November 8, 2015

The Curious Case of Self-Defense—Cleaning our Emotional Survival Kits.

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Humans achieve a lot in their lives.

Our possessions range from material to human, we have our careers and some of us even manage to make a mark after we are dead. And, we evolve from zilch to a complex moral and emotional machine.

You see, being human, alone in itself is a difficult task and we manage to complete it along with other achievements. Being human is all about being psychologically sophisticated and morally strong in a world where truth is spoken only when it’s convenient. It’s about maintaining harmonious relationships, and experiencing the world and expressing yourself to the world. A lot of work!

And I think that’s the reason why we are still on top.

It is the very essence of being human that I would like to talk about: our being, our ego, our survival when we are breaking apart.

What do you do when you’ve lost your anchor? How do you cope? How do you handle rejection, failure, grief, emptiness, alienation, separation, bereavement, disappointment, illness, threat, death and life? What are your tactics?

What does your survival tool kit contain?

Ice cream? Films? Sports? Sleep? Pills? Tears? Darkness? Wandering and wild? Music? Hugs? Dependency? Love? Pastels? Swings? Intoxication?

Our survival tool kits ought to be cleaned and renewed.

Most of us are familiar with Freud, who popularized the concept of defense mechanisms; how ego/you protects itself in the midst of an emotional crisis. By far, I have found it to be one of the most essential characteristic of humans.

We must stroll through our virtual backyards and look into our survival tool kit, taking out the survival tactics which may be suffocating us and making us lonelier.

Sometimes, the defenses we have carved to protect ourselves isolate us.

I enter a room full of humans and it can be any room, any setting—but what I see never changes. I see people hiding bursting tears under icy expressions. I see joy, hidden under the facade of sobriety and decency. I see regret overshadowed by pride and ego. I see love, suppressed by shyness or fear of rejection. I see suppression of hearts.

I see superficiality lying under the corners of your smile. I see the smoke beneath your heart—you were rejected or humiliated—and I see how you hide it under busy work schedules or a fog of isolation. Did you sense the suffocation?

There is so much to see in a room full of people. I see myself in a room full of people.

So, does it mean that survival is accompanied by certain kind of suffocation? Can we survive and also feel free? We need to carefully select the tools which would make up our survival kit.

It has taken me a lot of struggle to find that distinct line between surviving and escaping. These, I realised, were two different mechanisms. You see, movie marathons can be a good survival tactic but if it continues for weeks or even becomes major part of my life then it’s no longer a survival tactic, rather, it’s an escape tactic.

Escape tactics not only make us lonelier but also trap us in a vicious cycle of addictions: eating disorders, substance use and addictions, or compulsive dependency.

So, are we using our survival tool kits for surviving or for escaping? Are we defending ourselves against internal and external threats? Or are we simply mindlessly running away with such desperation toward anything that we perceive would save us that we don’t reach our destination?

In the end it’s all about being mindful of our survival tactics and finding a balance with them, whether they’re movies, ice cream, sex, exercise, shopping, flirting, writing, lipstick, babies, singing or an infinite number of other tactics.

Because that is what being human is all about—managing our ability to fall in excessive love with anything that we perceive as an integral part of our survival tool kit.



Relephant Read:

How to Get Through Anything: A Survival Kit for Hard Times.


Author: Zaufishan Qureshi

Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Luca Hennig/Flickr


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