A Guide Through Mental Health and Living Consciously

Navigating Our Social Abyss & Understanding Our Mental Health Issues: Unraveling Society's Rising Contempt and Resentment, and the Path to Redemption through Conscious Living and Compassion

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” ~ Alvin Toffler.


I firmly believe that people want to be kind, and good to one another. We want to hold the door open for the people walking behind us, to let our neighbor with a single item ahead of us in line at the grocery store, to laugh with the waitpersons at the restaurant. I believe that to be kind to another person is our first instinct and thought even, and then we too often rationalize it away. We invent reasons to not be. We’re hurried and ruminating, “My life is hard enough…,” we might say, and “they look like [insert political affiliation here], why should I acknowledge them?” We might think. This serial, over analytical response is learned. It is natural and organic to say the kind thing, to be understanding of the dissimilar idea, to forgive when forgiveness might feel ill-advised. One of the most important things to acknowledge in life is that our behaviors are driven by our subconscious. Regardless of how well-intended we might be consciously, how channeled by good our conscious thoughts and words might be, without training our subconscious minds to mirror our conscious intentions, we will most likely continue to do more harm than good. We are living during a time when most of our subconscious behaviors reflect resentment, fear, and contempt, and unless we actively shift our subconscious mindset our behaviors too are going to reflect resentment, fear, and contempt. 

It is inherent to appreciate that compassion is hardwired within all of us. A compassion that might overwhelm our conditioned and developed nastiness that we partake in every day. To be human, especially among the stories that we tell ourselves, and where certain behaviors might be considered normal and acceptable. When other behaviors might be considered deviant and demeaned, it is challenging. In part because relating to and balancing our emotional, mental, and social lives is, and always has been complicated. We are too often unconscious and reactionary to people and ideas throughout our daily lives. Many people feel imposed, and a bit affronted, and will continue to for as long as we believe that we have to make an effort to be accepted, and even simply acknowledged. Our concept of self-worth, today, is more dependent on being in “vogue” than it is on being consciously present and aware of self-worth. We will say and do whatever we have to in order to secure relevance, even if it means being cruel, hypocritical, thoughtless, mean-hearted, and even unduly idealistic.

Most of the time, our thoughtless behaviors come on subtly, and are so layered in what we believe to be “right” that we rarely—if ever—recognize the poor habits and customs that we’re developing until, eventually, regardless of perspective or intention, we become the merchantmen of the infectious inhuman behaviors that we might otherwise intend to reject. We behave hypocritically without realizing it, and then we rationalize behaviors that we would, in more sensible situations, never condone. How often have you caught yourself thinking, “Geezus, rightwing media is remarkably biased and immoral, thank goodness for my unbiased and honest leftwing media?” While another half of the country is thinking to themselves, “Geezus, leftwing media is remarkably biased and immoral, thank goodness for my unbiased and honest rightwing media!” I’m sure many of you are reading this, and thinking, “Yeah, but my media is actually unbiased and honest… republicans are racist, sexist, traditionalist monsters… liberals are self-righteous, presumptuous, unformed children,” but, the thing is that we are either both right or we are both wrong, and quite frankly, if viewed through the lens of impartiality, as far as behavior is concerned, there is little difference between the behaviors of the racist, sexist, traditionalist monsters and the self-righteous, presumptuous, unformed children. Both react impetuously, and contemptuously. The unmitigated reality is that real progress cannot be involuntary by nature, progress is consensual. Progress without consent is rape. It seems pretty clear to me that regardless of whether we are both right or wrong, we all have something that we can work on within ourselves.

Fortunately, we are hardwired for compassion. Sympathy and kindness, but most importantly, empathy is deeply rooted and inherent to who we are. When we see someone in pain or suffering, our brains, unless otherwise learned, cannot tell the difference between another’s’ pain and our own. The great irony is that feeling compassionate, and being open to compassion, also warrants our vulnerability. And we have long been conditioned to believe that to be vulnerable is to be weak, and that to be weak is to be less than human. For any human emotion to be considered weak is an archaic idea but is still very much present in the vast majority of our subconscious—even today and, in some ways, more so today. Most of us believe the contrary, but far more of us are afraid to express ourselves honestly than not. We have trained ourselves to suppress any sign of vulnerability—even, and especially those of us who are convinced of our vulnerability and Dantesque self-discovery (if we have contempt in our hearts our outward efforts will always be misdirected, regardless of intent)—vulnerability is a natural link to human connection. In most cases, when hiding or suppressing parts of ourselves, we behave inhumanly: we laugh at others’ pain or suffering, we create distances between perceived right and wrongs, all of which to avoid feeling self-conscious about appearing sensitive. When our self-consciousness manipulates us over and over again, eventually an unconscious habit is formed, and without even realizing it, our habitual reactions to other people become callous and inhumane, even when it comes to the most ordinary behaviors, like holding the door open for someone.

