Intrusive Racist Zeitgeist

OhherOhher Shipmate
edited November 4 in All Saints
Is this happening to anybody besides me?

I am becoming alarmed by what my monkey-mind is throwing at me these days. . . or is it my unconscious? Bits of openly racist, sexist, and anti-LGBQT etc. rhetoric which are now polluting the media seem to be taking up residence in my brain.

When I attempt to settle myself for my usual meditative practice (no easy task these days) by focusing on my breath and letting the rest of my attention off its leash, the most appalling images and verbiage occasionally pop up. Phrases or images I’ve encountered (and which normally form no part of my usual “internal monologue”) in the news, generally uttered by people whose views are 180 degrees around the circle from where I am (or at least hope and wish to be) crowd unbidden into my awareness. It’s quite upsetting. How and why this is happening I do not understand. I’d like it to stop.

The thing is, I grew up in a racist, sexist, etc. family. It wasn’t overt; it was subtle, restrained – no less harmful for that, but at least not openly hostile and derogatory. In that respect, the “polite” racism I was brought up with was quite different from the crude, nasty, insulting stuff that suddenly intrudes as I’m “settling.” It’s enough to make one believe in possession.

In conversation with my older sister, I notice her somewhat more overt racism has similarly advanced and increased and become decidedly more pronounced.

Is this just due to the general viciousness our US politics seem to have devolved to? Is our degraded public discourse setting up housekeeping in my mind? Am I going off the rails? Are any other Shippies similarly afflicted?


Comments

  • Two words: media overexposure. At least it is for me when similar intrusive thoughts attack. Maybe fast from some of the media around you? (There's a reason I stopped reading certain sites) Just hearing the news too often can set it off nowadays.
  • It’s worth remembering your brain is always on the bubble, creating about 50,000 thoughts a day - most of which you will forget. (I think Lamb chopped is right about the effect of media exposure, as to why this is happening now.)

    But just because a thought occurs to you, doesn’t mean you necessarily believe it. If you find it wrong or unhelpful, dismiss it - mindfulness will help with this.

    The technical term for thoughts like these is ‘ego dystonic’, everyone gets them sometimes. Most famously, if you develop OCD - you over focus on them and become distressed, engaged in special patterns of action or thought to neutralise them (which doesn’t work, but is the psychological mechanism underlying ocd).

    We know that everybody gets some thoughts of this type, because of the research done to understand ocd - the exact content varying from person to person. E.g. a religious person might get blasphemous thoughts etc.
  • The various ~isms has been normalised so comments that would have been off limits in most conversations a few years ago are now considered acceptable. Whereas challenging them has become less so as people don't appreciate the difference between being able to say what they like and being able to say what they like without consequences.

    I find limiting the amount of news media I consume and muting some people on social has helped. Otherwise I'd spent all my days arguing about Brexit and I don't wanna ... OTH, it needs to be balanced carefully or I'd live in an echo-chamber and that isn't good either. It's not easy
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    I find work or other stresses have a similar effect for me. This tends to mean that if I wake in the night whatever I am stressed about goes round and round in my head without going away. When I’m like that, my head resolutely refuses to clear when I attempt to focus on my breathing.

    One solution for me is to provide an external distraction - a suitable radio programme or podcast just loud enough for me to hear. This is probably not workable for meditative practice. The other thing that sometimes works is to imagine in detail a familiar (and soothing) walk. I have a particular favourite short walk which leads to a lovely quiet beach with particular significance for me. Doing this walk in my head usually has the effect of shutting out the other stuff.

    If none of this works, then. I may need to directly address whatever it is that is bugging me in the hope that consciously addressing it in some way will enable me to make it less of a nagging distraction.
  • FirenzeFirenze Shipmate, Host Emeritus
    I find intrusive and disagreeable thoughts a problem too.

    On the macro level (ie global and national problems) I avoid or filter out sources of information. I try and put alternative activities in place of excessive time online.

    The abiding problem though is with personal memories - every recollection seems to come with shame or regret or anger.

