Step out of the filter bubble to face bad news

Since the COVID19 crisis, the world has had one bad event after another. We get bad news all the time, and we need to deal with new information courageously. This is especially hard when speedreading, but even without it, consuming bad news without getting depressed and without shutting down is hard. Here I want to discuss the challenge and some pieces of advice to deal with it. More reading here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

May 9th is special

In May there are several interesting dates. May 4th is the day of star-wars imaginary conflict. May 9th is the day of a real victory in WWII. When I was a child, on May 9th old soldiers used to dress in their parade costumes and used to display their medals. I kind of envied their bravery, but more than that I was simply happy that I should never face similar evil again.  As any child  I was naive. Unfortunately, I was overly optimistic, and later in life got some medals of my own.

It is normal to believe that nothing bad will ever happen again. When unfortunately bad things happen, it is normal to disbelieve and shut under the filter bubble. Yet, bad things are real. Facing them requires courage. More often than not we survive and can celebrate bitter-sweet victory. Then we move on with our lives until something bad happens again. Once that happens, may the force be with you – or whatever prayer you want to say.

Speedreaders are more sensitive

Some people are naturally more sensitive than others. Being speedreaders, we naturally become more sensitive to bad news. We read more. When we read we internalize information visually, often without filtering it first. Then, when processing what we just read we get an overwhelming impression. And visualize everything again in all details.

This filter-less visualization is great for learning new things. It can also be great when dealing with good news. When the news is bad, this quality is suboptimal.

The obvious defense is avoiding speedreading when dealing with bad news. We can slow down, hide in the protective embrace of our filter bubble, or ignore the news and watch fantasy. Possibly, we cannot do anything about the situation even if we know every little brutal detail. Or maybe we can. Or maybe we want to know everything, simply to have an authentic choice. If we decide to face the truth, there are several measures we can use.

Utilize resilience protocols

First of all, we need to boost our resilience. This means that we need to get social support and openly talk with some friends about what we feel. To deal with our emotions, we may also embrace some sports or simply go out even if we do not really want to. We might be depressed without labeling our feelings as depression – so address the situation accordingly. If possible, take control over the situation by making active choices and addressing the challenges proactively.

Notice that other people will make stupid, annoying, and possibly deadly decisions based on similar inputs. Our friends in regular life may hold very dangerous views with respect to new information, be it pandemic prophylactics, inner political arguments, or foreign war. People can become annoyingly and dangerously wrong when they shut in their own filter bubbles. For example, there are those who do not believe in atrocities that happened in WWII despite overwhelming evidence.

Beliefs are stronger than thoughts

We will have negative thoughts occasionally no matter what we do. It helps when the basic values and basic beliefs are positive. Some people practice affirmation, gratitude diaries, positive thinking – the name does not matter. What matters is a firm belief that no matter how bad things occasionally get, they also get better. People heal physically, mentally, financially, and in other ways. No matter how dark things may get, there will be a return to normality eventually, probably very soon. This is a very strong and basic belief common to survivors. This belief is instrumental, and more often than not it is justified.

Actions beat self-hypnosis. If we are actively working to ensure healing, it is better than simply hoping that the healing will come. Beliefs get stronger when they are manifested through actions and justified through feedback from reality or the social support group.

For me personally, the opposite system of beliefs also helps. No matter how bad things are I remember that once upon a time in human history, they were much worse, and yet we survived and are here to testify. Now, I understand this is just a belief. I understand that when native Americans met conquistadors there was no recovery. Yet it is instrumental to believe that we are not in one of those really bad situations.


The news we consume tend to be virtual, 2D videos or our own visualizations. The actual reality is stronger and it addresses all senses. Simply going outdoor,  and looking around negates some of the bad imagery we had. This might not be true when going outdoors we hear alarms and explosions, but how common is that experience? Typically we see our regular nature we learned to love and take for granted. It is reassuringly present.

The basic idea is not to shut in front of the reality. This does not mean that we should be open to the bad news 24/7. We may watch TV or read fiction and escape into some fantasy world for a while. It is OK to miss out on some particularly urgent and bad event and read about it after 48 hours – unless our presence and availability save lives. And even then it is OK to phase out into some fantasy for a while.

And then you can simply breathe. Various variations of breathing will either calm down in case of high stress or increase oxygen intake in case of apathy and fatigue.

Emotional contagion

We are empathetic beings, and the feelings of our friends affect us. When we get bad news, our friends are equally likely to get bad news. They may be angry, confused, depressed, or otherwise affected.

We can set emotional boundaries in communication, limiting it to professional discussions. Maybe we can work more from home. Alternatively, we may provide guidance and emotional support to our friends and peers. Helping others is a good way to avoid depression.

Ideally, I would love to promote the spirit of helping others, but not everybody can deal with the full range of emotions their friends and peers exhibit. If there is adversity or toxicity, it may be best simply to avoid the source of irritation. Set the boundaries and hope for the best.

When under stress bad news does not matter

There is a Jedi trick of contextualization. We accept bad news in a context. If everything is great and we hear bad news, we may focus on the news. When we hear several bad news one after another, we focus on what we can deal with. If we had a particularly nasty event, other bad news may pale in comparison.

I am not saying that stress-related apathy is a good thing. If possible, I prefer openness and sensitivity. And yet, if there are several bad events it may occasionally be best to learn all of them at the same time, rather than prolong the experience. Then we might be able to prioritize better, as we may be naturally desensitized to the less catastrophic messages.

It is a good idea to have good news after bad news because hope is important. Quite often the last message we get has a larger emotional effect. So if someone offers bad news and good news, I would prefer to hear good news after bad news.

Political correctness is overrated

We tend to choose milder expressions, but when we are in pain this might be a bad idea. Swearing can actually reduce the pain. Calling things their real names may also facilitate conversation and healing. Clearly, we should do that in a neutral or supportive environment. We are probably not interested in promoting conflicts.

Moreover, repeatedly cursing removes the pain better. Since people have limited tolerance to other people cursing, it might be best to write the cursing in a diary or shout it into the recorder, and probably delete the message afterward.

Open cursing does not mean being rude or vulgar – we do not really need an audience for our nerve break. There are usually plenty of opportunities to express what we feel in a way that does not alert others.

Celebrate vulnerability

We can be vulnerable with some people, and we are psychologically wired to help each other. Typically, we should not be vulnerable with our immediate family or coworkers, but we can be vulnerable with some friends and caregivers. While in some colder cultures vulnerability requires alcohol and smoking, it is more natural in warmer climate.

Vulnerability can be reframed as strength, as we can get hurt and we still remain open.

Do not burst your bubble all at once

A protective filter bubble may serve well. We do not need to avoid it all at once. Instead, we can slowly slide out of it. For example, if there is a war, it is best to hear about if from established media, then slowly open up to social media, and maybe then watch how the situation is depicted by the other side. This transition can be as slow or as fast as we find comfortable.


We all do stupid things and sometimes hurt others. It is OK to learn about it, feel remorse, and be forgiven, especially when we hurt someone we love.

This does not mean that we need to be apologetic when dealing with toxic people. Some people are beyond help, and the best thing we can do is prevent them from hurting anybody else.

Self-forgiveness is the easiest and the hardest skill. If we have done something bad, or have not done enough to prevent something bad, remorse will help to forgive. This step might be required to open up for new experiences, good or bad.

Even after a just victory, we may feel remorse, because the entire situation could be prevented. A smart person may find a way to deal with a problem that a wise person may prevent.


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