obama gets re-elected – you know, showers of live frogs, REDRUM scrawled bloodily on all the mirrors of your house, non-stop tornadoes of box nails and bolts descending on your trailer park. Delete without reading. If you are going to talk politics, talk ONLY with people who can remain civil and balanced during the discussion. Otherwise – talk about something else, like kittens and ducklings. Everybody likes kittens and ducklings, nuthin’ to argue about there! The whole idea is to avoid the breath of fear that all the above engenders in your mind, unasked for, which will then hunker down in your unconscious, and soon affect your relationship to your world. And, not in a good way!
So solve your election season blues by boycotting radio and TV, doing your own research, and avoiding stressful people. Guaranteed you will feel better in a couple days, even without the bed rest and aspirin.