|
|
Geneseo Republic - Geneseo, IL
News, Views and Tips on Psychological Health and Well-Being
The toxicity of politics
email print
About this blog
By Nathan W Gates

Nathan W. Gates will be discussing topics related to health, wellness and psychological well-being. Nathan is a licensed clinical professional counselor at Spoon River Counseling & ...

X
Living Well

Nathan W. Gates will be discussing topics related to health, wellness and psychological well-being. Nathan is a licensed clinical professional counselor at Spoon River Counseling & Wellness in Canton.  He also teaches, speaks, writes and, when time allows, fly fishes for any species that will chase a fly.  The fishing is often neglected, as he also has two young children with his wife, Emily.

 

Learn more about his counseling practice here: Spoon River Counseling & Wellness

 

Follow him on Facebook

 

To learn more about his experience and credentials, visit his LinkedIn profile

 

Recent Posts
April 16, 2014 1:50 p.m.
April 1, 2014 10:28 a.m.
March 24, 2014 2:56 p.m.
March 17, 2014 2:34 p.m.
March 10, 2014 4:53 p.m.
By Nathan Gates
Sept. 23, 2013 5:02 p.m.



Did you hear the one in which the politicians in Washington got to squabbling and and almost shut down the whole government?  Yes, I think we've heard that one before.  I don't want to use this space to express an opinion on who is right or wrong in the current DC fiasco, but I did want to draw attention to the negative impact that politics can have on your health.

Many of us, regardless of our views, can get pretty wound up and agitated whilst watching cable news or catching up on the latest from our favorite political website. Now, for the sake of argument, let's put aside for the moment whether you happen to be correct or incorrect in your particular viewpoint. I realize that YOU think you are correct, much like I generally tend to think that I am correct, but, just for the now, let go of your feeling of rightness- I have no desire to debate the content of any political issue in this column today. 

Chances are high that, if you follow politics at all, you have strong opinions on the events of the day. That is all well and good- we all have opinions. If you follow closely, your opinions also probably carry with them very strong emotional engagement- you care very much about the outcomes in which you are invested.  And, as they say, you will win some, and you will lose some. When your side is on the losing end of a political fight, it can feel as though civilization rests in the balance- and is slipping away. 

If things are so terrible, we really must do something, right?  Well, this is where things get dicey.  What to do?  How much effect do you have on the outcome of the major news stories that might be upsetting you?  In reality, you have very, very little control.  Your vote, as important as it is, will not tip the balance of power in any meaningful way.

I'm not arguing against voting, which is, in my view, a civic duty.  Statistically speaking, however, this is undeniably true. It is simply the case that each of us has very little to no control over the events that transpire in front of our television-riveted eyes. More generally, we have a lot less control over many of the things in life that we'd like to believe. 

The tendency to invest emotional energy into things that are beyond our ability to influence, let alone control, is a prescription for stress and pain.  So, as we were discussing before, even if you are absolutely and completely correct in your positions, the difficult truth is that your opinion, or mine, does not matter that much, and you may in fact be damaging your health and perhaps even relationships in the process of caring so deeply about it. 

Apathy is no solution here, nor is cynicism. As humans, we are built to care about one another and to engage in the world in a meaningful (to us) way. What if you were to take the time and energy you spend worrying about divisive national issues and instead focused on building something locally that reflects your values and contributes to your own community?

Where do you have the ability to exert influence in a way that is consistent with your values and perceptions of the world? What do you think is really, truly important, and what can you do to support those things. 

The political discourse in our country today is, in many cases, destructive to individual health, and is very often destructive to the relationships between people of differing viewpoints. Is it worth it?  Outrage may sell advertising, but it also makes us physically exhausted and stressed out.

If you are in the grips of a heavy dependence on and/or attachment to current events, one good way to reduce its impact on you is by completing a periodic news fast. Pick a day or more per week and disconnect. No TV news, no newspaper, no mobile devices. The news will still be there when you get back, and you might find it refreshing to take a break.  Your not paying attention will not effect the outcome, I promise you that. 

Recent Posts

    latest blogs

    • Community
    • National