The pandemic definitely intensified the growth of conspiracies these last couple of years. More than building real connections with their family or community, some would rather spend time on the internet. Today’s guest has first-hand experience of how isolation led to a growing interest in these theories. Timothy J. Hayes, Psy.D talks to Sue Muncaster, writer and founder of Teton Strong. She recently wrote an article for Huffington Post about her relationship with her brother, who is now a conspiracy theorist. Learn more about this article and her insight into these conspiracies. Find out in this episode how she handles her relationship with her brother and family today.
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How Isolation Affects The Growth Of Conspiracy Theories With Sue Muncaster
Sue Muncaster is a writer who lives in Teton Valley, Idaho. She serves on the Victor City Council and works as Communications Manager for the Jackson Hole Travel and Tourism Board. Through her personal essays, poetry, activism and consulting, her goal is to build communities by offering an alternative to our divisive and toxic times, by bringing to light the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual practices of people living wild, peaceful and resilient lives.
In January of 2022, Sue published an article that took her eight months to write. The article was about her journey to understand her gentle and intelligent brother, and his deep dive into fantastical conspiracy theories. It was published in The Huffington Post. After her essay went viral, Sue was blown away by the sheer number of people who took the time to reach out to tell their painful and sometimes hopeful stories of going through the same thing with their families, friends and neighbors.
At one point in the show, we begin talking about the possibility of an intervention. I would like to clarify that an intervention is as much and even more for the family of the person who is the focus. The well-trained intervention helps the family, friends and loved ones of the identified individual learn about their part of interactions which may be contributing to unhealthy or unproductive patterns. The goal is to increase understanding and help create communications that can open the door for better connection and collaboration in life, whatever the individuals involved may choose as their path.
Sue, thanks for joining us. It is delightful to meet you.
Nice to meet you too. Thanks for having me.
I read the article that you wrote, which is getting so much acclaim, questions and feedback. I wonder if you could tell us a little bit about yourself, how you got into the position of being a writer, and how you ended up with such a controversial or hot topic?
I am living in Teton Valley, Idaho. I have been here for many years and I started a writing career. I worked as a mountain guide for a long time, whitewater rafting, trekking, and those kinds of things. Freelance writing became an opportunity for me to share the stories of the mountain lifestyle and adventure. I have written a lot about food, cooking healthy stuff, local food and those kinds of things.
This is the first serious article that I have had published nationally. It took me eight months to write it. It’s basically about my brother and my experiences with him and within my family as he dove deeper into these conspiracy theories. He visited my family in Idaho unannounced from Texas in April 2021. Through the course of the evening, he started sharing some pretty wild ideas that he was absolutely sure were true.
He went home to Texas. For months, I tried to figure out what could possibly be going on and in the process, I found out how many people are experiencing the same thing and how widespread these conspiracy theories are. Since he came, he dove even deeper and kept predicting events that were not only doomsday. He seems pretty positive. He thinks we are all going to ascend to a new reality and it is going to happen this week, and then it doesn’t happen. He keeps talking about it. He is living in his car. I don’t know what all he is doing. He TikToks and looks terrible and unhealthy. We are all concerned about him. It is difficult to continue interacting with him.
When writing, talk more about your feelings than just intellectual evidence. That will really strike a chord with your audience.
That is why people are coming to the same conclusion within their families. At what point do they stop interacting, give up, keep pushing or keep fighting? Everybody is in a different space, but that inspired me to write it. An amazing editor in The Huffington Post pushed me to talk about my feelings more than just all this intellectual evidence for what the heck is going on. That struck a chord with everybody. It is identifying what they were feeling as they and their families were going through the same thing.
Have you been able to maintain a relationship with him?
Not really. After the article came out, we had a little bit of interaction. He was very respectful about the article coming out. He posted it on TikTok for his followers. I follow him on TikTok and check in on him every couple of weeks to make sure he is doing okay, which I am not sure he is. That is our only interaction now.
One of the things that prompted me to reach out to you was what I would call a balanced and respectful approach or perspective that you held throughout that article. When many people turn to, “Who’s right? Who’s wrong? I am angry. You are hurting me,” the back and forth stuff, I was intrigued by your ability to hold compassion and explore as much as possible both sides of the equation and keep a focus on the relationship.
