I think I'm right in saying that the world is almost unanimously shocked and disturbed by the war in Ukraine. It's really sad to hear about the awful stuff going on. However, I fear it will escalate into something far, far worse. I'm terrified that if Putin decides to attack a NATO country it could trigger nuclear war. Conventional war would be bad enough, but NUCLEAR war? I used to think no one would dare but now I'm not so sure. I have all these scenarios playing in my head of how some sort of miscalculation could trigger a nuclear war. I feel like all the progress over human history and all the people and things I hold dear are about to be snuffed out by sheer hubris and stupidity.
I try very hard to calm myself down, but each time I keep thinking that there's no point doing anything positive because the world's about to end. I've only just been starting to glimpse my future and potential career paths, but these now seem like dust in the wind.
It's tough trying to talk about this to my family. My dad, who forcibly insists I not shut myself off from the news and isn't very good at emotional support, is not very helpful. As for my mum, she does give me reassurance and emotional support, but it's taking its toll on her and I don't want to add to the stress she is already dealing with. I just feel so lonely when it comes to this.
I totally understand where you are coming from. I used to feel really overwhelmed whenever a new conflict broke out, partly for this reason. I completely agree that nuclear conflict is a real threat, but I think you just have to acknowledge it, and then put it aside, otherwise it interferes with your day to day sanity too much.
That's easier said than done of course. I do think that the sort of news media you engage with makes a big difference in how these things affect you. For example, I used to be completely obsessed with news programs. In my early 20s I'd often spend my whole weekends reading articles on conflicts around the world, feeling I had some duty to understand them. I think this is a trap lots of people fall into, and it can be really unhealthy. I realised there was actually a weird kind of thrill I was getting from reading about all these awful events, and this was probably what was motivating me more than anything else. Also, I realised that when you're already struggling with depression, learning about awful events around the world can become a way for the depression to sort of justify it's existence, and this is a dangerous trap it's very easy to fall into. It's sort of a kind of confirmation bias.
I don't watch nightly news programs or read the papers at all anymore. Instead I listen to radio-shows/podcasts like ABC's "Rear Vision". This show devotes 30 minutes each week to the historical context of a single current issue. The presenters interview a range of academics and other experts on the topic. What you end up with is a much calmer, more cerebral investigation of a current issue, rather than the highly emotionally charged, distressing content you see on the nightly news. There's another podcast from a British professor called "Talking Politics" that's similar in this way. I find I learn a lot more, and don't get so distressed by events around the world when I consume this kind of news instead of engaging in the daily news cycle. Incidentally, the latest Rear Vision episode is about the historical background to the current conflict with Ukraine. It's really good, and helps put the current situation in context.
I'm sorry to hear your Dad pressures you to engage with the news. Maybe you could tell him you've been listening up on ABC radio instead, and suggest the Rear Vision episode to him.
You're absolutely not alone in this. There are all sorts of prominant organisations dedicated to this risk. Take care 🙂
It really is very scary right now and I am really saddened by the thought of all the people who are going to be suffering.
I understand you are finding it really hard to calm down and stop the different scenarios running in your head. In my experience, it's a little bit of a catch-22. I find talking things out can often make sense of what is most likely to happen, which tends to be a long way from the worst outcome. But sometimes talking things out can make our fears even more pronounced and seem more real. I think there is a bit of a balance, and maybe that balancing amount differs from person to person. For me, I cannot even watch the news and I really hope you can find a way to avoid it too. yggdrasil's suggestion about Rear Vision and your father is a good one.
Regardless, there are so many possibilities and a lot of them are truly terrifying. The way I try to approach it is to just remember that the fact that I'm still here after 30 years means the worst hasn't happened, ever, in the last 30 years. There have been bad decisions made, but people persevere and we keep on trying to get better. I expect the same will happen here too. There have been bad decisions, and probably will be some more bad ones to come. But I think life will continue, worse for some, and we will just have to try and help them as best we can so they can pick up their lives and continue.
Thanks Yggdrasil for your very thoughtful and kind response.
Your pervious intense interest in the news and with conflicts really struck a chord with me - I used to be exactly like this until a couple of years ago. When the Ukranian crisis started in 2014 I was hooked and really interested to see what would happen next. I feel like I used to react better to international crises - I think it was when I started making online friends from overseas that I became acutely concerned about their wellbeing and that of the wider world in general, and these feature strongly in many of my anxiety episodes.
Ooh, that does sound very interesting. I'll definitely give it a listen if I get the chance!
I guess something I should remember is that the nuclear issue will definitely be something which figures into the decision making of all the powers involved in this and that does calm my nerves a bit. I'm sure at least some lessons have been learned from past nuclear close calls. It's also good that the world's nuclear arsenal is nowhere near what it was at the height of the Cold War.
Take care as well 🙂
I'm new to offering my thoughts and support so what I say may not works for you. I'm sorry you feel this way. I've felt the same way for the last couple of days: shock, dread, despair, only alleviating after some musing.
Firstly, I'm no military analyst or geopolitical expert, I was more leaning with the belief that Putin was bluffing with Ukraine but, well, here we are. Despite this, I certainly believe Putin attacking NATO is absurd, along with NATO intervening, based on the fact that wars are expensive, destructive and in the case of a nuclear war, unwinnable. Even in a nuclear war, I doubt Australia is a primary target, save for a few key bases like Pine Gap. Right now the fog of war and all the confusion that comes with it is draped over Ukraine, and could be for a long time to come, "wars do not end when you please" . So what ultimately happens remains yet to be seen, we could be surprised for all we know.
Second, what yggdrasil and James1 have said is pretty much on point so I won't parrot what they've said, only to say: beware the scare tactics of sensationalist media. Understand they want eyes glued to TV screens and articles, emotion helps generate that viewership.
With these out of the way, here is something I learnt from Seneca, and this helped my with my anxiety in general: "I now warn you not to drown your soul in these anxieties of yours; if you do, the soul will be dulled and will have too little vigour left when the time comes for it to rise."
"Accordingly, some things torment us more than they ought; some torment us before they ought; and some things ought not to torment us at all. We are in the habit of exaggerating, or imagining, or anticipating in sorrow."
On a more relevant note I would say: To carry the weight of the world on your shoulders is to afflict yourself with all the pain that it brings. History rhymes, and is constantly in the making, the only thing we can do is accept it, bitter as that may sound. Regarding your thoughts on your future and career paths, I'd say just go for it, make it is your purpose at this moment, our lives are all that we know until the next one comes. We all become dust in the wind with time, but what was it that raised you from dust to begin with?
I know stoicism isn't for everyone, but I've been in your place multiple times, and I'm just sharing what worked for me. 🙂
I've noticed that you've also been dealing with a heap of anxiety to do with this. Yes, the situation is very confusing (the fog of war, as Green put it) and is made harder to tolerate by all the COVID chaos lately. I think this is important to remember, as it shows how the intensity of the anxiety is not simply a response to the very real events that are taking place, but is affected by other major stressors.
I think it's important to recognise that leaders do these sort of things to intimidate and get a desired result. Khrushchev threatened it, so did NK. Putin, his family and his cronies have nothing to gain from actually carrying it out. Despite knowing this myself, just like you it is hard for me to stop worrying. When any uncertainty exists, it will thrive. The best we can do is keep going about our days, doing what we need to do as well as what we enjoy. I think that quote from Seneca Green posted is a worthy thing to live by.