When it comes to movies, TV shows and games that are all action, thriller, suspense … what does your body think about it?
… I can almost hear you say ‘Huh?’
Years ago, watching my favourite sci-fi drama series, ‘The X Files,’ I closed my eyes during an ad break. It was quite a shock to realise how stressed and unsettled my body felt. The degree to which my heart was wildly racing unnerved me enough for me to resolve to drastically reduce my exposure to excessive ‘fight or flight’ spikes of harmful adrenaline and cortisol.
While I used to love those kinds of shows – and I can certainly understand people wanting to watch them – now that I know what I know, I find it challenging to comprehend how we humans can essentially choose to sustain our bodies’ stress response for ‘entertainment.’
After studying NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), I came to understand that everything we see stays imprinted in our mind permanently – even if we’ve forgotten it – and the unconscious mind cannot tell the difference between real and imagined, even though cognitively we know on-screen violence and suspense is make-believe. (A case in point: after a friend saw a horror movie scene decades ago, it continues to show up as a recurring nightmare.)
While I enjoyed those genres – and totally understand their popularity – I’m now incredulous that we humans essentially choose to sustain our body’s stress response for entertainment. All the more eyebrow-raising given just how much stress we can be under; the multitudinous unavoidable triggers in our daily lives and the effort required to not have it adversely affect our interactions with our loved ones, friends, colleagues and clients.
With little interest from the media in balancing it out with the positive, there have been many who have cautioned against watching the news and getting caught up in the repetitive, negatively-focused news cycle that causes us to churn things over and over again. These days I stay informed and engaged with the latest news via the web, where I can read headlines and choose what to read more of, rather than leaving it for TV news editors to decide what is visually appropriate for me. I also keep in mind the fact that there are a zillion incredibly special, beautiful, positive things happening in the world in every moment.
No right or wrong; each to their own. However, there’s value in sharing how limiting my exposure to societally endorsed and normalised trauma and drama as it plays out on the screen – both as news and fiction – has made a huge contribution to my health, well-being, peace of mind, quality of life and daily interactions.
While some may consider it harmless, or sufficiently infrequent; when factoring in the synergistic and cumulative effect of myriad stressors in our lives, it pays to tune in to how your stress levels are at any given moment, and discern and choose accordingly.
For anyone curious, the invitation is to close your eyes and truly pay attention to your body next time you’re watching (or gaming) such genres. I’m sure it would appreciate the opportunity to let you know how it’s getting on.
Killjoy? Some would believe so.
My joy of choice? Overdosing on endorphins, serotonin and dopamine via uplifting content.
Don’t worry, be happy! Just sayin’ …