An epidemic of anxiety floods its way across the advanced capitalist nations of the world.
This is no trick of the mind to be routinely absolved with a sympathetic pat on the back, or a dose of cognitive behavioral therapy.
The pressures are very real. If ever there was time for a polemic, it is now, so here is mine.
As the BRIC empires (Brazil, Russia, India and China) expand their horizons exponentially, their focus gazes ever West. China owns America we are told—it’s unlikely they will feel the need to stop there. We often fear what we do not understand and when have we ever really understood the survivors of that bleak genocide ironically known as the Cultural Revolution? In reality, how can we? We still do not understand fully the genocide perpetrated by the Nazis.
No wonder we fear our Eastern cousins, with their ability to work tirelessly, apparently able to endure the toughest conditions and the worst human rights in the industrialised world. Many of us feel soft and feeble in comparison and with good cause…will we too become slaves to the pathologically ideological machine that is China?
We wonder what we have to offer.
America’s unregulated banking system episodically bringing us to our knees through those twin harbingers of Armageddon: outrageous greed and searing incompetence. Yet their hegemony remains unchallenged and we continue to tremble in their thrall, ever undulating in a miserable sado-masochistic waltz.
Like a bad marriage, we can’t live with them and we can’t live without them. We soothe ourselves in the belief that knowledge is power. And don’t we have ownership of Information Technology? Isn’t that going to save us? Well no, not really. India is not the only advancing power that can stake a claim in that domain name.
Let’s not even start about global warming, the revolting toxic wastelands we are creating, the destruction of the very life source of the planet all for the obese consumption of hamburgers. Then there are the oil and water wars of the future haunting our nightmares. In the end, we secretly fret, we will all become Chinese.
Moving from the global arena to our own domestic front our working lives have become the equivalent of techno-slavery. We sit for hours, flickering screens our seeming ally, but whose vibrations—in the absence of grounding ourselves through a balanced lifestyle of exercise, freshly prepared, highly nutritious foods, relaxation and time for personal creativity and face-to-face relationships—soar us into stress, unable to sleep, bizarrely addicted to stimulants in an already over stimulated world.
Our gender roles bring further confusion.
Women are supposed to work full time, raise a family, clean a house, cook from scratch and look permanently 25.
And what of men? What indeed has become of men? Who are they supposed to be now, as they survey the crumbling ruins of the false promises that no government could ever keep and yet, incredulously, keep on coming.
Who can blame their lack of commitment to the conventional notion of what a man should be as they stagger from the courts divested of all their years of effort and unable to have the half share in their children’s upbringing that they should all by right have. Unless, of course, they genuinely do not deserve so and the same should be true of mothers as well. Outpaced, outsmarted and out-maneuvered, it’s hardly a surprise that screen technologies have become their mistress.
Our young are encouraged to accumulate huge debts before they have even seen a pay packet of their own. Sold a pup that a degree will bring them all the material success they have been taught to crave and yet there are few jobs and fewer still that warrant a degree.
Left to survive on a desert island, how many of us now know how to set a fire, build a shelter, grow food, divine water and understand the rhythms of nature? Surely, learning to grow and prepare your own food should be a basic educational requirement. We teach our children to do more, be more and have more.
We do not teach them to look after their bodies, relax their minds, open their hearts and learn skills that can help them cope with this technologically inspired age and beyond: Skills of communication, conflict resolution, skilful emotional expression and most importantly how to love and respect themselves, so that they can love and respect others.
Advertising should be banned for children. No argument. It’s just plain wrong. It isn’t particularly right for adults either, feeding the terror machine of low self-esteem and manipulating it into downright depression as we contemplate the dissonant sea of “not good enough, not have enough” that it unflinchingly spawns.
So it is no wonder that we live in fear.
We have lost touch with the basic skills of life that advanced our species to this current level of evolution and we are fast in danger of becoming victims of our own success. With America pipping the UK in the most psychologically disturbed nations of the world contest, surely it is time we woke up to reality and made some choices that will prevent us from heading into an almighty disaster.
There’s so much that we could be doing differently. So much we could be offering our young people so that they can recreate the world in balance and harmony.
Now’s the time to throw away the notion that success can only be measured in dollars and celebrity. In the rapidly approaching post-Murdoch universe, can we please set some values that really matter? A ten commandments for the 21st Century if you like.—learning to value ourselves, have healthy self-esteem, knowing that we’re good and strong people who can survive, whatever, would be a good start.
A society that recognizes the need for compassion, awareness, fundamental life skills, joy and harmony is a society that will be able to negotiate a successful future without fear.
They could look something like this. Add your own. We need all the help we can get.
- I will prioritize my health and well-being, for without my health I cannot act with power in the world. I will in turn, prioritize the health and well-being of those who require support. A healthy society is a caring society.
- I will learn skillful ways of resolving conflict and stress, so that I do not endanger my psychological health or the psychological health of others.
- I will love unconditionally by not trying to control or manipulate others, but grant them the emotional and physical freedom that I myself desire.
- I will serve my community and not expect it to serve me.
- I will treat advertising as an amusing sideshow aimed to distract me from the real issues of my life. But that’s okay because I am smarter than they are.
- I will vote with my feet, always.
- I will give up my addiction to rolling news, understanding that it keeps me in a state of fear from which I am easily manipulated by media, government and finance, undermining the sense of power I have in my world, the one I can genuinely influence.
- I will accept that I cannot have it all and be happy with what I have.
- I will live knowing that I do not inherit the earth but that my grandchildren will and in turn will theirs.
- I will stop being afraid and do something.
Dr. Cecilia d’Felice is a clinical psychologist, psychoanalytic psychotherapist, mindfulness and yoga teacher with an interest in how Buddhism and Eastern Philosophy can help us negotiate the complexity of western life. She works with chakra energy and uses the Tarot to help guide her intuition. Her book Dare to Be You: Eight Steps to Transforming Your Life is a guide to skilfull living in a stressful world.You can read more about her at drceciliadfelice.com and join her on Facebook at Dr. Cecilia d’Felice.Editor: Lynn Hasselberger