31 Dec 2016

How we can use the power of thought to recover from the body blows of 2016

2016 may not have actually seen more celebrity deaths but the point is, it felt like it. Those who died were largely beloved figures. By New Year's Eve, I was wondering whose turn it was today, December had slapped us around so much.
It's as if some malevolent force had picked off the people most likely to invoke public grief so a vast swathe of human emotional vibrations would resonate negatively across the world. And as well as the deaths, there was Brexit and then Trump, two of the most unexpected of events that if, two years ago you said would happen, no one would believe you.

The outrage felt by the respective losing sides was, and continues to be, so palpable that they almost have a physical form of their own. If the reverse results had come about, there would not have been such an outpouring of shock and indignation. Again, a wave of negative vibrations all around us.
If you think vibrations caused by human emotion isn't a 'thing', just remind yourself of the last time you walked into a room and 'felt' an atmosphere, be it exuberant, somber or hostile. The saying 'cut the air with a knife' isn't literal, but it's still an expression we all understand at a visceral level.

There were moments of joy, mainly sporting, such as Andy Murray's Wimbledon win (yay!) and his Olympic gold (double yay!) but even the Olympics were marred by Russian cheating and that's the impression that overshadows the memory of athletic glory.

Can we change things by feeling differently about them?

So how can we change things? There is a saying in the so-called New Age community that 'thoughts become things'. In fact, far from being airy-fairy nonsense, is absolutely accurate, in my opinion. To become a human-led event or a thing, first it must have been a thought in someone's head. That thought is then acted on whether positive or negative. This is the beginning of everything that we create. Then, if the thought takes hold in more people, the effect is amplified. Hence that 'atmosphere'.
The 'thoughts become things' mantra is both more complex and more simple than this explanation. It is that if we visualise a truly-held, resistance-free desire, it will come about. I'm no expert in either explaining or achieving this, but I would recommend the late Wayne Dyer, Abraham Hicks (the inspiration for and source of The Secret) and myriad others who can express it far better than I. You may want to start here, if you are interested and open to learning more.

So how can we change this feeling when all around us is pretty grim? It's a tough one, isn't it? Of course we're going to react to something happening, we're only human after all. Even an ancient tree's branches bend in a fierce wind. How can we withstand such extreme external forces and still be positive?
The answer is not an easy one, but it's something I have been learning as a parent of children with SEND, as a person with chronic pain, as someone who grew up feeling constantly misunderstood only to be recently diagnosed with autism. I learned that if you are determined enough, you can withstand any storm and come out more resilient and even smiling. I have learned that being angry at others, whoever they are, does not help if it uses all your energy and consumes you. The object of your ire is not hurt your anger; it is you who is further damaged by the real, physical and mental effects of stress. If you can, channel your anger into positive action to change what you don't like, but (dear Brexiteers) it's a good idea to actually have a some thoughts beyond just 'change' first!

The power of emotions

We all need to be more consciously and constantly self-aware of how our feelings affect us and those around us. Emotions are a powerful force and the growing understanding of this is at the root of why the pursuit of Mindfulness has become popular. It is the desire to no longer be a ship cast adrift and rudderless on the high seas, but to have self-management skills to get that vessel- yourself - under your own control and steer it to safety. Without adequate self-control and the ability to be in touch with ourselves, we cannot easily help anyone else, not least our children.

Emotions are also infectious. Who doesn't smile when they see a child laughing and full of joy? We are also able to feel the agony of a friend or loved one when they are in pain, as if the feeling is our own.
I'm not suggesting we smile the next time a celebrity- or anyone else- dies or that we should not react to personal tragedy or loss. Neither am I suggesting that we should be automatons and not feel anything at all. It is our ability to feel complex emotions that sets up apart from the rest of Earth's inhabitants (as far as we know)
But we should remember that we are not the branches of a tree, we are the trunk and we can stand firm and spread our roots deep so that not even the strongest hurricane can tear us down. We are the captain of our ship and we can set our own course regardless of where the masses are heading.
Because who benefits from us being paralysed by fear and sadness or transfixed by major events whether a disaster, terrorist attack or something as trivial as a TV show? Not us, that's for sure but those who have a vested interest in the status quo are quite happy when we are confused or distracted.

Plow your own furrow

I have been involved in the media industry all my adult life, so it may seem counter-intuitive of me to advise you not to let the media decide how you should feel about something. Actually, as someone who knows how the news is made, it should make perfect sense. If you're in any doubt, read this.
If you're not sure of the facts of a story, try Full Fact or, in the US, Snopes or the Center for Public Integrity.  You could trust your gut, but that depends on how partisan your gut is...

Do something to make a positive difference. You can't stop any war by yourself, but you can welcome a refugee into your community or make a donation in time or money to a disaster relief or child poverty or exploitation charity. You can't bring George Michael back, but you can celebrate his life and learn from the kindnesses we have now discovered he showed to others and do something similar ourselves, however small. We are not rudderless ships in a storm.

Every day, ask how our actions and emotions are affecting those around us. Ask if you've made a positive difference today, even a smile or a kind word. Be on the look out for opportunities until it becomes second nature. Even in the depths of despair we can do this. The world needs all of us to make a positive difference, however small you may think it is; it still counts. Most of all, we feel better in ourselves for having done it. Our thoughts brighten, our backs straighten despite our burden and we breathe a little easier.

As we move into 2017, battered from the year gone by, we must ask ourselves what kind of a world we want to live in. Then we can use those powerful, positive thoughts and vibrations of ours that we have created by thinking good thoughts and doing small, kind things, to foster a more collaborative community that cares about each other as if we were all one family. Because, in the end, if we are all to prosper, this is exactly how we must consider ourselves - as part of each other.