Had a conversation with Melissa yesterday, she was wondering how I'm not more observably disturbed by some of the suffering and injustices of the world - stuff in the Middle East say. Hadn't I seen some of the more heart wrenching scenes? No, I had seen them. Didn't I find them awful? Yes, absolutely god-awful and horrific.
But I guess - and it may sound callous, but I think it's morally ok to identify and recognize the awfulness but to keep it in your *head* rather than your *body*. Strong emotions are a way of trying to ensure useful action, but you *really gotta pick your battles*, because there are SO many battles to choose from. (I think of that line from Garrison Keillor's "Don Giovoanni": "Helpless rage is a major cause of falls in the home.")
I think some of the problem is that we *know too much of the world*. We're probably wired to deal with the slights and injustices of our family, our village, our village's feelings about our neighboring village, and not much beyond - all scenes where our input can make a crucial difference. But we take it on ourselves to understand local scenes and large trends from far away. But for most of those, we can't materially fix things! (Though we also get our ears full of anecdotes of great people, outliers, who DO make a difference, and we get frustrated we can't be more like those heroes of the new pantheon.) Frustration. And then: expressing the appropriate outrages is also a form of group cohesion, so you need to be careful not to sound like you're invalidating the outrage of your peers. (And fwiw signaling rowing in the same direction as your peeps in general is more important than being "correct" on any single issue - this fact cranks up polarization)
And complicating it further is having the individual appropriate outrage can be a LITTLE useful to helping the world right itself. It's like voting: if you are sick or break your leg and miss a vote, that's ok - either your candidate wins anyway, or they lose but it wasn't by a single vote. Your vote can only really matter as part of an emergent trend, and participating in conversations and writings about the issue before hand is as or more important than your physical vote, since that has more potential to nudge the trend.
So maybe those thoughts from that conversation were in my head as I dreamed last night; Dylan was driving Matthew G's car and RV (or maybe Matthew was driving Dylan's - I hate how hard it is to recall dreamtime!) with us in the back, and the road was unplowed from vast amounts of snow, and the car was underpowered for the trailer, and each time we plowed into a snowdrift it wasn't clear we'd make it through. And I'd close my eyes before each drift. And Melissa who was in the back with me asked me about it, and I said it was for emotional regulation, not getting too scared about something out of my control. (And I think that happens in real life for me - like when I was less confident at helping my band run itself, or maybe my own tuba playing, I would shut my eyes, especially if a performance was floundering a bit. Which, you know, is likely less helpful than being eyes open and communicating more! But I made myself grow past that and look at my band with eyes wide open.)
So I woke up asking if diverting one's attention is a "legitimate" form of emotional regulation, or if you always have to plow into the worst news, feel the full outrage boil in your gut, and still control it. (My dream tried to make a joke it couldn't quite land, about a parallel tendency to procrastinate on reading emails or what not... the joke was something like "see there's all these different communication forms - with texts, it's likely to be bad news. But then compare to email, which is likely to be bad news. Or to a call, which is likely to be be bad news. Or FB messenger, which like text is likely to be a short form of bad news [...]")
Interesting that my dream featured Matthew (whom I had had dinner with that evening before a mutual friend's birthday party) and Dylan - who showed us the "it makes sense that you feel that way" line, which can validate having the emotional response without fully endorsing or confirming its rational, objective basis.