Ep 4: Charlottesville – What To THINK When Something Bad Happens and You Feel Helpless

It’s been a bit of a week.

So, this week’s video is a little different. I talk about the two promises anger makes and keeps with us, a tricky source of weariness and the feeling of helplessness…

PLUS… I share how pendulum clocks and fight songs and college football games remind us how powerful we really are.

If you’re looking for a space to dig deeper into your own reaction to Charlottesville, or another seemingly unbearable experience, I’ve created a gift for you. It’s full of space for you to write and then you’ll gain access to a powerful exercise that will allow you to SEE your thoughts in a completely new way. Get yours now at: unsabotage.com/tryit

And for your convenience, here’s today’s transcript:

Hey, Gorgeous. Ginny Townsend here, and I want to welcome you to another week of this Facebook Live show with UnSabotage. Now, if you aren’t yet familiar with what I talk about, I generally talk about themes and topics that come from my work with UnSabotage. So I thought it might be really good for me to touch on those things to make more sense out of what we’ll be talking about today, and that’s actually what happened in Charlottesville this weekend and kind of what do we do. What do we think when something bad happens and we feel helpless?

The work that I do with UnSabotage is, it’s this beautiful community of primarily women, and we do work to figure out what are the “Glass Walls” that we have set up in our own path, in our own way that keep us from where we want to go to step into that life we adore. So these Glass Walls, they’re a lot of thoughts. It’s a lot of thought work.

But when I saw what happened this weekend out in Charlottesville, first of all, my heart was broken. Second of all, I couldn’t shake the thought of, can what we’re doing to help move individuals forward, can that be overlayed to a bigger event or at a societal level? Can what we’re doing here help people when something bad happens that we makes us feel helpless? So, that’s a task that I took on. I spent the weekend really looking into the reactions and the conversation and just absorbing as much as I could to add as much value as I could today.

There were two things that I really discovered when I started observing the behaviors and everything going on around what happened in Charlottesville. The first thing was when the people spoke about it, there’s a lot of anger. I’ll unpack these, but right now I just want to clarify that there’s nothing wrong with that. It was an observation. And as I continued to dig into it, I saw that there was actually anger on both sides (or all sides) of the argument.

Secondly, what I observed is, especially the first couple days, there wasn’t a lot of coverage about it, and when there was, I just got this sense that there was a weariness about it. That there was like a, “It’s happening again? We’re really going through this again?” I feel like both of those need to be acknowledged, and they were a great place to start the conversation.

So let me unpack that angry piece. Now, like I said, and I will reiterate, there is nothing wrong with being angry, especially when something terrible like this happens. In fact, I was angry. But what I really want to say is anger, it can be a friend. Any good friend will make and keep promises, and anger makes and keeps two really key promises to us or for us.

Those promises are, one, “I will help you find your voice.” When something bad happens like this at a larger scale, a personal scale, whatever, but when we feel angry, we all of a sudden feel the need to speak up to say something to acknowledge it, to bring awareness to it. So this anger, where we might not have previously felt compelled to speak up, helps us find our voice. That is a promise that anger keeps. Actually, I’m doing that now. I’m speaking up because I feel that … I’m still angry about what happened.

Then the second promise that anger makes and keeps to us is it keeps us focused on action. What I mean by this is, say you’ve been considering going to law school, and then after this weekend in Charlottesville you thought to yourself, “You know what, this is the time. I need to go to law school. I think I’d be really good at it. I think I could make a difference. My sphere of influence would be better.” The target audience, the demographic, or the people that you serve will be better off for you being in a place of a different type of authority. So that can spur you to action.

This is actually the piece, the promise that anger keeps that gives it its negative reputation, and that is that sometimes we act negatively based on anger. You could actually really easily make the argument that that is what happened with the perpetrator driving the car this weekend in Charlottesville acted out of anger. So anger in and of itself is not bad. It is a friend keeping a promise. It’s how we relate to that friendship.

What I have observed and what I hope you find interesting and hopefully enlightening and even load-lifting is I think sometimes we hold anger to a third promise that it has never made and it is incapable of keeping. That is the promise of a resolution. Anger has never promised that it would bring us to the finish line in anything that we’re dealing with or talking about or discussing. It has never promised to be the full circle. It has never promised to be the peace, the resolution.

I think that might actually be what leads into the second observation I made this weekend was that feeling of weariness or overwhelm, is I think we’re weary when we don’t see the resolution, but we didn’t really realize that we’re holding anger to a promise it never actually committed to. So when we don’t see the resolution coming through to the results, it is so easy to feel weary, that like, “This is happening again? Aren’t we making strides? Aren’t we using our voice?”

And it can lead to these broad strokes comments, these kind of all-inclusive comments that are saying like, “The world is terrible. Everyone is horrible. People are idiots.” They’re very broad strokes, and so when they’re very generic and all-inclusive in that way, it is a sign of feeling helpless or weary or overwhelmed. I want to acknowledge that because you’re coming at it from a great place because you want something to change, and I’m not looking down on anyone. This is something that I’ve just uncovered in myself and have started to observe in others. But it doesn’t bring that resolution.