I would like to maintain a relationship. It is just difficult. I live with my father. He has been pretty upset by this whole thing. He does not have the same level of compassion. He is an 86-year-old white man. His solution is, “Get a job. Stop doing this. Take care of your family.” He has asked to limit the contact with Brian and our family. In a way, he has given up on him. It is upsetting to other members of my family. I am the one who is most able to handle it, but other ones are not.
It is key to a lot of people that if at some point, continuing to interact with people in your life like this is affecting your mental health, then you have to take care of yourself and stop trying. That has been an ask of him to let this slide for a while. I am trying to stay compassionate, but it is getting more ridiculous, honestly. Once he started hurting his family and his kids, that also became more of a line in the sand.
What kinds of responses are you getting since you are getting hundreds of people responding to the article? What are the themes you are noticing there?
One thing was a lot of people wrote to say that based on the story I was telling, this is beyond conspiracy theory. This is why you and I are talking, that this is a mental health issue. They are telling me, “I think you need to find some help for your brother.” There have been so many terms people have thrown at me from schizophrenia to delusional disorders to whatever. The theme there that people are trying to understand or I am trying to understand is where does this healthy distrust of media, government, big business, those kinds of things that everybody in North America and the world is experiencing, and these seismic changes that our planet is going through.
I think that is healthy, but then there is some line where people go over the edge into some kind of fantasy. Another theme has been this idea of loss of control of downtrodden people who are looking for somebody to blame. That has been a big theme and I talk about that in the article. There is a lot of theory. The theory comes from people when they are writing to me. They are mad mostly at politicians who are feeding this conspiracy theory and taking advantage of all these people who are downtrodden, and feeding them the information that puts them deeper into a hole. A big issue with my brother is as a family, we feel like he is not taking responsibility for himself. There is always somebody else to blame for his state rather than taking full responsibility for it. Maybe this loss of control is what mental health issues are. It is whether you feel like you have control or not.
It can certainly feed into a lot of them. What I end up talking to people about when they come into my office, whether they are in a position like your brother or a family member who can’t understand someone like your brother, is self-calming techniques, breathing techniques, getting focused in the moment. If I am in the moment, now I am focusing on things that I might begin to have some control over.
Often, the people who are like your brother are focused on things that are way beyond their personal control, whether it is what the mainstream media is doing or what is happening with this government, moving into that other country and trying to take it over, or the tsunami that hits and wipes out thousands of people. Unless you have the financial resources and billions of dollars to start mobilizing planes and rescue efforts, then stay focused on what you can do in the moment that might be of benefit to you and the people around you.
I have a lot of people who come in and they sound like your brother. Instead of getting into a debate with him about, “Is this true or not true?” I ask them, “How do you feel when you believe that is true and what is it that you could do with your personal resources, your mind and energy, your finances, or the way you spend your time that might be beneficial for you that would help you feel better? Does it have to do with writing a senator or a congressman? Does it have to do with starting a nonprofit? Does it have to do with starting your own march like the Women’s March that happened a few years ago?” When you take action based on things you have control over, that will reinforce what you believe. Now, you start to feel better.
It is very rational. That is where social media comes in. People feel like by preaching whatever it is they think and putting it out on social media, they can get this feedback that they are right and doing good. To be fair, my brother is not a violent extremist or anything. It does not appear. He thinks that he is helping people by warning us.
He writes to me and says that I am going to be terrified next week when all this stuff goes down, and that he loves me and he’s here to help me on to the next thing. He does feel somewhat in control when he interacts with people on social media. He can find all these people who agree with him and send him hearts, “I am with you. It is all happening. I feel it too.”
The other thing that you mentioned is that your brother had a job and family responsibilities that he has walked away from. That takes it to a whole another level. That is where some of the people might be questioning, “Is it more than just the average obsession with the news or the social media?” For some people, it does cross that line into being completely unproductive. If people walk away from their job or from taking care of their children, if they decide to move away from different family relationships, that is one thing. We can all do that from time to time, but when you start to see the person is losing weight, not eating right, leaving their job, isn’t taking care of their children, those are indications that there is a lot more going on there.
