Alot of the participation in unconscious cultural habits is biological – which is why I would relate digitally connected groups to an organism: when we are connected to others, we act as one. That’s because we are social beings and biologically, it’s encoded into our DNA to follow the group. At one point in time, our survival relied heavily on fitting into the group. For example, if someone is charismatic, we will more likely follow their beliefs and disregard our own knowledge. This is why cult leaders are all charismatic. We will also, by nature be more inclined to believe authority figures even if our own knowledge conflicts. Authority figures meaning anyone with perceived status – including government officials, celebrities, or anyone well-exposed in media. So without the influence of others, you would likely not use much of the media you currently consume. It’s a way to be a part of the collective organism and when you’re outside it, it feels like you’re disconnecting from “the right way to be social.”
“To stay distracted throughout life makes you more shallow, like selective feeling or partial color blindness.”
So why would we choose to be more “in our bodies” and experience all the day-to-day pain? Is there any real benefit? What if you like your ego? Why would you want to be bored, vulnerable, reflective, or live without the numbing agents? Here’s the thing about experiences– when you feel them, you grow as a result of them. They change you and give you more capacities, moving forward. Pain and stress and conflict is how we grow. It is quite literally – the way we widen our scope as humans. To stay distracted throughout life makes you more shallow, like selective feeling or partial color blindness. And the lack of investment in how you feel means a lack of feedback about your own understanding of the world – and that understanding is vital to knowing who you are. It’s like taking a walk somewhere and seeing it vs. deciding you don’t want to stray from your front yard. The former gives you new understanding of a part of the world you didn’t know existed before and your map gets wider. The next time, you will not only know where you’re going, you’ll be confident about it and can explore a bit further. Every time you go through a real experience with your mind squarely inside your body, you get stronger, happier, deeper. You can understand more about yourself and the world. You evolve in all directions. I mean you get smarter, more compassionate, and super powered! Like an enhanced version of you.
In contrast, when you avoid pain or try to resist and control your exposure to it, the hurt gets worse. When you hide from discomfort and try to ignore and numb it, it festers and grows more powerful in our fear of it– and over time, the sensitivity to it becomes a false truth that retards your growth and evolution overall. It’s the not-looking-at-it that makes that spot softer and that muscle never develops. And just like a muscle, areas of our self can also weaken without use – it creates a habit in that it catalyzes more of the same style of coping. Like becoming more and more fragile or less and less, you. And in the act of resisting, we create more pain – this is truly where the majority of the pain comes from. The fear and the lack of control. When we remove the internal dialogue around something, it’s not nearly as bad in our experience. Kind of like the the moment right before you get your ears pieced: the anticipation is the hard part, then afterwards you’re like, whatevs.
And this is not to say all pain is in this bucket. I know that some pain is too overwhelming and it feels life-threatening: when you feel so fragile that anything could shatter you or so in agony that you’d rather be in severe physical pain. It’s like sitting in a fire. In these situations, sometimes assistance like medication or therapy is necessary. And it’s not a copout – it’s you knowing yourself and trusting yourself enough to take the right steps. If that sounds like you, don’t second guess your mental health and definitely see a doctor. Regardless of whether or not you require help to manage pain, know that everything passes. And though it feels really terrible, it doesn’t kill you. You move through it. And then the next time, it hurts the tiniest bit less and you’re a little bit more experienced in handling it. And the next time, a little less than that. Whether or not you can see it with your own eyes, you are always changing and growing. It takes great distance to have enough perspective on your life, so trust that change is inevitable when you move through difficult times.
Even if you’re a self-aware person, you cannot see much of what is going on inside yourself – including what truly motivates your decisions.
That is because your survival mechanisms are so deeply engrained, you won’t be able to identify when fear is the underlying motivator. However – you can take apart your habits by examining your behavior and this is how you ultimately change. Once you step outside the inner sphere of emotions, you can take a highlighter to your behaviors and begin to understand how they work. It is like a manual workaround that you can apply that allows you to consciously decide what guides your life’s path. It starts when you realize you have a choice to make, at all.
Sarah May Bates
Founder of Yay With Me a hub of practical tools to create change in yourself, from Podcaster/Author, Sarah May Bates, @sarahmaybee