The community of social workers and psychologists might say that, statistically, the increase in anxiety disorders within American culture has reached epidemic proportions. And, the drugs dispensed to treat such disorders have become almost commonplace.
Perhaps one of the reasons our society is experiencing so much of the old angst is because we spend too much time personalizing the behavior of those around us.
We absorb everything that happens. And, this informs not just our reactions, but our very selves.
The whole meditation movement, which seems to be keeping pace with the increase in social ills, is really based in turning attention inward. But, finding our Selves, for many of us, is a real task.
When we first step inside, we’re hit with a rush of Presences. And, furthermore, most of those we recognize as populating the space we call our inner life are ones about whom we don’t feel particularly fond.
Yes; that first “visit” with Self is somewhat of a shock.
For most of us, those we encounter first are family predecessors. Parents, relatives, an older sibling, spouses of same. Alive or dead, these all appear. Next, those who populate the belief system around which we were raised. Believe it or not, no pun intended, such systems shape our realities from birth and should never be underestimated. And, then, perhaps the most present: the administrators, the bosses, the supervisors, even some colleagues. Seems that, wading through all these characters, we can hardly find ourselves. Indeed, the room is full!
And, it isn’t their smiling faces we see; rather, it is the symbolic spectre they impose. Each seems to be present precisely to pass will and judgment on our right to live according to that which expresses our fullest self.
Parents bequeath to us any number of their own unrealized dreams; siblings, their competitive edge. Priests, ministers, Sunday School teachers, with their visceral tales of admonishment and condemnation. Employers, supervisors, each with the agenda that propelled them into management, hell bent on subserviating us via the systems they peddle. Together, they fill our subconscious with a collectively Expert Opinion. It’s a wonder we can claim a single motive as our own.
Most recently, we have all been grappling with an even larger entity, one which – in contrast to those which bespeak our past – is quite foreboding: our government.
Why, in a country wherein, for generations, its people never had to give a second thought to the day to day impact of those in power, we are now faced with forces that seek to alter the very quality of our hours. Living at the behest, even the mercy, of these used to be what we’d read about in History or Social Studies classes – viewing photos of long lines of citizens, living in remote nations, waiting to receive allotted food or clothing.
Now, such a scenario doesn’t seem so far off.
Perhaps we feel this more acutely during an election year. We realize that our government is designed to include, even welcome, our input – but, we feel less and less valued by that system. We are no longer sure that our vote will either matter or even be fairly counted. In fact, we’ve learned to suspect that the structure of our democracy has been intractably corrupted.
And, all of this compounds. When we awaken, there is an unspecified restlessness that meets us. It’s as if, by setting our feet on the floor beside the bed, we are opening the door of our psyche and letting them all in. And, they come, running.
Maybe some of us feel like this because of time of life. If we have lived beyond the developing years, the embarking years, the ambitious years, the competitive years, we’ve reached an established point of alleged arrival. The Now, for someone of our generation, is the Future for which we all planned.
And, plan we did.
We thought that, along with the modest financial freedom that came with foresight and diligence, the serenity and bliss that was sure to come from the belief that we had done the right thing would follow. Surprise; the scene is far from idyllic. Now, every constant upon which we based our decisions seems threatened.
Each of us needs to make greater effort, each day, to face the mirror in true solitude. We only think that those around us are watching and listening. They aren’t. They only see others as either a help or a hindrance to their own goals. While there may be a hierarchy in our niche of the world, we do not have to live as if our position within it is either dictated or determined. Change is still far from a luxury, and outcomes are potentially as varied as the paths open before us. At any moment, the only aspect of human behavior we really should personalize is the next step we, alone, will take.
And, take it we must, while we are still free.
© Ruth Ann Scanzillo
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