A friend of mine asked, in a fit of frustration, “What is wrong with people?” I suspect many of us ask that several times a week in various scenarios. Sometimes the problem is us, sometimes it is Them. Our frustration with other people boils down to not having an understanding of the root of the problem, which is one of imbalance. When I understand the root of the issue, I can make adjustments in my expectations, and possibly even work to create solutions.
The root of the problem is almost never with the individual. The problem is society’s. We, as a society, don’t train our children to process trauma and stress; and then we, as a society, hand them a life full of trauma and stress. Even the rich or otherwise privileged ones, because they don’t know how to process things. So everyone is walking around in varying degrees of fight-or-flight and/or PTSD. Add to that the fact that our society (especially in the United States) is geared towards emphasizing the rights of the individual over the good of the community, which produces people who don’t know how to foster the community, even when they want to. The results of all this are self-entitlement, greed, selfishness, and a general lack of compassion. You can hang this imbalance on the patriarchy, capitalism, religious issues, or anything else, but it is definitely an imbalance; I don’t really care whose fault it is, I care about changing my frustration with it and eventually righting the imbalance.
Let’s start with the frustration. Frustration comes from a lack of acceptance of what is. Acceptance, as I so often say, does not constitute consent. Accepting that something is does not mean you’re okay with it being so, merely that you are clear that it is so. Some people will find it easier to be in acceptance if they understand the root cause. Some people will have an easier time with it if they simply see it as a larger issue than a particular individual in front of them. Some people can actually find acceptance simply by realizing they need to. In any event, you can’t change something without first accepting it, because otherwise you’re trying to change something that doesn’t exist. You’re also going to continue to feel frustrated by the thing.
Now let’s move on to solutions to the imbalance. We need to teach people to better process trauma and stress. It would also be helpful for there to be less trauma and stress. It might also be helpful to change the value system in our society, but that’s the long game, and if we work on the processing issue, the values might change all on its own. Valuing the rights of the individual over the well being of the community comes from the fear that there isn’t enough. If we can shift out of a trauma-reactive space, we start to see that there are enough resources for everyone to live quite comfortably, and it becomes much easier to value the community.
I’ll talk about the mechanics and tools of processing on Thursday.