Staying Sane in an Insane World
Posted on 2018-03-08 By Joanna
Many of us could agree that the world is going mad. I doubt we are the first generation, and quite unlikely the last one, to witness it happening in front of our eyes.
People are rushing, chasing something every day. We are told that being busy and working hard is rewarding. Stress and anxiety resulting from the lifestyle that most people embrace these days is fixable – just pop an anti-depressant and you are ready to wake up productive the next morning.
On the surface, it might seem that everything is fine, that we are happy, that humanity in general has a purpose. That each of us has a purpose. However, if you can't catch up with the pace or are unwilling to do so - it's a clear sign that there is something wrong with you and you must be medicated.
Appearance can be very misleading though. Regardless of where you currently live, people seem to experience the same problems. It's too much, it's too quick; I'm too stressed, I can't cope, I'm tired. Isn't the amount of alcohol drunk by the most people each week one of the warning signs? What about the prices at your local supermarket – it's much cheaper and easier to get drunk and forget about all the unpleasant things than to get a healthy meal. It's cheaper to buy a can of soda than a bottle of real juice. It's cheaper to have a meal at McDonald's than to buy organic ingredients and cooking for yourself. It's easier and cheaper to gain weight and get diabetes than to stay healthy. Everything is fine.
Adding to that, more and more people are confused about their identity, especially gender. Although I'm not prejudiced towards transgender/transsexual people, the line needs to be drawn between a genuine mismatch between the gender identity and sex (gender dysphoria), a social trend, and deeper psychological issues rooted in insecurity, lack of self-acceptance, and inability to cope with basic existential responsibilities.
The last problem I want to add to this list without going too pessimistic, is the constant bombardment of information. There is only a certain amount of information we can process simultaneously. There is absolutely no way you can give the same quality of attention to a task at hand if your focus is scattered, in comparison to focusing on just a few things at the same time.
In summary, the major problems that our society and the average individual are facing are:
- Stress, fatigue, and related problems such as depression resulting from the lack of meaning or life purpose, and anxiety due to inability to catch up and worrying about the future
- Struggle to find one's place in the world, identity confusion, insecurity, possibly loneliness/not being understood due to superficiality and deteriorating quality of social interactions resulting from the over usage of internet and social networks.
Selfies/narcissism is a direct result of that, clearly pointing to inner identity struggles which are expressed in chasing for approval and validation through social networks.
- Overabundance of information, being numbed down due to the amount of information once has to process; problems with attention (the average attention span these days is 8 seconds, which is lower than that of a goldfish)
The list could go on, but I wanted to focus on just the most apparent, and what I perceive as important, issues. Combined together, they would explain why the world looks insane – not only such pitfalls impair our communication with each other, but also impair the quality of life for each and every person due to inefficiency at work, not paying attention to customers, friends, and family; creating conflicts and confusions.
It doesn't mean that each of us struggles with each and every problem on this list. I pointed out merely the average individual – and we know that the average doesn't exist. It is merely a number.
Knowing all that, what can we do about it – not only in terms of coping with these problems on a personal level, but also in terms of facing them in everyday life through interaction with others?
The solutions I propose are as follows:
- First and foremost, take a good inventory of your goals and motivations – what is it that you desire from life and other people? What do you want? By learning how to prioritize your tasks, activities, and what you pay attention to, you will be able to surround yourself with people and experiences that are aligned with your goals. Of course, surprises, unexpected events, and disappointments are inevitable, but it doesn't mean they have to control your life and your wellbeing.
Drifting aimlessly through life might be a tempting strategy for some people and perhaps even some meaning could be found it that. However, if you can't get very precise with at least a few goals, preferences, or desires - you can't expect others to know what they are doing either. Hence, it is common to experience life as chaotic, purposeless, and pointless.
Each of us knows it - if you want to change the world, start from yourself. Organize the chaos and mess in your life first, then worry about the world.
- It might be easy to say, but try to relax. This will not only help you with your own personal struggles, but also will assist you with developing patience and understanding towards other troubled individuals who often make life more complicated than it is in reality.
Practising mindfulness exercises regularly will help you to improve your focus, make you less emotionally reactive, and in turn, will make you more organized and capable of deeper social relationships.
The ability to face the reality and various events that you experience without any denial will help you with becoming more responsible for your actions and the consequences of them. If you are constantly fighting what happens to you or what you witness, there is not much room for improving your circumstances. You can only change something once you accept it and see it the way it is.
- Lastly, make conscious decisions. You don't have to agree with everyone, you don't have to bend to social pressures regarding how your life should look like. If you follow the crowd, you are bound to give away a certain amount of your power and energy to others which places you in a vulnerable position of being at the mercy of social pressures.
If you don't believe that freewill exists or assume that everything is predetermined, this again will put you in a position of giving away your agency to metaphorical powers higher than yourself.
You are not obliged to know everything, read every book, watch every film, listen to every podcast because 'everyone' else is doing it. You can choose what information you come in contact with. Practising the art of selective ignorance could prove to be beneficial in this age of overwhelming amount of information. The declining span of attention could be explained precisely by the overabundance of information and people trying to catch up with everything, responding to every single stimulus, and reacting to every piece of news that crosses their path.
If you need to talk to someone about any of these issues, don't hesitate to contact me.