          Socially, our culture is remarkably divided and systematically tribal. This makes our happenings infectiously more convoluted. It would be less so, but most people are not living consciously. Conscious living puts self at the very center of inequity, not blame. Our greatest problems are not rooted in bias, or politics, or disparity, perspective, or are generational; our problems take root in resentment and hypocrisy. To move forward, to any degree, it is your responsibility to imagine yourself the problem; that’s challenging, it’s uncomfortable, and it’s absolutely necessary. It will compel us to learn how to explore our own character, our own constitution. Bias is one of the first sacrifices of self-reflection. We must first understand any given—idea, issue, belief, feeling—objectively, in order to relate to it subjectively. The way that most people address an issue—inasmuch as we have collectively, as a society—seems simple enough: we take a behavior or an idea that we disagree with, and we thrust all of our unresolved hate, misconception, frustration, sexual tension, dispute, myth, and pretense directly at that thing until we get exactly what we want and in exactly the way that we want it. Once we do get what we want, we continue to overwhelm one another with our unsettled issues inexorably. In part because most of our social identities are shaped by at least one political ideal. Without a degree of political dissonance, we subconsciously believe that we are irrelevant, and so we conform. However, when we consider that very few of us actually know ourselves well enough to coexist with ideas and belief systems that are not our own, the purpose of conformance is limited to that of smoke and mirrors.

          When many people think about how they relate to others, they often compare that relationship to ripples in water; our actions will affect the people around us, and many people, who might examine the idea further, will suggest that our energies, positive or negative, have a lasting impact on all of humanity, like ripples in water. The thing is, that most people really only think about the most outward swirl, that inaugural, influential fold that courses through space and intent. We don’t often consider the innermost ripples. However, it’s these ripples that are the folds that establish lasting patterns, and customs, and routines, addictions, and attributes; the interior ripples are the ripples that change and create and build. The most immediate cause and the most immediate effect are our most tailored and concentrated cares, and they are also the least meaningful. Reflections are not immediate. We need to learn to settle into an action before we can trust our reactions, and we haven’t done that as a society, and respectively, for a very long time. Our behaviors are dangerous, and we are all to blame. It truly does not matter if you are liberal or conservative, atheist or religious, old or young, idealistic or indifferent, progressive or traditional, it’s irrelevant because our behaviors—actions, reactions, judgements—are overwhelmingly rooted in some form of resentment. Regardless of whatever social or just or environmental or artistic or technological bounds we leap, it’s never going to be enough, and the only reason for that is it all remains meaningless inside of us. Until we can make a change in our own hearts, we’re going to continue to cause one another harm, and the very sight of any one other person is going to continue to anger us, scare us, unease us, imbalance us, and manipulate us when it should be empowering us.

          I have been unhappy for so long that when I try to paint a picture of who I am without that learned unhappiness, the idea of that person comes across as awkward, and uncomfortable to me. Not only are most of the people in my life used to me being affected by the few traumas of my childhood, the severe traumas of my late twenties, now that I have built these traumas into my personality, but it’s difficult for me to recognize myself without them. The idea of who I could be, while actively working through my traumas, is unknown to me, and that is inherently intimidating. It’s also a little strange, realizing that you’ve worked through a number of issues and the only thing between you and happiness is the decision then to be happy. Especially after years shrouded by your weighted comfort blanket of anxiety, resentment, and doubt, what would it look like for you to actually, and suddenly be happy? I have spent a good bit of time thinking about the idea that I have projected my own issues with resentment and fear into my relationships and my general worldview, because of course I have. And how my own emotional issues have influenced me is immeasurable, but becoming aware of that has also given me a place to start. I used to think that everyone has an idea of how they think things could be, and then I realized that most people don’t think at all about how things could be, they are focused, dangerously, and with contempt, on how things are.