So I want to invite you to just a little bit of a shift in perspective with a couple of different stories that I think might paint a really, hopefully, hope-filled picture for you. And that is shifting from “I feel compelled to see the whole world change because the whole world is messed up, the whole world’s at this whatever level” and the spheres of influence that we don’t actually necessarily touch day-to-day and to move to the “What can I do to strengthen, to edify my own world, my own sphere of influence?”

I have two stories for you that may sound completely unrelated, but I promise you that they’re not, and I promise you they connect, and I hope that they’re stories that you remember. One example is there was a clockmaker in Europe in the 1600s. Bet you didn’t expect me to start out with that! He made pendulum clocks. One day, the story goes, he was feeling ill and went to lay down, but he hung up a clock that he had just finished before going to lay down. So when he was laying down, he was looking up at the clock that he had just hung with the one right next to it, and the pendulums were kind of, they were just doing their own thing. But he started to notice that after time, the pendulums started syncing up. Isn’t that interesting? It actually baffled scientists and philosophers and such for a couple hundred years.

And then the second story, the second word picture I want to throw out to you is, have you ever been to a college football game? Okay. We lived in Nebraska for a few years, and we went to a couple Cornhusker games, and they’re an experience! There’s like 40,000 people there to watch one event. The moment that I loved and really why I’m bringing this story up is the fight song. That moment when the crowd, and then I assume the football players, you couldn’t hear them obviously, but everyone joined in and sang this fight song. The energy changed, and it was palpable.

So what I didn’t know then was, something I learned recently is that when people sing together, their heartbeat actually syncs up. Isn’t that incredible? And it doesn’t have to be 40,000 or 50,000 people in a stadium. It could be five or ten people, it could be a quartet, it could be a smaller choir. I was in a choir in high school, and looking back, I was like, “You know what, I can totally picture that our hearts were beating at the same time.” Isn’t that incredible?

People from different walks of life, especially in the football analogy, all walks of life, all ages, all types of people, when they come to that one place and they sing together, their heartbeats sync up. That is why it feels so powerful. So, it is the proximity. It’s the proximity that we had at the football game, it’s the proximity even in the high school choir, and it’s the proximity of those clocks and the pendulums that ended up syncing up together that really made the difference. That’s what made them so unique and stand out.

So I want to encourage you that if you feel like the world is big and scary, it can be, yes, but I want you to feel so empowered to be that clock that other clocks can mirror up with. And I want to encourage you, you can be the first person to start singing that people will sync up with and start joining you, and then the heartbeats will sync up. I love both of those stories. Let me know in the comments, what do you think is a cooler story? Do you think it’s the pendulum, or do you think it is the singing? I’d love to hear from you.

I want to remind you that you are not helpless. The world may feel big and scary, especially when bad things happen. I hope that you remember this moment and take from it that you can help your world be a better place, a safer place, a stronger place, a more cohesive place, a more welcoming place. However you want to create it, it is yours to create. You have more power, you have more authority than you realize, especially over your world.

And in case you think that I am being too soft on this, I want you to know that love is not weak. I wrote this down because I wanted to make sure I voiced it. It is not a cop out. It is bold, and it is brave, and it requires our best. There is no real way to halfway love. There’s no real way to halfway push up or pull up. You can halfway pull down, but there’s no halfway to pull up.

So I encourage you to think of yourself as a pendulum clock, to think of yourself as that first person that’s willing to start singing that gets everyone else going, to have more of an influence in your world. That is what you can do when it feels overwhelming and you feel helpless. You can change your world. You can have an impact in your world.

I would be remiss if I didn’t create another call to action of, it is so helpful to see our thoughts out on paper or on a screen. So especially if you feel thoughts of anger about this weekend, I encourage you, if you have a favorite method of journaling, whether that be you have a favorite journal, a physical journal, or if you use Evernote or Google Docs or whatever, I encourage you to use whatever method you love to answer that question — “Why am I so angry about X?” In this case, Charlottesville. And then I encourage you to ask a second question of yourself, is “Do I feel helpless? And then if so, why?”

I encourage you to journal on those topics. It will help you see your thoughts, understand your thoughts more clearly. But it will also really give you insight into people around you and potentially what they’re feeling, what they’re thinking, what they’re concerned about, and be able to approach them, be that clock, be that first person to sing in a more effective way.

If you don’t yet have a method of journaling, I have a gift for you. If you go over to UnSabotage.com/tryit, it’s a blank journal. It is full of space for you to write. It’s a printable, so you can just download it for free. Then at the end, there is the really cool key that helps you to see your thoughts in a totally different visual color-coded way. So like I said, journal on those, whatever method, but if you’re looking for a method, I have one for you because I really believe in the power of that.

So again, be that pendulum clock, be that first person to start singing, and you can help change your world today. Have an amazing day, and I will see you next Tuesday at 11:00 AM Pacific. Bye, Gorgeous.

So, with all that said, I hope you enjoyed my take on what we actually have power to change in our own worlds.

You are a beautiful person!


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