Numbing Our Lives Away

News That Numbs Us To Violence

We all know that way the news is structured, it focuses on stories designed to shock us, designed to elicit fear.  This is partly because news shows are profit seeking programs, not public services.   And fear sells.  Paying attention to our fears is a survival strategy that has helped the species survive for millennia, we are hard wired to pay attention to it.  If more people tune in due to fear electing stories, the shows will run fear eliciting stories- and we will get more and more numb as we build up a tolerance to those stories.

We continue picking up the living room as the tv shows real time footage of a flood killing dozens in some 3rd world country. We may stop for a minute and tsk tsk, but when the for profit tv show switches to a commercial, we head to the kitchen and are able to focus on loading the dishwasher just so, without giving the issue another thought. Or we react with guilt and donate to the relief drives that always follow, not realizing our money would be better spent on scaling up and distributing existing technologies that would not lead to global warming. We are numb to other people’s experiences outside of our own nationalistic worries (link needed).

Entertainment that Numbs Us To Violence

Violence is ubiquitous in entertainment.  That millions of people can watch multiple realistic looking rapes in a single hour long episode of Game of Thrones and not be disturbed by it shows there’s something quite psychologically wrong with our culture.  The Walking Dead is an entire hour long sequence of shootings and killings and battles. These are super popular shows. Much money is being made by producing and airing these shows.

The people that watch these shows and other extremely violent entertainment love their kids, they pay their bills, (though they are probably disengaged at work, see below), they feed their dogs, they go for runs, shop at Costco and are generally functional enough, even prosperous in our current day culture.  How can we become so numb to such sights?

How can we stoically watch sickening levels of violence and consider it to be entertaining? In kids, a common reaction to trauma is to become numb.  But being kids, they instinctively know that feeling life is necessary. So they become overactive and quite reckless in attempts to actually feel something. These are the kids who race around out of control, get into fights, and in many cases it looks like they have ADHD.  They are simply trying to feel life and have to amp up their actions in order to do so.  Because of the daily news and the level of violence in “entertainment” that has gone on previously, one murder doesn’t shock us anymore. We need five, ten, or more to stay engaged, and be entertained. And we watch these shows in part because we are hyper vigilant and can still feel some life through our sensations of fear, no matter how muted.

We spend most of our working days shut down at jobs we don’t like, so turning to violence for “entertainment” is both a way to attempt to feel something and possibly a bit of passive aggressive outlet for the frustrations that have multiplied during our dis satisfying work weeks. Speaking of which:

Work Disengagement

According to a long running yearly Gallup Poll a shocking 85% of workers worldwide are disengaged.[1] That means 85 out of every 100 employees are numbly waiting for their work day to end so they can go home.

In the US it’s a little better, with “only” 2/3 of workers disengaged.  That means 2 out of 3 workers are spending the majority of their waking hours, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week wishing they were elsewhere, waiting out hours of quiet desperation. What kind of quality of life does that bring? (link needed)

Unfortunately starting as a teen in fairly unskilled jobs, and then even for many of the jobs I’ve held as a highly educated professional, I too have experienced that disengagement.  I know what it’s like- as most likely a large majority of readers of this page do- to be spending the majority of my waking hours in a half deadened state, making money for some soulless corporation.  When a person is disengaged from their job, it affects their quality of life. We walk around half living during our work days.

Numb To Our Cultural Norms

If you were to take a long break from looking at any advertising (somehow), and then were to go back and look at it with fresh eyes, you would see the promise of sex, status, and hyper masculinity as the main selling points for the vast majority of products on the market. Is that what anyone really wants to believe is a healthy culture? Money drives the markets, so that’s what our realities reflect: marketing targeting the best ways to get money/power.

Money gives the promise of power, money helps us feel secure in a world we see as highly dangerous. We conceptualize ourselves having no power (aka no money coming in), it scares us, indeed the very thought of loss of power triggers TBRs that put us back in a (wholly unnecessary) survival mode. So we stay in the soul deadening jobs, and live lives where we feel we’re doing okay.  We are doing okay, if we view our lives from a survival mode.

The Lucky 17%

According to the US government’s Center for Disease Control (Good) Mental health is a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” It is estimated that only about 17% of U.S adults are considered to be in a state of optimal mental health.2


[1] summary from 2016: or for 2017

[2]  From the CDC: