The devastation and loss caused by the current bushfire crisis in Australia are capturing headlines globally. It is fueling the 24/7 news cycles, generating arguments about climate change as well as debate about Australian leadership (or lack thereof). As a result, it is also creating a significant amount of emotion in those who are directly or indirectly involved.
As humans, we have a fascination with tragedy and drama. In ancient Greece people came for miles to watch tragedies play at the Acropolis; Shakespearean tragedies are still performed after hundreds of years, and even our blockbuster movies feature ‘end-of-the-world’ storylines. It seems that we can’t tear ourselves away from the horror.
Often events such as these bushfires lead us to experience intense emotions – we feel devastation and anguish for the humans who have lost everything and the animals who are displaced; we feel sadness and despair at the loss; anger at the politicians who ignore expert advice; gratitude for what we do have; and compassion, generosity and love for others.
In times past, we consumed the news given to us by others, at set times of the day. With the rise of new technologies, we now have instant updates and first-hand accounts fed to us 24/7 from authoritative and non-authoritative sources. In the case of the bushfires, the incredible images show us the devastation and in many cases the destruction of communities, to people’s lives, and we can all feel the raw emotion attached to these events instantly.
A question I ask is if we consistently consume the news coverage that is circulating, do we become immune or traumatised?
Of course, we must keep up with local and global news. It is valuable to our intellect and our global citizenship to be aware of what is happening in the world. At the same time, we must be considered, deliberate and informed consumers, and make sure that the technology that brings us so much information serves us, and that we do not become a servant to it.
A recent topic of conversation at Langley Group has focused on the idea that “The Future is Human”. While we know about the incredible power, value and benefits of technology, we need to remember that humans are driving its continuing development – the programming, the applications and the innovation, and how we use it in practice to navigate our world and our life.
All of us will have been impacted by the bushfires in some way – either directly or indirectly. We may find that the stories and images that technology presents to us leave us feeling both scared and sympathetic. We may be in awe of the scale of the devastation and want to help.
Community spirit shines through in times of crisis. Photo by William West.
Awe is an emotion that is often categorised by a feeling of being smaller than something – the awe of a stunning sunset; the awe of nature; being in awe of an ant carrying a leaf three times its size. Awe leaves us often feeling a mix of positive emotion and fear or insignificance. Many of us watching the news may be feeling in awe of the power of nature, the enormity of the flames; in awe of the firefighters’ tirelessness and selflessness in the face of something so terrifying.
In turn, the news of the fires leads us to the even bigger issue of climate change, which in itself may generate a sense of awe. It is an enormous problem that we, as humans, have created. And we, as humans can, and must, fix.
While we may be drawn to tragedy and trauma, we also need to remember to look after our own wellbeing if we are hoping to support others. We can learn when to stop watching, scrolling, tapping and sharing and start to use technology to serve us better. Turn off the technology and use the energy of our emotions to focus on what we can do – for ourselves, for others, for our community. Challenge your emotions to turn upset and distress into action. Focus on the humanity and the positive stories – incredible heroism, hope, love, compassion, possibility and human connection.
Yes, give if you can – both your time and your money. Yet at the same time, know that it is humanity that will get us through. We need to demand a better world from our leaders – one that is sustainable, and robust – and hold them, and us, accountable. We need governments and communities that are courageous and will tackle significant issues like climate change, that will support a focus on employee wellbeing and giving back to the world. A world where people come together and care for each other and the world around us.
Everything we do at the Langley Group is about the science of positive psychology, emotional intelligence and neuroscience. Learning how to use these sciences can help all of us show up, more frequently, as the best version of ourselves, and help others to do the same! When we are our best, we can change the world!
The future is human!
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