Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering. – Master Yoda
You might have noticed my less active presence on social media lately. Since the beginning of April, I’ve taken a decision to focus less on social media; a sort of internet detox. Why? I was recently in Myrtle Beach for a police motorcycle skills competition. How amazing is that? I had the opportunity to get away from the Canadian winter cold to go represent my police service in the sunny state of South Carolina. The food was amazing. The weather was gorgeous with sunny clear blue skies…but there was a dark cloud hanging over my head at the end of the first couple of days. I found myself completely exhausted and in a general anxious and negative mood. I was swearing every 2nd word and my eyes were burning from fatigue. I didn’t think anything of it until my colleague and friend, Smiley, pointed out my bad habit. Smiley noticed that every free moment, I had my nose stuck in my smart phone. Prior to leaving for the training, there had been some negative media involving policing in my hometown. Naturally, I wanted to keep up to date with the current news especially when it involves my job. However, what started as a couple of minutes reading articles became hours of reading articles, reading social media commentary. Stating that negativity, division and hatred was a common theme would be an understatement. By spending so much time online I quickly fell into the abyss and became entrenched in this false sense of reality. Remaining in this mental abyss of negativity was mentally and emotionally draining. This false reality perpetuated a belief that society had an intense hatred for police. Being a cop, I included myself in this hatred. With that comes feelings of division, us vs. them, fear of being attacked, rapid thoughts, bad dreams, sense of impending doom, elevated heart rate, hyper-vigilance etc. All these symptoms were triggered so rapidly, that I hadn’t put two and two together.
This is where Smiley comes into play. He says plainly, “Dude you’ve got to chill out…Stop reading all those articles and comments… Get off of social media… You’re getting sucked in bro…” The conversation was longer but you get the gist of it. I had realized I was soaking in a hot tub of pessimism. To put it in Star Wars terminology, I was being drawn by the Dark Side of the Force. I decided to put the phone down and focus on the present moment. That seems simple enough, but it takes will power and conscious effort. I’m sure it’s not the last time I fall into the abyss but with therapy and friends like Smiley, the way out is easier to find.
Smiley and I had a blast during the rest of the skills competition. We learned a lot about motorcycle skills, Southern food and life.
Morals of the story:
- Friends are important.
- Sometimes we need to take a step back and question our sense of “truth/reality”.
- Star Wars is always applicable.
Your Bearded Cop