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The vicious flower and the news

I tell you about my personal experience with therapy and how it connects with social media and the news.

Between 2014 and 2016, I went through a rough patch that pushed me to ask for psychological help. I have been diagnosed with anxiety and depression, and a few months later started Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

I learned techniques and tricks to cope with both. I also heard about the vicious flower for the first time.

The vicious flower

I can’t help but smile every time the name comes to mind, but it is a serious tool that therapists use to help clients break the circle of their difficulty.

A diagram showing the vicious flower, with its round centre and petals that form loops
It’s vicious

At the centre of the flower is the belief (e.g. I’m not good enough). The petals are formed by the thoughts and action that reinforce the belief. Therapy works by plucking the petals, or breaking the loops.

The news and other beasts

Whenever I feel anxious, I end up in a loop that keeps me scrolling the news and other feeds multiple times a day. Better if the scrolling is mindless and catches mainly the negative. This activity tends to distract me from my goals. Even though I can find interesting reads among a sea of information, I’m left with a feeling of emptiness.

This year I’m doing better, as I keep reading books as well, but it doesn’t feel enough to placate the anxiety. I need to pluck a few more petals.

Social media are not the only problem

One of the most read articles on my website is the one where I explain what happened after I closed my social media accounts. Everything I wrote still holds true. Yet, I keep falling into the scrolling trap.

Nowadays the news are treated like social media feeds. Every day there is at least one live feed of an event deemed important, and newspapers are updated constantly to keep people informed.

However, are we really informed? How can we make sense of any given event, especially if it spans a long period of time (like a war)? I don’t feel I know more after reading the news daily.

I know facts, which I can briefly summarise to other people, but do I understand the wider causes and implications of an event? Probably, if the event is part of a bigger conversation that I’m familiar with. In any other case, it’s just facts that I need to digest before understanding them.

Plucking like it’s eyebrows in the 90s

The first petal to pluck is the news. I tried to cut them multiple times, with different degrees of success. What I did today is to subscribe to a couple of more newsletters from The Guardian, including the Long Reads ones. That should help me focus on stories I can assimilate better.

The second petal to pluck is the articles I use to share in my Design, Digested series. As it is summer, I’m considering sending it on holiday while I find ways to avoid the dreaded information overload.

Other petals are about adding more filters to my Mastodon feed, and cutting down my visits to LinkedIn to a minimum.

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