What people are expressing to me and I feel it myself is it’s easy to disconnect and say like, “My brother is gone off the deep end. I can’t deal with him,” but then you read these horrific stories. Somebody sent me something from The Rolling Stone about this church leader and surf instructor who went to Mexico and ended up murdering his two kids because he believed that they were possessed by the devil. We are all on pins and needles. I know my brother has firearms. He will say stuff like, “If the government forces me to take a vaccine, I have got a Glock.” He makes these comments like this that you wonder, “Is he going to go hurt somebody or will he be involved in like the January 6th situation?” That is the real struggle of like, “Don’t worry about it. Let’s agree to disagree and keep our relationship.” People are scared.
The thing you are talking about now leads to what can I do as a family member? If I disconnect and cut the person off, rail at them from my anger, knowing my position is right and theirs is wrong, I am now going to remove any connection, relationship and leverage that I might have to help them get help, assist them or re-evaluate their position.
There are people who will rally the family around and say, “Let’s do an intervention. Let’s gather this loved one and have all of us talk,” whether it’s because we feel they are abusing alcohol or drugs, or we feel that they have got a mental health crisis. Let’s offer lovingly to support them to explore our side as we explore his or her side. Maybe we sit down with somebody who can do an evaluation for reality testing and mood swings. Maybe we hire somebody who does actual interventions. There are people who have been doing this for alcohol and drug issues for a long time.
Mental health issues can lead to a lack of control and responsibility.
These people that are good at it know about family dynamics and communications. They know what to expect in terms of emotional outbursts and pushback. They have studied what resources we might offer to the family members and to the individual who seems to be on the outs or struggling with the issue. If I cut off all contact, I don’t have any leverage there. That power of connection, compassion, and chance to be heard, I throw that away if I attack the person or cut them out.
I have learned that attacking is the worst thing you can do for sure. As far as the intervention goes, we have talked about that. You realize that unless the person wants help, he is so distrustful of any kind of medical doctor, pharmaceuticals, the government, and government services. When you are like, “Let’s get help,” if they don’t trust all these organizations that can help them, until they commit a crime, you can’t force anything on them. That is where we are at a loss. Everybody agrees that if we could get an intervention, we would.
He said, “If you want me to go to a psychiatrist, you pick one and I will do it.” My sister is like, “Are you going to do that work for him. It is only going to work if he wants to do it.” He is so bright that there is some sense that he would just trick the psychiatrist. That sounds good in theory but we have talked about that. His wife doesn’t trust that either. Unless she is on board, it seems difficult.
I was also going to throw in that I would love to know what you think about this idea of isolation and how isolation has helped accelerate all of this where people don’t feel connected anymore. The more isolated we are and the deeper we go into the internet for connection had contributed quite a bit to this acceleration of all of this happening.
For decades, I have talked to people about, “Turn off the news. It is not really news. It is the worst of the worst stuff from around the planet funneled into your eyes and ears. That is counterproductive.” For decades in therapy, I have told people, “If you feel like you need to see the news every day, watch one half-hour news cycle in the morning and that should be it.” If you need it, another half-hour news cycle at night. You can turn on these news shows these days, and it will be that same half-hour replayed for 4 or 5 hours until a hot story comes up to bump one of them.
You are feeding all of that. These are the biggest explosions, the worst tragedies, and the most violence that we can find because that is what makes people tune in. It is not really the news. It is the worst of the worst stuff from around the globe. I have told people to turn that down, turn that off, and actively work to put good stuff in your ears, motivational stuff, learning a new language, something that teaches you a skill, a book on tape, a nice novel that you want to hear. Pump that stuff in on a regular basis, so you are putting more good stuff in.
What we end up thinking and feeling has been programmed into us. We are not born as this genius, intellectual, independent thinkers. We are conditioned by our culture and our family. I have been telling that to people for decades. It has been very useful for a lot of people. Turn off the news and start putting the good stuff in. That has been amplified exponentially with the internet and algorithms that start narrowing that focus even more, and bringing to me only what I want to hear or only what I agree with.
There has been a documentary on Netflix about this that talks about the power of those algorithms to keep me from getting exposed to other flexible thoughts, more divergent thoughts, different ways of being and rationalizing. I start sucking on this thought pattern that I think is right and then it gets amplified. Here’s how these other people are bad because they hold a different idea. There are factions that benefit from separating us. It is not just the isolation that occurs. It is actually that people are benefiting from us being at each other’s throats.
