am i dissociating or am i just far away?10 Aug 2019
the other day i was chatting at lunch (our final one because one of our trio is moving) with two friends and a really great analogy flowed about emotional availability and clouds. i won’t recite the whole convo but here’s a little briefing:
there is a lot of shit going on in the world. across the planet and in the country currently known as the united states. in this moment, i’m thinking about the white supremacist mass shootings of the past couple weeks. and i have just been noticing for myself how i am or am not feeling them.
and honestly, there has always been a lot of shit going on in the world. something/somewhere is always on fire. this is the reality of being alive on earth (note: some fires are natural, needed, and beneficial. others are not. but there will always be fires). i heard once that part of the beauty of being in community is that we don’t all suffer at the same time. that means that when some of us are down, others can be support. and then at some point, the care will flow in other directions.
i think the ubiquity of news and the actual increasing connectedness between us is making us feel more than we ever have. globalized work, travel/immigration/migration, and the internet are all a part of this.
and yet, our bodies are not meant to feel that much. our bodies and brains are evolved to handle ~150-200 relationships (see dunbar’s number).
there is a narrative i have been experiencing lately that is urging more of us to “feel” what’s happening around the world. and that if we aren’t crying or angry when we see/hear fucked up shit happen somewhere far away, the presumption, sometimes even rising to an accusation, is that we must be dissociating or being callous/hard.
i think differently. i think it’s actually my job to stay aware of patterns of what’s happening far away but actually to focus my attention on what’s near me. adrienne talks about attention liberation, bringing attention closer, to things you can touch and influence, as an antidote to anxiety. roshi joan halifax talks about compassion fatigue (though she actually think’s it’s empathic distress). steven covey talks about it as the circle of concern vs the circle of control.
source: graphic from james clear
so what was the analogy that arose: it’s like looking at a flat horizon. sometimes you look out and you can see the clouds coming. sometimes you turn away and when you turn back, they’re gone, evaporated, dissipated. sometimes they come right up to you and dump on you. all of those are real patterns that weather create and so they’re actual ways we get to be as well (so says tantra).
sometimes the sadness is far off and dissolves, metabolized by… whatever. other times it needs to move through you (the hard rainstorm). what i am more and more convinced of is that it’s my job to stay as grounded as possible for as much time as possible, to feel what i feel regarding any incident anywhere, and not to feel what i don’t feel.
the benefit of this is that i remain available for when the crazy shit is close to home (and to be clear, it is often close to home). but it’s not always close to home. and not being emotionally exhausted by everything that is happening everywhere allows me to be available for people physically near me when i’m needed.
words / writing / post-processing
616w / 20m / 30m