Hysteria is contagious, grief is real, and surrender is healing.
At the conclusion of my first week of withdrawal from Facebook addiction, I have landed with both feet on the ground, gratefully. In the process of abstaining from Facebook, I’ve discovered how addicted I had become to its sugary-like coating over the anxiety of isolation, which is a product of my trauma history and lack of self-care. I believe the last 9 days have sharpened my discernment between superficial and authentic connection.
In the first few days, I had my doubts; I felt a bit crazy and lost. I tried absorbing mainstream news, which was depressing, followed by comedy skits and talent shows, which were amusing but unsatisfying. Then I attended some interactive video conferences of the mutual support and process groups that I have attended before in person, so I knew most of the people there. Finally, I melted into a field of self-acceptance and calm.
For me, Facebook had become a field of self-criticism as I subtly sought approval from others, and agitation as I unconsciously participated in rancor and self-righteous competition of opinions. The hysteria was blatant and more contagious than Covid-19. The authors of Connected name this phenomenon as mass psychogenic illness, saying that it is a “specifically social phenomenon involving otherwise healthy people in a psychological cascade.” I had become hypnotized until one day I felt this tremendous uneasiness about a habit that was feeding, not easing, my sense of isolation. I am embarrassed to say that as many as five hours could pass before I would look at the clock and realize how far down the rabbit-hole I had gone.
Grief avoidance was driving this urgent fear of missing out (FOMO) on what is wrong with the external world, this “defective detective,” worship at the “Church of Perpetual Disappointment” and “doomscrolling.” The focus on the unending litany of the collapse of planetary ecosystems and cultures, American medicine, housing, economy and politics — all happening rapidly and simultaneously — kept the trauma-drama external to myself, in the realm of other people’s responsibilities where I am the innocent bystander and victim of their mistakes.
When I look within and allow myself to feel the authentic and valid grief for these losses as my own, I weep uncontrollably. However, the truly terrifying part of grief is what lies beyond it: acceptance and action. Like many people, I don’t want to know that I have the ability to respond creatively (response-ability). As Marianne Williamson said, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” If I found an adequate or even mildly powerful response to the current overwhelming collapse, what else might be expected from me?
This is my illness, my disease, my affliction, my self-pity as a victim of the world. Yet I find myself relentlessly pushed into the tiny baby steps constantly being offered to me, so that I let go my self-diagnosis as a sick puppy and surrender to the call of healing. A few days ago, I saw and felt a re-balancing of my self-pity with a fresh dose of trust in the process, and I was grateful for the pressure of being out of balance that opened the space for trust to enter. A progression of what seemed like random, small events led me from a desire to not run from our crises, to make friends with my inner dragons of grief and anger, to remove my mask of self-righteousness, to a sudden awareness of Facebook as somehow toxic to me, into a willingness to be part of the healing, then a questioning of what parts of my life no longer serve me, i.e. my perfectionism!
Two days after de-activating my Facebook account, I awoke in the morning to an earworm of “Stay on the Battlefield” sung by Sweet Honey In the Rock. I needed that encouragement to stay the course. I felt excited about expanding horizons into new things I might learn, even while I was still holding some regret about leaving Facebook. I renewed my commitment to keep my eyes on the prize, the affirmation of deep, heartfelt connections, without urgency, without hysteria, beyond grief.
That thought alone is my New Story, that we are truly moving and evolving as one connected human family. It’s not about me, it’s about all of us achieving a functional level of emotional sobriety from which healing can and will flow.