The algorithms amplified it exponentially and it is something to be very careful about because we are literally being programmed. We have been programmed from advertisements that are on our televisions in our living rooms for decades. I would tell people to turn that off because the longer you sit there, the more it is subliminal stuff or it is repetition. You are going to be thinking, “Maybe I need this pill for depression. I should talk to my doctor. Maybe I need this bigger fancier car that I can’t afford.”
In one respect, we listen to our favorite YouTube channel and podcast people that is anything other than loving, compassionate, mindful, and finding your healthy lifestyle. If it has got to do with politics and taking this position or that position, as soon as those podcasts get popular, they need to keep feeding and fueling the intensity of their position is right and the other one is wrong. You are going to get sucked into that unless you are quite mindful.
What do you think about this idea of cognitive dissonance? That’s what I call it in my article but I am sure you have other terms for that. What we see from the outside is he keeps predicting these things that are going to happen and then they don’t happen, then he doubles down. Everybody keeps thinking, “If the things he is predicting don’t happen, isn’t he going to realize that he is following the wrong path?” The opposite happens. The hardest thing that people are feeling is everything from vaccine resistance to trumping the president. Some of these things are not happening and they continue to not happen, but then people double down.
It reminds me of when I was in training for my graduate degree and working in psychiatric hospitals. Continually, we would be told that the hardest thing for us to help people with is paranoia. They have a thought system that would be called delusional because as far as the people around them can tell, it is not based on hard facts that can be measured. The predictions made from it don’t keep coming true.
Let’s say somebody is in a psychiatric hospital and they believe that the staff is trying to poison them. The more you try to convince that person that you are not trying to poison them, the more they are going to believe you are in on it, to the point where everything that happens can be woven and spun into the delusion.
The example that I saw firsthand was a patient who thought the food was being poisoned. The worker said, “I have my own spoon. I will dip right into your soup and I will taste it.” The person looked at him and there was this momentary pause where you could see the wheels spinning and then the person said, “You have taken the antidote.” They would not eat the food. It didn’t matter what we would do. When they wanted to believe that we were against them, they were going to find a way to override any evidence we could present or weave that evidence into their conclusion.
It is one of the harder things to overcome. It has been traditionally, and I have been doing this work for many years. At least 50 years’ worth, we have known in the profession that dealing with somebody who is paranoid is one of the hardest things to do. I have to let them have their belief system and then try to work with them based on the things I can control to try and keep them safe or offer another position. There have been times when people have awakened from the parade of predictions they are making that don’t come true.
I have had a number of people who have been in my sessions where they have got so focused on their particular YouTube news channel or their blogs that they have come to believe, “This is it. It is going to happen this week, next week, the next week,” and/or they have got agitated that they have blown up their romantic relationships because they have talked about hurting somebody or somebody should die. They have scared their friends and family.
They have awakened because they didn’t want to lose that relationship. They backed off and said, “You are afraid of me,” then the family or a friend would say, “Yeah. You said this. I can’t take a chance on that.” There have been some people who have backpedaled from that position at least to a certain degree.
I have worked with a couple of people who have decided, “I am not going to watch YouTube anymore. I am not going to watch those videos. If I do, it is only going to be on the weekends a little bit.” That is an individual choice the person needs to make, especially when you are dealing with somebody who is an adult. One of the more difficult things for us to allow is I can’t make anybody do anything they don’t want to do.
That is the frustration in our family.
People use social media as a way to make themselves look right.
The big struggle and challenge for a lot of us is how we can stay engaged with the person enough to keep the door open, in case they do want to make a turnaround, reconnect or open their mind to looking at both sides of the equation. It is a challenge because sometimes people are going to want to do something that I can’t endorse. I can’t support it financially or even emotionally.
I would draw the line at that if you want to say, “I am going to keep my Glock with me at all times because I think somebody is going to come and try to make me take a vaccination.” I can’t say to that person, “That is a great idea. Stay safe. Keep your gun loaded and cocked at all times.” I have to say, “That sounds like an overreaction and rather dangerous. You don’t have a concealed carry permit.” Other than that, everything I can do to say, “I understand that if what you believe is true, you would have some very strong emotions right now.” The next step I take as the therapist or the psychologist is to say, “Can I get you to take a breath, scan your body, and notice how do you feel right now when you talk about that?”
