Seeing What’s Possible

Do you ever think “I should watch the news” but then when you try, it’s too depressing, and you end up switching to something mindless, or funny, or both?

I try pretty hard not to do that, but sometimes I just can’t stomach the news. It’s too tragictoo infuriating, or sometimes, too irrelevant.

But I recently read something that made me stop and think about this: Restorative Narratives: Defining a New Strength-Based  Genre from ivoh.org.

I began to wonder if perhaps it’s not entirely a failing on my part on the days when I can’t stomach any more newsIt begins:

The media has a profound impact on the way we see the world, how we interpret news events, and the way we respond to these events. This is especially true in the wake of natural disasters, shootings, bombings, and other tragedies.

The media tells us what happened, how many homes were devastated, who was killed or injured — all the facts that keep us informed.These stories are important, but they’re often confined to tragedy, despair and loss.

As days and weeks pass, the media move on to new stories, often neglecting to tell the “what’s possible?” stories about how the people and communities affected by these tragedies are coping and what they’re learning.

The article goes on to explain what a Restorative Narrative is: a story that shows how people and communities learn to rebuild and recover after difficult times. It carefully distinguishes between real Restorative Narratives and impostors. So we’re not talking about shallow “human interest stories” or simplified “everyone is all better now” stories. We’re also not talking about waterskiing squirrels.

Ivoh cites research that shows that uplifting news can motivate people to do good in the world, and that witnessing and hearing about positive emotions (kindness, generosity, compassion, gratitude) can help people build physical, intellectual and social resources to draw on later, in the face of new threats.

In other words, seeing, reading or hearing Restorative Narratives can help us build resilience, both as individuals and as a society. It can also help us become better people.

So next time I want to see what’s going on in the world, but I’m not feeling up to a barrage of tragic news and hopelessness, I’m going to check out ivoh and some of the journalists they recommend (Anh Do, Andrea Elliot, Kevin Fagan).

I’m not saying I never want to read the bad news—of course it’s important not to be blind to what’s really going on—and many stories (especially internationally) are woefully under-reported. But it’s comforting to think that you can be an engaged global citizen without (always) being a depressed pessimist.

There is plenty of good, beauty, courage and resilience in the world. Perhaps it’s time we began telling—and reading—these stories more often.

man staring at the skyfield

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