Things to feel bad about

You might have a list of them. In fact, many of us do, and consult it quite often. The list is defective for a number of reasons:

  1. It’s not accurate. There are things that aren’t right in our world that don’t appear on the list. Our personal list tends to be organized around things that are vivid, personal and apparently urgent, as opposed to useful or important.
  2. It ignores systemic problems in favor of individual annoyances.
  3. It makes a profit for the media, but doesn’t help us make things better.
  4. It’s not helpful. Memorizing the list isn’t helping us get any closer to doing anything about it.
  5. It’s actually a trap, designed to keep us from doing the important work we’re afraid to do. It’s Resistance, in the form of buzzkill.
  6. It’s distracting. All the moments we waste focusing on the feel-bad list simply serve to make us feel bad. That’s the list’s job.

Lists like this aren’t a helpful way to avoid bad outcomes. But they do allow us to experience the bad outcomes in advance, even the ones that don’t happen. If feeling bad is keeping us from doing things that produce better outcomes, more connection or simply joy, it’s a waste.

The best use of the list might be to write it down, make it complete, carefully put it in a drawer for later. And then forget about it.