Quite often, when they are in the session with me, their blood pressure, respiration and heart rate is going right through the roof, and we are sitting in this office reasonably on comfortable chairs and climate-controlled. When I can get them to slow down and focus on that, and then what we teach in this work is how each of us is creating our own emotions, that is how we have gotten through the sessions bringing the agitation and the escalation down.
It might be many sessions of doing that and demonstrating to them that they are generating within themselves a lot of tension, fear, rage, and exuberant joy about the coming of the new life. They are on an emotional roller coaster that they are creating. If they start to recognize that, they might choose for something a little bit more peaceful, level, and at least clipping off the ultra-high highs and the real deep lows or the real intense rages.
For most of us, it starts with the breath and any kind of mindfulness practice that lets me tune into what is happening with my shoulder tension, the knot in my stomach, or the lump in my throat. It starts with teaching some fundamental skills about wherever I focus my mind energy and pour enough of my mind energy into that thought pattern, which is going to be the driver for any emotions and physical tension I experience. I let people have their thoughts about the politics or the dynamics. I keep trying to bring them back to, “Are you safe now? Is there something you could do at this moment that would have a direct impact on that?”
If not, I am going to invite you to come back, take a breath and calm down, reduce your blood pressure, the heart rate, and stay focused on, “Do you like your brother, sister, dad or your kids?” I reconnect them to the thoughts about personal relationships. Every once in a while, through the spin of all of the issues, I can get them to reconnect with, “I do love my kids and I do care about what happens with my dad. I don’t want to lose that relationship if I don’t have to.” That is how I have been working with people in sessions.
I wish we could get there. It sounds great. Have you heard of this book called Humankind? Somebody shared it with me and I have been listening to that. It is all about what you are talking about as changing the paradigm from thinking that everybody is bad, evil and against me. Probably the more likely, he makes the argument that people are inherently good. He does a lot of arguing, but if we think somebody is a certain way, then we treat them that way, it is this self-fulfilling prophecy. It is a beautiful book. If I can get everybody on the planet to read it to stop focusing on how bad everybody is, the fear and all that.
I have been telling people for decades when I would tell them to turn off the news, “If all that was going on in the world is what you are seeing on the news, we would have gone into extinction as a species thousands of years ago. In every moment that all of that stuff that you see on the news is going on, millions more wonderful, loving, peaceful things are going on.”
Every time there is a school shooting, there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people sending prayers, money, therapists, donating their time, etc. When Katrina happened, it was neighbors helping neighbors that they were warring with. It is people saving other people’s lives that they don’t even know. The point that you are making in that book is exactly the point I have been preaching to people. Letting them observe for decades where far more good is going on on this planet in every moment from humankind to humankind and other animals, then the negative.
One of the points he makes is about contact. The opposite of isolation is the more we can have contact with our neighbors or anybody in our communities. We all know that in a natural disaster or at the grocery store. If you look up and smile and have some contact with people, you realize, “That neighbor is not so bad or not so different.” That goes back to my point that the isolation from the pandemic is crushing people.
In the isolation that you are talking about is that physical distance, the isolation that happens that gets even amplified even more is this mental and emotional distance. If I am focusing on the issues, I can get very isolated from the fact that I am talking to another human being. When I am in a direct relationship with that other human being, that is when our humanity shines.
There is the book Tribe that talks about how they were worried when the bombs were dropping on London. They thought, “The electricity is going to go out. The government is going to shut down. It is going to turn into absolute violent anarchy, chaos, and people stealing each other’s foods.” The exact opposite has happened. Time after time, when the government systems shut down, people become loving and respectful neighbors. They become each other’s heroes and are connected in a way. The goodness comes out far more than the chaos and the violence.
What I would throw in there along with the mindfulness and breathing that helps me deal with this, and I can’t imagine living without it, is an opportunity to be outside in nature every day. That is where I live as a choice in the mountains. Since I graduated from college, we have been experiencing explosive growth of people moving to the mountains, the beaches, or someplace to be closer to nature. That is also contributing to people, especially in the pandemic, who was in a city, on lockdown, and their only access to anything was digital. I can’t imagine if that was me. I would have gone crazy.
