Casual Existential Threat Thinking

Questions

[Image Description: There are an array of caution signs, stacked on each other and turned in a variety of angles. The signs are white triangles with red outlines. Black question marks are on every sign.]

Casual Existential Threat Thinking.

That’s what I called it a few days ago. Casual Existential Threat Thinking. I was trying to put language to something I’ve been noticing inside myself. It’s something I sense others are feeling too. It’s this awareness that we’re living in an era that keeps producing big, existential threat questions — around us, within us. But because we can’t afford to totally shut down or break down, we try to find ways to live with the questions.

We try to make them less absolute.

We try to find ways to counter them, shifting their power and direction with our own actions.

We try to make sure they don’t turn into catastrophic thinking, at least not consistently, because we need to function well enough to address these questions. And we really don’t want to shut down or break down.

So these questions… in the onslaught of existential threats we encounter in the news… in the challenges in our own communities… in the thoughts and anxieties that emerge in our own minds…

… they can begin to feel…

casual.

Still actively threatening, for sure, but somehow… now a normal part of our lives? Just part of the landscape? Just part of our day to day thoughts, feelings, and conversations?

I wonder how this is impacting us.

To give some examples, on a pretty frequent basis, I’ll be doing something typical and run of the mill, and one of these questions will just bubble up out of the blue.

Will democracy hold up, or not?

Will women soon be criminalized for this?

What will it be like when the whole ecosystem collapses?

These questions swirl around.

If you’re feeling bummed out by me right now, let me also say, when these questions emerge, I am genuinely troubled, but I also don’t believe we have to go passively into an apocalypse. I don’t believe that all of my questions — or yours — are so absolute that they cannot be addressed, shifted, or changed at all. I’m a realist. And I still believe in possibilities and collective change too.

But my point today is… What is Casual Existential Threat Thinking doing to our minds and bodies? Especially in the sheer frequency of it? How is this impacting our stress levels? How is this disrupting our sleep levels? How is this affecting our relationships? How is shaping our internal sense of safety?  How is this at once, becoming such a typical part of our days, yet of course so disruptive?

Do you feel this too?

Renee Roederer

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