Saturday morning bloomed sunny and warm with a hint of autumn cool. We packed the car and started our now well worn journey through the suburbs to the school that provided the venue for our peer support coach training programme. We were ready to facilitate the last module and felt that sense of accomplishment tinged with melancholy that wraps around the heart at the end of something good.
Others on the road were feeling quite different. Traffic was more chaotic than usual, if that is possible. Drivers of all types were blatantly ignoring the rules of the road, driving through red lights, speeding through stop streets and careening around corners with little concern for their own or anyone else's safety.
It felt very unconscious and survivalist. Everyone for themselves, stressed out and angry, barreling through the streets with tunnel vision. Me, myself, I is all that matters, so I will pull in front of you, race past you, not let you through when you try to dodge a gaping pothole. I will do a U-turn, slowly, while I check my phone, making you wait, but not acknowledging you for one second.
“What is going on with everyone today?” remarked Chantal, covering her eyes with her hands as Matthew skillfully moved out of the way of an oncoming car halfway in his lane.
“On his phone,” muttered Matthew, rolling his eyes.
Everybody was on their phone while driving, hypnotised by the light of fomo. Distracted and adrift, they swayed across roads and stuttered into intersections, barely recognising where they were when they lifted their heads.
Shadows and light. Inside and outside. As above, so below. As within, so without.
The interior reflects the exterior
“It feels to me as if the interior is reflecting the exterior,” Matthew continued, “The deteriorating driving is reflecting the disintegrating roads, the bad behaviour mirroring the bad municipal management.”
We’re all becoming sucked into the part cowboy, part criminal status quo. It is difficult to resist the pull when the pressure is being applied so insistently. How does one avoid sliding into unconscious, zombie-like behaviour when life is so lacking in structure and certainty?
Over dark roast cappuccinos a friend told us about the enlightening and uplifting motivational talk by Anthony Kairuz she had had the good fortune to attend. Anthony had been left paralysed from the neck down after a freak motorcycle accident. He now uses his devastating accident to learn and teach valuable lessons and made it a priority not to engage with negative people or media. The minute the conversation turned down the road of grumbles, grouching and dismal disaster dramas, he excused himself. He was fastidious about what he allowed into his consciousness. It took so much energy just to live in his body that he could not waste any of it on anything he could not control, influence or impact.
The wending nasturtium giving us reason to smile
Build an internal firewall
Here was a hint of how to do it. It takes so much energy just to live in the world, especially this part of the world that we cannot waste any of it on anything that we have no control or influence over. In order to protect ourselves from the negativity onslaught we have to be meticulous about what we allow into our consciousness zone. It’s like developing an internal firewall against the messages, digital or human, that feed and reinforce the dark side.
Matthew's favourite poem is Invictus by William Ernest Henley. The poem ends with:
“I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.”
The metaphor of the body (and soul) being like a ship, and each of us the captain, resonates deeply. In this instance in order to remain the captain of our souls we have to, like Odysseus, strap ourselves to the mast of our ship in order to sail past the Sirens of social media and other messages of misery.
Odysseus wasn’t alone. Supported by an able crew, he mitigated the seductive lure of the Sirens' enchanting call by instructing his men to block their ears with beeswax. Their collective effort enabled them to steer their ship safely past the temptation.
“If you want want different, then you gotta do different.”
Want different, do different
"If we want different, we need to do different," Matthew declared, waving his arms as if wielding a sword. "To change our external world, we first need to cultivate a different inner world."
Much like Odysseus and his crew, the first step is to create space for change by effectively blocking out the noise and the alluring pull of modern-day Sirens. Not just for yourself, but also for those around you, your crew, so to speak. It may mean that you have to be purposeful in what you agree to allow into the conversation and what is gently turned away, or turned down. Or you may need to excuse yourself.
Having created this space you will then be able to chart a different course of action by consciously taking small, sustainable steps to seed and grow an inner world that you wish to see reflected in your external reality. A world of peace, hope, love, and kinship…
What small sustainable step can you take towards a different outcome in your life?
Until next time.
Yours in feeling,
Chantal & Matthew
About the author
5th Place is a dynamic organization that's passionate about emotional fitness. We're the creators of Shape of Emotion, a revolutionary tool that's changing the way we understand and manage our emotions. But we're not just about theory - we're about practical, tangible change.
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