This is the other thing that I was going to mention when you were talking about your brother and his resistance to getting help. I have had the honor of interviewing several people who are either working for or running residential treatment centers that are designed to help people get through a mental health crisis with little or no psychiatric medications. There is the Alternative to Meds Center in Sedona, Arizona and Inner Fire in Vermont.
Both of these places have an emphasis on what you were saying, connecting to nature, with other people, looking at diet, nutrition, exercise, and artistic expression to help the whole person come back into balance. If you are doing that with the recognition that whatever psychotropic medications are being given, we are only ever originally intended to be a short-term stopgap to prevent somebody from doing serious harm to themselves or somebody else. It was never intended to be a cure. It is not a cure. They know it is not a cure and all it does is suppress symptoms.
If that is not the cure, it is what you are talking about, reconnecting with nature, finding a sense of purpose in life, finding a way to get connected to a community, finding some connection to your own presence as love and your ability to extend that to others, feeling a sense of purpose that you are somehow contributing to your friends, family or community in a purposeful way that resonates with you as being meaningful. That is what people who are helping from functional medicine, holistic or integrative medicine perspectives are finding over and over again. These are the ingredients people need to build a healthy and happy life.
I was talking about relevance. Something that we are all looking for is a sense of relevance. I look beyond my brother and the interactions I am having with other people. Even my dad is a good example of somebody getting old and not feeling like they are relevant anymore. That is contributing to some of the mental health issues that are skyrocketing these days. I don’t know if that is being fed by social media and things like that for teenagers.
I finally got a teenager into college and she is doing great. She had a rough time as all young girls do of looking at social media and thinking that people are more relevant than you and how do you become relevant? “I am not relevant. Who am I?” That is another topic. As it relates to my brother, I think that everything he is doing and him going on TikTok and promoting these fantastical ideas where he is the hero at the end is an attempt at relevance. He’s somebody who wasn’t feeling so relevant as his life was crumbling in the last few years.
Somebody said this to me in the session. She was absolutely floored by the concept that what was driving her to use drugs, food, sex, and other things as a distraction wasn’t that she had an addiction. It is that she was using those substances and behaviors to avoid pain. She had never thought of that before. One of the best and most useful ways to think about addiction is its obsessive, consistent and unhealthy use of any food, substance, behavior, drug or person to either numb myself out from the pain that I am feeling, avoid feeling pain or keep myself from being in touch with and following my own highest guidance.
Shift your paradigm from thinking that everybody’s evil and against you to “people are inherently good.”
That is a definition that comes from Dr. Michael Ryce and his set of tools that are available to help people understand different ways to dismantle your pain. The addictive process is most often just avoidance of pain. The cure for most addictive processes, aside from abstinence, is the removal of the source of the pain and correcting the problem at the cause level.
What I was saying about relevance, do you think that that is a big source of pain for people?
Yeah. For some people, if they feel like they got no purpose, are not relevant, nobody loves them, or are not lovable, all of those are things we use to generate pain. This is why so many of these programs that help people, especially kids, have outward-bound programs. They take them outside of the cities. They take them out to the mountains or lakes or rivers. They teach them how to connect to the natural world.
They build some sense of skill in them. They build a sense of competence and individual competence. That helps them feel relevant and understand when they get into these team-building exercises that no person can do it all on their own, even the ones that they used to imagine were high and mighty. It is balancing, evening out and finding their own strengths. Usually, when they are in those kinds of team environments, even though they may resist it mightily for a long while, they eventually make connections.
When we make connections with others, we soften, and then the weirdest thing happens. We learn a strength we never imagined was possible that comes from being wide open and soft. It is pretty much the opposite of being shut down and hard in our rage, but the rage and the desire to control somebody else comes from fear in us, not from love or safety. This softening and opening shocks people when they move into it that they discover a strength they never imagined possible. That can’t be achieved when you turn to judgment, bitterness and rage.
One of the frustrations is the people who are pushing the fear, whether it is the gun industry or the politicians taking advantage of people’s fear. That is ultimately something that infuriates me but it is not in my control, so maybe I don’t need it.