    If there are strategies for making a mind more comfortable with itself, I would love to know them.
  • MooMoo Kerygmania Host
    One thing that sometimes works for me is to say, "I'm not going there". Combined with a pre-chosen alternative to think about.
  • BoogieBoogie Shipmate
    edited November 4
    Very well done @Ohher for recognising it in yourself and confronting it.

    I was brought up in 1960s South Africa in a very anti-racist family so I can’t imagine what you have overcome.

    Now all our neighbours are Muslim and we get on very well.

    But I still have a monkey brain which occasionally throws up a fear of the ‘other’. Don’t let it win, have a stern word with that monkey and do something practical to meet up with someone who is different.

    ((Hugs))
  • I was raised in what might be described as a passively racist environment - does that make sense? - I'm not sure. A turning point for me came in the oddest possible way. When I was a teenager, a huge man, who must have been Jamaican, judging by his accent and appearance, stopped me in the street and asked for directions, addressing me as 'friend'. I suppose I must have thought that if I was his friend, then he must be mine. I told him what he wanted to know and we went our ways, but that odd moment is still with me nearly sixty years later, and I believe it affects me still. So that's the kind of thing that can be an antidote for the bad stuff that surrounds us today.
  • We've been through a national commission on Truth and Reconciliation re the racist and genocidal dealings with indigenous people (North American Indians). It has become compulsory for it to be covered in schools and there's a move to include it as compulsory to get a university degree. There was an additional national commission re Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women which focused additionally on policing and racism, exploitation, systematic discrimination.

    There's other things as well. Including the comparison to America. The impact has been more consciousness of racism.

    There's push back. We have pretty clear dog whistling politicians, anti immigration opinions stated, which is interesting in some unusual ways : Filipinos good, Middle East bad.

    I think re @Ohher 's note that the consciousness about it is clearer and easier to see in yourself. People who formerly held their opinions to themselves, don't.
  • By taking every thought captive (2 Cor. 10:5) and reaffirming your own views, you are filtering the nasty ones out. You may hand them over to God, and ask for his peace.
  • The traditional Christian view is that not everything in your head is necessarily sourced from you--there is such a thing as temptation--and therefore you are not to blame just for having such intrusive thoughts, but only if you welcome them. Which you clearly are not doing. I'd say, take them as another cross to bear (aka annoying pain in the ass to combat), and remember that "this, too, shall pass." For me, at least, it is easier to bear the intrusive thoughts when I look at them as a trial instead of as something I am somehow doing and am therefore morally responsible for. You're not to blame if someone throws garbage into your house. Just check the doors and windows to see if there's any way of preventing it, or at least cutting it down. (Which implies getting enough sleep, taking vitamins, exercise, etc. as well--but we all knew that).
  • Bishops FingerBishops Finger Shipmate
    edited November 4
    The thought of garbage being thrown into your house - which is an excellent allegory for racist etc. thoughts being thrown into your mind - makes me think of a lovely book by a well-known Buddhist Abbot, Ajahn Brahm (an Englishman, living now, I think, in Perth, Western Australia).

    The book - Who Ordered This Truckload Of Dung? - is full of practical hints on how to be positive in one's thinking, and I've found it most helpful in various ways, not just in combatting my generational racism (I'm a child of the 1950s).

    What @Lamb Chopped has just said chimes in quite well with the good Abbot's thoughts.

  • The book - Who Ordered This Truckload Of Dung? - is full of practical hints on how to be positive in one's thinking, and I've found it most helpful in various ways, not just in combatting my generational racism (I'm a child of the 1950s).

    "My generational racism". Good - that's the phrase I should have used in my earlier note. That's just what it is/was, and understanding it is what will get us ahead.
  • The traditional Christian view is that not everything in your head is necessarily sourced from you--there is such a thing as temptation--and therefore you are not to blame just for having such intrusive thoughts, but only if you welcome them. Which you clearly are not doing. I'd say, take them as another cross to bear (aka annoying pain in the ass to combat), and remember that "this, too, shall pass." For me, at least, it is easier to bear the intrusive thoughts when I look at them as a trial instead of as something I am somehow doing and am therefore morally responsible for. You're not to blame if someone throws garbage into your house. Just check the doors and windows to see if there's any way of preventing it, or at least cutting it down. (Which implies getting enough sleep, taking vitamins, exercise, etc. as well--but we all knew that).

