Twelve years ago this month, I gave up watching television news.
For me, this was a big deal.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a news junkie. At one point, I had planned to work in news my career.
Watching the news was a habit. Anytime I was alone in my apartment and doing other things, I had the news on in the background. I had it on while I cooked meals, while I worked, while I got dressed.
I told myself that it was important to watch the news. I took pride in being well-informed about local issues.
Also, I wanted to hear the weather report and be aware of any traffic issues or subway shut-downs. This was essential for my ability to get around the city.
I had a belief that a good citizen, a good community member, is well-informed about what’s happening locally.
I imagine I’d be hard-pressed to find someone who would argue with this.
This is a “YES, AND” situation.
Yes, it’s important to be informed.
AND, I had become aware of how watching the news — even listening to the news in the background — impacted my energy for the day.
Specifically, how it impacted my nervous system.
Even the most innocuous reporting is delivered with a tone of urgency. The most basic facts are spun into drama.
Boring stories are hyped up to create intrigue.
That’s the job of the news reporters.
News is a business. Whether the news is delivered via television, radio, print, or internet, the end goal of the business is to make money.
This means that the job of news editors, reporters, and anchors is to take the facts of what has happened and turn them into a story that will hook a viewer’s or reader’s emotions. The facts are delivered in a context and a tone of voice that is designed to inflame, enrage, provoke, and outrage us.
To be fair, this is the case with newspaper reporting as well.
But television news comes with the added layers of another person’s tone of voice, and often is preceded by music designed to create a charge. That’s how they get your attention.
Our environments create our reality.
Our subconscious mind is always registering and processing what’s happening around us and reacting to it.
If the people around you are tense and fighting, your body will absorb that energy. If everyone around you is playing the victim, you’ll start to feel like a victim.
I became aware of how having the news on in the background was impacting my nervous system. I didn’t just go out into the world well-informed about what was happening; I went out into the world steeled to protect myself against the danger and drama that lurked around every corner.
As a result, my nervous system was in constant fight-or-flight mode, wary of every threat.
Even when I was in my own home.
I was hooked into other people’s energy and dramas, which left little bandwidth to focus on my personal needs.
Being a good citizen and community member doesn’t mean we have to take on the energy and the drama of people around us. In fact, it’s hard to contribute well to community when you’re locked in fight-or-flight mode.
The best citizens and community members are those who can attune to themselves first and access the inner resources they need to take action.
When I was so preoccupied with what was happening “out there,” I had no attention for what was happening within me.
Giving up television news helped me create the space to tune into myself and observe what is happening in my mind and body.
And that puts me in a better position to serve my clients and community.