Written By Charlotte DiBartolomeo, CEO of Red Kite Project
On a recent layover, I took a survey of my surroundings. I clocked seven cell phones, four I-pads, six computers, and three kindles, with two of the three Kindle users well into their eighties and two I-pad users under fourteen years old. Four generations electronified with wireless reading devices, which hold the possibility of the Library of Congress, every unregulated “news source,” and the ever addictive Youtube in their hot little hands. On top of all this, there was the NOISE: the chatter of travelers, the golf cart like transport vehicles, and the overhead announcements frantically barking out boarding instructions for each of us to deepen our carbon footprint. We were abuzz with unintentional soul disengagement.
Human beings are experts at making space in our heads for unproductive thinking. We’re frequently stuck in brain patterns fueled by the toxic emotions of anger, fear, and anxiety. So you may think that a little overload of information is a better alternative to the cortisol levels you’re clocking up when caught in worry and rage. At best, it’s a nicotine patch you slap into your head every time you turn on that electronic device.It isn’t really going to help you break the cycle of unproductive thinking even if it momentarily drowns out the inner turmoil that’s so hard to shake.
At a gut level, I think we human beings know this. We realize that we’re trying to hide from the stuff that hurts, but we do it anyway. Not because we’re weak, but because in each of our electronic gadgets holds the intangible needs we’ve forgotten how to satisfy the old fashioned way. If we can get quiet enough to imagine what our needs are, we might identify the following: emotional and physical safety; connectedness to others, positive identity and, finally, a sense of purpose.
Explore the notion of emotional and physical safety. Information is power. If we can predict the storm settling in over the skies of our destination, perhaps we will weather it better. If we broaden our understanding of why women are from Venus and men are from Mars, we may navigate our way through our love relationships. And in the most immediate way, if we stay on top of our emails, we will assure our career and relational success.
The need to connect to others is bound by ironic elements of conflict and rejection and when it doesn’t happen, the pain of acknowledging the missed opportunity is sometimes too much to bear. Instead, we simulate connectedness on social media where we can group-identify with political leanings, the love of animals, and the collective trauma of natural disasters. But don’t beat yourself up because you’re a product of your environment. Instead, take a moment and shut the damn thing off. That’s right, instead of checking in with your favorite news source, take a deep breath and check in with yourself. What comes up may not feel very good, but if you can just be with that, acknowledge its presence, no matter what it is, you will start on the path to nurturing yourself rather numbing.