Even those who are actively trying to make a difference are doing so while also struggling with their own issues of contempt and resentment. I’m seeing more and more examples of those loudly roaring for progress, and namely social progress, refusing to acknowledge when their efforts have actually resulted in real change. Many continue in conflict even after a new social mindset has been established. The catalyst for real change doesn't just start or end with your directed efforts; progress occurs in the wake of the work we do exploring our own internal struggles. It's also important to accept that not everyone is going to easily welcome new ideas. And it’s not necessarily because they might be strict traditionalists or opposed to social equality, it might simply be that change—the process of accepting change—can be incredibly difficult. We all know this, inasmuch as every one of us has issues in some area of our life adapting to change. And yet the root of so much of our anger finds ground in the challenges that many people have when struggling to accept, not the realization of change, but the unknown, and unease of change itself. If we can’t move past the idea that everyone must think and believe the same things and in the same ways, we are going to ruin ourselves.

I think the most difficult thing for me to understand is indifference; too often we leverage one another’s poor behaviors, decisions, and justifications to excuse our own. Smith doesn’t fulfill his responsibilities, why should I? Smith abandons his trash on the street, why shouldn’t I? This is not an example of party politics, its behavioral dissonance, and that is crippling to a society. Claiming to be tolerant while only tolerating the actions of the people you might agree with; supporting the quest for truth unless someone’s truth is different from your own; eating foods and using products that we know are poison, when good, healthy products exist, because we are living our lives carelessly. There are prerequisites when reacting to the ideas of “owning your truth,” “to living your best life,” and to “being the change you wish to see in the world,” (I’m going to focus on this more in a later article). We have gotten too comfortable with the idea that if we believe something is inherently right for ourselves, then that something is universally right for everyone. And not just right, but moral, and more ethical.

If in order to live our best life we have to be anything but understanding, open-minded, and kind, then we are not living our best life. We’re not remotely close to living even a decent life. If we genuinely believe that living our best life means to demand a pious, self-oriented, polarizing purview then the state of the world today makes perfect sense, and none of us should expect the condition of the world’s status quo to be any different. I don’t see how we can continue to behave so poorly, to handle the little things so poorly, and still expect the big things to be handled well or with any degree of conscious direction. We all have things that we need to work through, and fortunately through the process of that work we will discover new insights about ourselves that will largely reshape most of our larger issues accordingly, simply because we made the decision to do so.

          I believe, too, that our general perception of work is another layer responsible for the state of our world today. Work is the process of creating our art, work is the process through which we explore our passions. And very few of us actually explore our passions anymore. Instead of looking inward to understand how we might both contribute and find happiness, we dismiss work as this inhumane wasteful thing. That can't be further from the truth.

          In conclusion, put yourself in the most relatable personal experience for you that most closely resembles a scenario where you’re having a conversation, and Smith, unbeknownst to them, expresses a particular tone in their voice, and perhaps Smith is aware of a particular thought they’ve had. However, the thought was never meant to be expressed, and it unintentionally found a place in the conversation. Now, despite the fact that the tone was genuinely unrelated to you or the particular conversation, albeit triggered by the conversation, you still noticed the tone, and you leave the conversation thinking and wondering about it. You spend the next however long composing a story in your head about what could have possibly provoked Smith's tone, and what Smith was not saying. The story you compose becomes real to you, and therefore your subsequent actions and reactions are directly related to your story and that cryptic intention.

Meanwhile, Smith made you feel something that you didn’t want to feel, and although you are not fully conscious about what you’re feeling or why, you do feel as though it was something about Smith's unprovoked tone that prompted your uncomfortable feeling. Now, not only will that obscure feeling affect your story, but you will also feel disrespected. You never actually say anything to Smith, perhaps you feel like you shouldn’t have to, and now you feel resentment, and eventually contempt for Smith. At this point, you can’t really even remember why you’re full of contempt. However, it doesn’t matter, because you’re owning your truth, and in order to live your best life, without fully understanding the happenstance at all, all of your future actions and reactions are directly related to that happenstance and will slowly dissolve that relationship.

Now imagine this happening every day on a grand scale. On social media, you are interacting with people you don’t know, and will never know, and shelving unresolved and unwitting resentment, and building it into your developing personality. How might the constant evolution of this influence us and present itself in society? Some manner of this is happening on both routine and grand scales throughout our society: socially and politically, behaviorally and spiritually, day in and day out, and it’s not only happening, but has become commonplace. This scenario has reinvented the way that we view one another and the world. And there’s just no way that it can end well, unless we start making a conscious effort to explore who we are individually, and allow those insights to trickle through society, hopefully inspiring all of the good, the compassionate, and the ingenuity that we are most certainly capable of. Today, see what happens when, once you’ve begun to over-rationalize the instinct to be kind, take a deep breath, one of those deep breaths that you can feel resetting your nervous system, and then behave like a human.

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