It is sometimes an appropriate response to reality to go insane.
~ Philip K. Dick
ON GOING INSIDE
From 1988-2008, the rate of antidepressant use in the United States among all ages increased nearly 400%. (CDC, 2010)
Abuse of tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs is costly to our Nation, exacting over $600 billion annually in costs related to crime, lost work productivity and healthcare. (CDC, 2004)
Mental disorders are the leading cause of disability in the U.S. and Canada. (The World Health Organization, 2004)
Serious mental illness costs America $193.2 billion in lost earnings per year. (The American Journal of Psychiatry, 2008)
A 2007 survey by the National Alliance to End Homelessness reported that there were approximately 744,000 homeless persons in the US...Numerous studies have reported that approximately one-third of homeless persons have a serious mental illness…that means that there are approximately 250,000 homeless persons with serious mental illnesses in the US. (mentalillnesspolicy.org)
The suicide rate among Americans ages 35-64 years increased 28.4% between 1999 and 2010 (CDC, 2013); each day, about 22 veterans die from suicide. (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 2010)
The United States is one of the richest nations on earth in terms of gross domestic product, and yet the above statistics illustrate a great deal of suffering that exists in our culture. Research Professor, Brené Brown states in her first Ted Talk that "we are the most in-debt, obese, addicted, and medicated adult cohort in US history", and she goes on to explain the thesis of her research on vulnerability: that human beings are neurobiologically-wired for connection, "it's why we are here", she says, and the only way to authentically connect with ourselves and others is to stop numbing our feelings and embrace our vulnerability (Brown defines vulnerability as "uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure").
Our resistance to vulnerability - a Yin/Feminine trait - is a cultural dilemma, one which Marion Woodman dates back to the rise of the sun god, in her book Dancing in the Flames. It’s not that feminine energy is “better” than masculine energy, as Yin and Yang have equally important traits, and the divine expression of both are interdependent. But if one is weak, under-appreciated, shamed or persecuted, it will result in the pathology of both forces.This energetic imbalance causes incongruities in the individual and collective orientations and notions of:
- outer vs inner experience
- mind vs body
- thought vs feeling
- conscious vs unconscious
- separation vs oneness
- control vs process
- force vs allowing
- known vs unknown
We can trace the root of all societal crises to this imbalance, and its source is found within human beings, regardless of their sexual orientation (because both men and women have both masculine and feminine parts). The path to healing this cultural inequity begins with the individual who embarks on their own healing path and engages in the process of shifting his or her internal paradigm. In other words, the revolution begins within.
An essential part of healing that is typically overlooked involves confronting what Freud and Jung referred to as shadow consciousness. Shadow is the aspect of our personality we do not consciously recognize, largely because our conscious mind would perceive it as "evil, inferior or unacceptable". Carl Jung believed that the shadow is also the seat of creativity; so if we never confront our shadow, not only do we spend an inordinate amount of energy suppressing it, but we remain slaves to subconscious drives and patterns and never access our full potential. I refer to this process of confronting the shadow as "going inside". I found the courage to go inside when I realized I had nothing to lose - after a cancer diagnosis. Having spent the majority of my life hiding from shadow consciousness subject matter and suffering greatly as a result, I finally chose to dive deep into the sea of my unconscious mind, and, with professional support, I soon found myself transforming a lifetime's worth of toxic thinking and unhealthy, emotionally avoidant behaviors. Before long, the link between healthy internal shifts and external ones became strikingly clear.
MindBody, Stress, & Emotions
'Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) is an incontrovertible science that proves what Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, and tribal shamanic wisdom of all cultures around the world have always taken for granted - that mind and body cannot be separated. PNI scientists have found that the emotional centers of the brain, responsible for regulating our behaviors and responses, are physiologically connected with the immune system, the nervous system and the hormonal apparatus. Scientifically speaking, there's only one system, neurologically wired and connected by chemical messengers, and so whatever happens emotionally has an impact immunologically, and vice versa. This science is completely lacking from most medical practices, leaving practitioners short of many tools that could help patients heal.' ~ Dr. Gabor Maté
There is a great deal of talk about stress, e.g., what demographics are more stressed, how it affects our health, how much more abundant it is now than ever before. And yet, not enough people have a good understanding of what stress actually is, and what causes it on a physiological level. In essence, stress is an emotional, or traumatic, response activated by the fight/flight system. One might even say, more simply, stress = emotions [that are perceived as negative, because we have not yet learned how to experience them in a healthy way]. When broken down into these terms, it is easier to see why we are so plagued by stress, how Brené Brown's thesis is so relevant, and how my own thesis might seem like an impossible mission for the masses when the United States seems to be gripped by a social epidemic of emotional avoidance and vulnerability aversion...
- We see it in the breadwinner who obsessively works and makes no time for meaningful family connection;
- in the mother, who, in an effort to soothe her child's pain, takes him out for an ice cream sundae instead of creating a growth opportunity and helping him make sense of his feelings;
- in the teacher who carelessly uses shame tactics to control an unruly student instead of considering what type of home environment could have created this behavior and finding a healthier, empathetic solution to the disruption;
- in the priest who fails to examine the feelings driving his parishioner's adulterous actions and instead assigns 10 Hail Marys;
- in the police officer, who, in forgetting that his job is to protect and serve, violently takes out his anger on an unarmed citizen;
- in the entities that fought to give corporations the same rights as human beings;
- in the news station that pumps out angry propaganda;
- and in the dogmatic congressmen and women who cling so tightly to their ideas that they are unable to empathize, compromise, or critically think.
In short, we are a society inflicted with chronic stress and trauma, undiagnosed and rampant.
Less than 100 years ago Carl Jung suggested that the discovery of psychology as a science was prompted by man's need for spirituality. He saw the "rapid and worldwide growth" of psychology as an unmistakeable sign that "modern man is turning his attention from outward material things to his own inner processes". As Enlightenment values closed the book on blind faith, man began to recognize religion as something outside himself, and a need grew to address the psyche, within, experientially. Pay a visit to any American mall and this may seem like a hard fact to swallow, and yet if you shift your gaze to book sales over the past century you'll find that billions of books have sold on spirituality of an Eastern origin - a source which Jung relates to Western psychology by saying, "psychoanalysis itself and the lines of thought to which it gives rise…are only a beginner's attempt compared with what is an immemorial art in the East".
Jung also said that "…much of the evil in the world comes from the fact that man is hopelessly unconscious, as it is also true that with increasing insight we can combat this evil at its source in ourselves…" I find it more than promising to see the complexities of stress, trauma, and emotional vulnerability being brilliantly illuminated by best-selling and award-winning authors like Dr. Gabor Maté, Peter Levine, Ph.D., and Brené Brown, Ph.D., to name a few. I view this growing interest in emotional awareness and education as an expanding movement toward a more heart-centered consciousness; a movement that has the power to grow exponentially and foster more promising aspects of man's biological evolution - e.g., love, compassion, creativity. When I free my thoughts from short-term thinking and the governance of my inner critic, and when I think with the wisdom and imagination that derive from more heart-centered awareness, I find that a more cooperative human species and a healthier, happier planet do not necessarily need be the stuff of fiction.