Do you long for a connection with something greater? Our modern industrial society—the world we live in—fosters isolation. Although the “Golden Rule” is revered, most of the time we live by “Survival of the Fittest,” where it’s all about getting ahead or simply surviving, even at someone else’s expense. This fosters a feeling of defensiveness. When you are in this mode, the expectation is that others are against you. It may even create the desire for others not to do well, since this makes you look or feel better about yourself. This framework is based on scarcity, rather than abundance. And it is the opposite of inter-connectedness and a sense that “we are all in this together.” It also impairs resilience, because you have a tendency to waste your precious energy on being vigilant.
Believing that “It’s a cold world out there” and “You can’t trust anyone” fosters a sense of uncertainty, danger and emotional distress. The result is a greater tendency to be on guard and to reinforce child¬hood feelings of personal inadequacy. You’ll also have more difficulty letting go in order to recoup from daily hassles and stress.
The United States is very different from other countries, even the other industrial countries of Europe, in the strong belief in individuality; we believe in the “go it alone” mentality and in independence. It’s noble to be independent, and it’s a sign of weakness to ask for help. This may even be in our genes, as we are the descendants of those who left home to come to America, which demonstrated a certain independence that is a part of our culture. People in our society move more frequently and change jobs more frequently than in other countries or even in our own past. In recent years, and with tightening budgets, there has been less and less of a push to help consider others. The social safety net has been shrinking. Thus, even for those who are able to take care of themselves, there is still the sense of it being every man and woman for himself or herself.
The Path is entered more easily when there is a sense of safety and security. The less vigilant and suspicious you need to be, the more opportunity you have to let down your guard and relax. The result is a more balanced use of your psychic energy and an increased ability to turn inward and restore resources used during the times when you must deal with stresses in your life.
Take a look at the larger contexts of your life, the world around you, and your beliefs about your place in this world. Notice the need for and importance of connection that goes beyond your immediate family and friends. Connection, and the feeling that there is something more to life, something greater—that we are all part of the same fabric of life—create a sense of reassurance and comfort that helps smooth out the daily hassles, assuage our feeling of being alone, and help create a sense of support and foundation.
Three ways in which you can experience a “relationship with something greater”: first, through spirituality; second, by the identification and development of purpose; and, third, by giving service. All of these help reduce the impact of daily hassles and disappointments. The more you can see beyond today, beyond yourself, to a bigger picture and a bigger horizon, the less you are disturbed when something in the moment doesn’t go your way. It tends to smooth out the bumps in the road of your life—or, as I would say, it puts you on The Path.
Dr. Stephen Sideroff is an internationally recognized expert in resilience, optimal performance, addiction, neurofeedback and alternative approaches to stress and mental health. He is Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences at UCLA’s School of Medicine, as well as the Director of the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Ethics. www.drstephensideroff.com