Is This Doomsday?
by Gila Hayes
Remember when spring warming suggested impending hot days with beach trips or light-hearted splashing in the city water park, the simple task of tending flowers in a planter on the sidewalk and other life-affirming pleasures? Now, with the cold of winter receding, I caught myself thinking that the smaller or briefer protests during winter’s dark and cold will blossom with renewed vigor during summer’s warmth and long days.
I was raised with the belief that Biblical prophecies predicting the end of the world, preceded by persecution, destruction and torture would soon be our reality, so as an adult I actively control my tendency toward fearfully anticipating apocalyptic breakdown. To that end, I’ve recently been reading about psychological health during periods of social unrest.
The anger and hurt voiced on social media that these days so pains me that I rarely visit Facebook, MeWe never really got its hooks into me, and I guess I was just too old to figure out Instagram when it was the hot, new thing. Still, when conversation or email from a friend, colleague or Network family member expresses their despair, hurt and sense of victimization, be that due to government restrictions, pandemic isolation, family problems, changes at work or the absence of safe social outlets (to name only a few), I wish I could give the gift of internal resilience, focus their attention on building self-worth and help them stop blaming other people and institutions for their woes.
A few days ago, my husband commented that he finds it ironic that only one or two generations ago, our grandparents were more concerned about whether they had food for their children than much else. I had to agree and thought further that I don’t remember hearing my elders complaining that a neighbor, co-worker, member or leader of their church, or local law enforcement disrespected their needs and wishes. They had more basic worries like food, warmth and shelter. These days, with plenty to eat, have we become obsessed about whether we are receiving the respect and consideration we think we’re owed?
Transfer the personal obsession about respect and equal treatment onto a bigger stage, and we have a population ripe for manipulation by demagogues and influencers preaching how one group or another has been victimized. Few will argue that we see this played out in riots and politics, but may I suggest that we’re also falling prey individually to believing we’ve been disrespected and oppressed, too? Our society – and we as its individual components – have become insanely petty and self absorbed. We’re becoming psychologically unbalanced.
This was echoed in a Psychology Today column I read that asked whether preppers were obsessed with doomsday predictions. The columnist wondered why people are so cynical, when “research shows that people are intuitively cooperative.”
She explored negative beliefs about others, writing, “The overall component is a general pessimistic view of a post-apocalyptic world – mostly that the doomsday is imminent, the resources will be limited, and that humans will be uncooperative. The three subcomponents are–
- Negative beliefs about human nature and the availability of resources,
- beliefs about competition for survival, and
- beliefs in the need to be prepared.
“Each of these beliefs reflect a variety of personality traits (e.g., low agreeableness and high neuroticism) and beliefs (e.g., political ideology and conspiracy beliefs.”
The column suggested that “major political events” contribute to pessimism, which comes as no surprise or as a friend would exclaim, “Duh!” There’s no doubt our community is suffering from the blows of the 2020 election, so I have to ask, does that loss guarantee irreversible suffering and defeat, or will personalities emerge that persevere and even thrive? Can we find happiness and joy even in hardship? What attitudes and influences must we avoid at all costs and what personal philosophies should we embrace?
It would be silly to suggest a simple cure for factors as complex as personality, emotional make up, and individual resilience or lack thereof. Nonetheless, rather than encourage beliefs that we’re being victimized, I think we have to feed and nurture beliefs that encourage emotional and physical self-sufficiency.
I think that requires turning off videos from political commentators and accepting real news only from select, reliable and unbiased sources. Listening to, reading and wallowing in extreme, negative opinions hurts our resilience by feeding core fears and beliefs about insufficient resources, and gut-level fear that other people will steal our share. Feeding those beliefs makes us angry and fast to lash out, suspicious and snappish. If you think anxiety makes it hard to live with your family, just wait until that viewpoint slips out via facial expression or an under-your-breath epithet uttered during a tense stand off in a parking lot or on a city street.
For our own good, we have got to stop nurturing our anger and outrage and instead cultivate our internal strength, self-worth, and cooperative problem-solving skills.
To read more of this month's journal, please click here.