April 3, 2024

It’s Going to Be Okay… but Uncomfortable

by Jennifer Kane

It’s Going to Be Okay… but Uncomfortable

“Everything is always on its way to something else,” Kara Swisher writes in Burn Book: A Tech Love Story.

Today, that’s happening faster than ever.

We’re living in a time of exponential technological change. We won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century—it will be more like 20,000 years of progress. With the aid of artificial intelligence, changes which may have once taken decades will happen within the span of years.

While that sounds cool, from a psychological standpoint it might feel… less so.

That’s because we humans aren’t inherently wired for accelerating discomfort, disruption, and change. In fact, our brain interprets those modes as threats, automatically releasing hormones to initiate our fight/fight/freeze/fawn response.

When you multiply and accelerate those change exponentially, it’s bound to create some serious stress, which can create a vicious cycle.

  • Information and technology keeps changing, which makes us uncomfortable…
  • Rather than sit with that discomfort, we either dissociate and numb ourselves with games, entertainment, and social feeds, or become triggered and automatically act out, adding our voices and vitriol to the noise…
  • Both activities end up exposing us to even more divisiveness, distraction, misinformation, and disruption, which, in turn, deepens our discomfort…
  • So we disassociate or are triggered even MORE.

And the cycle repeats, leaving in its wake a big, fat trail of blame.

We blame ourselves. Why did I watch a movie instead of doing the laundry? Why did I buy a bunch of stuff I can’t afford on Amazon? Why is my life so awful when everyone on Facebook seems to be loving theirs?

We blame others. Why is [fill-in-the-blank political party] so evil? Why can’t anyone listen to reason?” Why can’t we just get rid of the [fill-in-the-blank marginalized community] so our country can go back to normal?

We blame tech companies. As Swisher so eloquently put it, “Even if it was never the intention, tech companies became key players in killing our comity and stymieing our politics, our government, our social fabric, and most of all, our minds by seeding isolation, outrage, and addictive behavior.” (All of this is undoubtedly true, and yet we still keep regularly using their products anyway.)

The problem with blame is it rarely solves anything.

“It’s a very common, ancient, well-perfected device for trying to feel better. Blame others. Blaming is a way to protect our hearts, to try to protect what is soft and open and tender in ourselves. Rather than own that pain, we scramble to find some comfortable ground. – Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart

When our comfortable ground is constantly evolving, a better alternative is to sit with and within our discomfort and get to know it. (Since it’s going to be a frequent visitor in the coming decades.)

This may sound silly and counterproductive, but it’s going to do more good for our collective stress levels than screaming into the void.

What exactly would that look like?

First, we should get in the habit of protecting any opportunities we have to be offline, unplugged, or outside in nature, going so far as to schedule that time for ourselves.

Secondly, we need to make friends with our breath and and our jaw. They’re holding more stress than we likely realize. Throughout the day, check in and release/relax them both.

Third, when we feel angry, stressed, or full of rage, we can identify where those emotions are showing up in our body. Just observe and accept them and try to breathe through them. If it helps, we can talk to our body like, “Oh hey, it’s seems like you’re still stressed about that thing you read online. It’s okay to let that go now.”

Lastly, we can get curious about our stressful thoughts and feelings. Without judgement, we can ask ourselves, “Where is this thought coming from? Is this the truth? Is it helpful for me to hold onto?” If needed, we can write it down somewhere to get it out of our head.

We too are on our way to somewhere else right now. The future may be full of unknowns, but we still are captains of our own ship, sailing through these restless waters. Embrace the discomfort, tend to your body and mind, and know that everything will be okay.


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