    I'm no expert, but the above fits in well with the little I know of current psychological theory. There was an episode of the NPR podcast Invisibilia about intrusive thoughts a few years ago. They interviewed a guy who was often troubled with impulses to commit violence against his friends and family, even though he wasn't upset or angry with them in any way. Several brain specialists the reporters spoke with said that the best thing to do with intrusive thoughts is just to let them drift through your brain, recognize that they probably aren't a sign of anything alarming about your personality, and not try to fight them as it gives them more power.
  • PigletPiglet All Saints Host, Circus Host
    It seems to me that the rise of populist, far-right politicians in several parts of the world has given a strange (and very disturbing) "legitimacy" to racist thoughts and their expression.

    My own remedy, such as it is, is generally to inhabit a cyber-echo-chamber with others who think the other way. On the mercifully rare occasions when racists or trolls infiltrate the space I confess I tend not to engage with them as I find them rather intimidating.
  • Apropos of nothing can a host respell the thread title?
  • PigletPiglet All Saints Host, Circus Host
    It just goes to show - your brain processes what it wants to.

    I stared and stared at the thread title, and had almost posted that I couldn't see anything wrong with it - both the "ei" combinations were right - and it wasn't until I said it out loud to myself that I realised what you were getting at.

    Sorted now. :smile:

    Piglet, AS host
  • Thanks, @Piglet.
  • OhherOhher Shipmate
    Many thanks to all for helpful comments. It's good to know that (A) I'm not alone, and (B) there are actual effective coping strategies, and (C) this too shall pass.
  • PigletPiglet All Saints Host, Circus Host
    I'd like to think that your point (c) will apply, Ohher.

    Surely the collective insanity that's making people elect politicians who normalise and even encourage racism, xenophobia and other unpleasant traits can't last for ever?
  • OhherOhher Shipmate
    Piglet wrote: »
    I'd like to think that your point (c) will apply, Ohher.

    Surely the collective insanity that's making people elect politicians who normalise and even encourage racism, xenophobia and other unpleasant traits can't last for ever?

    Definitely won't be forever (may seem like it, though) since the Insane Cohort appears hell-bent on driving us into extinction. Pity we apparently have to take so many other bright, beautiful, great, small, wise and wonderful beings with us over that edge.
  • Firenze wrote: »
    I find intrusive and disagreeable thoughts a problem too.

    On the macro level (ie global and national problems) I avoid or filter out sources of information. I try and put alternative activities in place of excessive time online.

    The abiding problem though is with personal memories - every recollection seems to come with shame or regret or anger.

    If there are strategies for making a mind more comfortable with itself, I would love to know them.

    I give myself The Talk. As I don't have access to a Tardis, nothing can be changed so it has to be lived with and learnt from. To (hopefully) do better now and in the future.

    Even if I did have access to a Tardis, would I really want to waste it wandering about my past when I could go and do all the things! Plus, attempting to "fix" things back then might totally balls up things as they are now. Because first law of time and all that.
  • Tubbs wrote: »
    I give myself The Talk. As I don't have access to a Tardis, nothing can be changed so it has to be lived with and learnt from. To (hopefully) do better now and in the future.

    Even if I did have access to a Tardis, would I really want to waste it wandering about my past when I could go and do all the things! Plus, attempting to "fix" things back then might totally balls up things as they are now. Because first law of time and all that.

    It certainly needs to be learned from. I firmly believe that we are all inclined to prefer people similar to ourselves, but in a society in which people move around, and interact with those of other classes and in different circumstances, this is not morally acceptable.

    In short, we have to watch ourselves, and possibly have someone on hand to tap us on the shoulder and warn us when we err.
  • CaissaCaissa Shipmate
    Parenthetical question and if I should ask it in The Styx, I will. Has Zeitgeist become considered a normal part of English parlance, thus acceptable without an English translation?
  • PigletPiglet All Saints Host, Circus Host
    I'm inclined to think so, @Caissa - I've just found it in my 1998 edition of the Chambers English Dictionary, so I think it's been in general use for long enough.

