Our 2014 newsletter series: “Drop the Mask”, we have discussed ways to acknowledge, purpose, loosen, and recycle the emotional masks we often wear to hide feelings of anxiety, insecurity, sadness and disappointment. The greatest difficulty for all of us looking to live more authentic lives, is implementing these new tools when life continues to challenge us in ways that negatively impact on our moods, self-esteem, and hope for the future.
While enjoying the spoils of summer, many could not avoid the extensive media coverage of violence and inequity occurring in the world. Coverage began with the death of 43 year old Eric Garner on July 17th at the hands of NYPD officers. The event was caught on tape and repeatedly shown in various media outlets. We then saw coverage of a security breech on our beloved Brooklyn Bridge when American flags atop the structure were replaced with white flags. This immediately sparked a sense of concern in many of New Yorkers as we are sensitive to the vulnerability of our city’s landmarks and the people who utilize them. A few weeks later, on August 9th we heard of the killing of 18 year old Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri at the hands of local police. We then witnessed, via weeks of media coverage, his actual shooting and the subsequent protests and sporadic looting that erupted for days in the city of Ferguson. On August 19th, we were exposed to even more violent images of the beheading of American journalist James Foley by terrorists in Syria.
Back in the U.S. on August 25th, Kametra Barbour, a mother driving with four children ages six, eight, nine, and ten, was erroneously pulled over in Forney, Texas. Police were looking for an armed motorist reported to have been driving recklessly on the highway and considered Barbour’s car suspicious. The hostile event was caught on video and broadcast repeatedly via various media outlets. Who can forget the images of this mother being handcuffed while she respectfully questioned her offense and pleaded for the safety of her children? We then witnessed her 6 year old son exit the vehicle with his hands in the air, tearfully requesting police officers to not shoot him. Of course, the police later apologized for this sad case of mistaken identity, but how do we erase the repeated images of excessive force and fear from our mind and manage the emotions those images stirred up?
This summer’s barrage of violence coverage in the media continued with yet another video depicting the beheading of American journalist Steven Sotloff in Syria by militant terrorist on September 2nd. The violent kidnapping and murder of these Americans at the hands of barbaric terrorists, along with the aforementioned injustices in our own country, sparked simultaneous feelings of sadness, fear, anger, and vulnerability in many of us.
Research has shown that emotional content in film and television can affect psychological health by impacting on mood, which in turn influences aspects of our thinking and behavior. Repeated exposure to negative programming negatively impacts our personal self-view, self-esteem, and feeling of safety & security. Repetitive exposure affects how we interpret life events and how much we worry about the events in our own lives. While it is socially responsible to remain aware of current events, we must also take responsibility for our own mental health and emotional wellness. Combating the effects of the media’s coverage of events that are often violent and demonstrative of inequity can begin by incorporating the following four steps into your life:
- Keep positive influences in your life that filter the "noise" of the world by validating your appearance, culture, beliefs, and goals.
- Disconnect from technology regularly. In addition to television and newspapers, social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube provide 24/7 access to information that is often geared toward reporting negative events such as crime, war, and famine that appeal to and trigger the viewer’s emotions.
- Pay close attention to your physical health. Maintain a healthy diet, get plenty of rest, and exercise at least 90 minutes a week.
- Volunteer. Being a positive influence in your community can help counter the media’s negative depictions of life events for others.
Restoring faith and trust in a system, whose shortcomings are often highlighted for us in the media, can be a difficult process. When faith and trust is not successfully restored, it can lead to a reappearance of an emotional “mask” in your life. I encourage you to visit www.BrooklynMFT.com to learn more about our professional counseling services designed to put you on the road to healthier mood management, greater self-confidence and emotional wellness in an unpredictable world!