If we were having a session together, I would say, “Let’s rephrase that. It doesn’t infuriate you but you could certainly generate fury and rage from those thoughts,” but highlight what you said earlier that you are finding in that book, Humankind. There is far more good always and the good always wins over time.
Rather than generating rage at someone that you think is perpetuating this problem or monopolizing fear and making money off of it, which is now negative energy being thrown out into the energy field of humankind, find a way to stay in the loving, calm, peaceful, trusting, and allowing energy. When that lower calm energy happens, you will notice your field of view broadens. You will notice if you watch this every time you go into anger, your field of view narrows to a pinpoint. Your options become very limited when you are enraged.
You said, “It enrages me. It infuriates me.” I coach people to say, “The truth is, as we observe in this work, I create my own emotions. Now I am feeling all upset. Let me take a breath, turn the focus inside and ask myself, ‘How am I creating rage at this moment? What do I need to do to calm that down?’ This is an important situation. I want the best, clearest, broadest picture possible to decide what I might do to affect it positively. When I am enraged, I am not seeing the whole picture and I am not seeing options.”
Back to the article I wrote, I shared with you that I don’t think I could even put a number on the number of comments. I could probably count the ones I and The Huffington Post got, but the people who were discussing positive and sharing would share 3 or 4 paragraphs. I was blown away by how many people would take the time to write a story, connect and share whatever. In the beginning, it was only 2%. Now it is probably 10% as it got shared more widely.
The people who are angered, didn’t agree or trolled, I noticed how anybody who had a negative comment, it would be like four words or the shortest most hurtful thing they could think of saying in as few words as possible. It was interesting to notice as a writer that virtually nobody took the time to write two paragraphs and constructively say, “I didn’t agree with this. This is what I think. We have all experienced it.” It is angry, short and hateful.
That is what happens for any of us human beings when our emotional intensity gets high enough, whether it is a positive emotion or a negative emotion. Those extreme intensities create tunnel vision and a myopic view. It always happens. It is just an automatic process. When I notice that happening, especially if it is an important situation, I want to take a breath and reduce my emotional intensity so I get a broader view, clearer picture and more options.
That is what people were thankful for who read my article that took eight months to write. It took me that long to be open to all the possibilities, try to write about and understand it. I could have written that article in two days after he left my house back in April.
It would have been very intense and short, “I am right. He is wrong. Here’s how.” I thank you beyond words for being willing to share the story and writing the article. I wish you continued success in sorting through all the responses and your follow-up articles. It has been a delight.
Thank you so much for having me here, sharing your thoughts with me, and for the great work that you have been doing with people. If I was in Chicago, I would be on your doorstep.
You can go to the JourneysDream.org/podcast to see some of the interviews we have done with people who specialize in helping people with mental health issues without loading them up with medications as a resource for some of the things you might be looking at for your brother and others.
I appreciate that. I have got some friends having tough times with teenagers. Here in the Teton, at least, in the mountains, I don’t know any of my friends whose first choice is to give medications to their kids. They are struggling. I did watch a couple of the videos and loved the focus on natural holistic healing as a first option, rather than just feeding them a pill. My brother would appreciate that too with this distrust of the pharmaceutical industry.
You are welcome and deserving I appreciate the time. I look forward to following your work.
- Sue Muncaster
- Jackson Hole Travel and Tourism Board
- The Huffington Post – My Gentle, Intelligent Brother Is Now A Conspiracy Theorist And His Beliefs Are Shocking
- Alternative to Meds Center
- Inner Fire
- Facebook.com/TetonStrongSue – Sue Muncaster
- @Samuncaster – Twitter
About Sue Muncaster
Sue Muncaster is a writer who lives in Teton Valley, Idaho where she serves on the Victor City Council and works as Communications Manager for the Jackson Hole Travel and Tourism Board. Through her personal essays, poetry, activism, and consulting her goal is to build community by offering an alternative to our divisive and toxic times by bringing to light the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual practices of people living wild, peaceful, resilient lives.
In Jan 2022 Sue published an article (that took her 8 months to write) about her journey to understand her gentle, intelligent brother’s deep dive into fantastical conspiracy theories in the Huffington Post. After her personal essay went viral, Sue was blown me away by the sheer number of people who took the time to reach out to tell their painful (and sometimes hopeful) stories of going through the same thing with their families, friends, and neighbors.
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