    Piglet, AS host
  • CaissaCaissa Shipmate
    Great. Thanks, Piglet.
  • RossweisseRossweisse Shipmate, Hell Host
    Yes, zeitgeist found its way into English some decades ago. Yay!
  • OhherOhher Shipmate
    As I tell my spelling-challenged students, if we don't have an English word for something, we'just steal one from somebody else. Any language, anywhere.
  • RossweisseRossweisse Shipmate, Hell Host
    It's one of the glories of English. We're inclusive, not like those languages that must have teams of Experts to cobble together words that mean the same thing as a handy one from elsewhere.
  • We're also very, very fast as we zip down dark alleys to assault other languages and rifle through their pockets.
  • OhherOhher Shipmate
    Rossweisse wrote: »
    It's one of the glories of English. We're inclusive, not like those languages that must have teams of Experts to cobble together words that mean the same thing as a handy one from elsewhere.

    The inclusive part's great, but I'm not so sure about the "glory" part. When you can spell the exact same sound with umpteen different letters / letter combos, it makes spelling a nightmare even for native speakers. I can't imagine trying to learn this crazy language as my second, third, or fourth tongue. Yet there's a second-language learner in one of my sections right now who routinely produces better-written essays than at least half my English-only speakers. The essays are spelled right, too.

    It would help if, when we went through other languages' pockets, we ran the takings through a currency converter before stashing it under the mattress. Couldn't we spell "champagne" as "shampain?" Do we really need both "ph" and "f" to stand for one single sound? And don't get me started on sugar, shallot, ocean, nation . . . I know; if GB Shaw couldn't pull off spelling reform, I'm unlikely to fare any better.

    However, we're wandering far afield from intrusive zeitgeists.
  • RussRuss Shipmate
    sionisais wrote: »
    I firmly believe that we are all inclined to prefer people similar to ourselves,

    Agreed. Part of human nature.
    ...but in a society in which people move around, and interact with those of other classes and in different circumstances, this is not morally acceptable.

    I tend to believe that only choices can be morally wrong. Feelings and preferences are what they are, and come to us unbidden - each of us has to play the hand we're dealt.

    It's not clear to me whether you're judging some acts to be morally unacceptable based on what's going on in the mind of the actor, or based on the social consequences if everyone has and acts on the same preferences.

    But ISTM that at least part of the zeitgeist you complain of is a backlash in the less-cosmopolitan parts of each country, against being judged by the cultural standards of the more-cosmopolitan part and against implied moral superiority.

    So choose your words of moral condemnation carefully, lest you feed the phenomena you oppose.



  • Jemima the 9thJemima the 9th Shipmate
    edited November 10
    Re: @Firenze ’s point about making a mind more comfortable with itself. I find guided meditation incredibly beneficial. I started probably a couple of years ago with short meditations, and now try to meditate daily. For me, it is a lot about learning to live in the present moment, not chasing after the past or worrying about the future. I also find exercise very helpful - I try to go to yoga weekly, and aim to run in between times. There is something about making the mind and body work together which takes me out of just being in my head, if you see what I mean.

    Regarding the intrusive thoughts - with apologies for bringing up my ocd which I feel I’m forever banging on about on the ship, this is a big problem for me, and sometimes it is about weird and horrid things which I don’t believe to be true eg I worry that I’m going to shout racist abuse at the lovely till lady in the supermarket. What I am learning to do is to accept that more or less everybody has these to some extent or another, that it doesn’t mean I’m going to act on them, and they don’t make me bad. The most useful thing to do is to note them, observe them, and let them go. The hippy in me sometimes visualises a thought attaching itself to a leaf and floating down a river.

    This probably sounds like crazy hippy shit to many, but not all that many years ago I’d have agreed, but I’m so much better for doing this stuff.
  • HuiaHuia Shipmate
    Jemima, I'm glad it works for you.

    I have found guided meditation has changed my life in many positive ways too. As a life-long procrastinator I find the biggest challenge is actually doing it. It's simple, but not necessarily easy.
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