Just breathe

(This started as a comment on a Facebook thread. I wanted to memorialize it on my own blog).

TL:DR – Uncertainty is one of the main forces that prevents people from thinking deeply and analytically. Hard to reduce that today. But we will.
(yes, I realize that Facebook is not the best place for this long reply but Joe Brewer alway brings out my didactic side ;-)


Start by taking a deep breath. Hold it for two beats then let it out slowly. Now take another one.

Uncertainty makes it very difficult for many people to move out of System 1, meme or heuristic modes of cognition. Even those who easily drop into System 2, analytic or systemic modes (which I would posit are most of us on this thread  ) can find it hard when we are anxious. When we have circumstances like today, when even people of good will can crank up the uncertainty (let’s not even look at those of ill will leading us now) things can get tough.

So take a deep breath (in through the nose out through the mouth), center yourself and move forward. (Recent research shows exactly why this lowers anxiety levels.)


We enter these times of transition once a lifetime or so, when society gets stuck and the forces pulling cultural evolution forward are hindered by the anxious masses refusing to move. We will get through this one also, the seeds of the coming Golden Age that always follows these transition are already planted. The problems holding us back will be greatly reduced, as they always are, before we begin to create the new problems for the next transition (I’m figuring around the last half of this century as space-based solar, resources from asteroids and robotics change the economics of the world from one of restricted resources to one of abundance).

Today, many anxious people just try to shut out those whose arguments ratchet up the anxiety past the point those ideas can thoughtfully be deal with it. They will stay in System 1, listening to simple ideas that can be easily tweeted, even if any sort of analysis reveals the lies and falsehoods in those words. Only a reduction in anxiety will really give them the space to think more clearly.

So perhaps at this moment in the transition, as Joe suggests, we should not worry a lot about those who will not listen. We need to marshal those that will listen, make sure they realize the tremendous battles we will face as we move forward.

Because while I believe it is inevitable that humanity will cross this transition, it is not inevitable that all of us will. These turning points have generally been bloody and violent. But this time, we have tools and insights that may greatly reduce the suffering.

If we marshal ALL our forces and unleash them in meaningful ways.

If we work against the common enemy, today raising its head from the Authoritarian Right and Left and seeking to divide us, we have the tools to rapidly route around a lot of the damage they are doing. In this transition, success will not be driven by top-down processes of authority but by bottom-up approaches using distributed democracy.

While at this moment in the transition, it might be worthwhile to disconnect ourselves from those who anxiety prevents them from listening so we can more easily marshal our forces, at some point we have to figure out ways to re-incorporate them.

But perhaps not today. I’m spending much of my time just trying to lower anxiety levels amongst those who have a chance of hearing. Hard to do – it is like trying to reduce anxieties in the world after Hitler moved rapidly to take over Europe. We are still in the Dunkirk stage – trying to save and protect what we have from destruction. I am hopeful we will enter the D-Day phase of the battle sooner than we think.

Just remember to breathe.

Image: Sean Rossi


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