I watched a fantastic TEDtalk the other day dealing with the causes of the increasing prevalence of anxiety and depression amongst the Western nations. (Here is a link to the talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MB5IX-np5fE&t=393s) It really made me stop and think about our history and about how our societies have progressed through the Industrial and Information/Technological ages. Industry and technology have made it where we have an abundance of food, clothing, and shelter. We have seemingly unlimited choices in entertainment and accesses to a variety of luxuries unavailable to even royalty a few centuries ago, and yet so many of us are miserable. Why is that?
One of the key points mentioned in the TEDtalk is that while our physical needs have been satiated, our psychological needs have been left out to dry. As humans, we evolved to band together into tribes and communities. We are highly social creatures by nature and require social sustenance in order to maintain our mental health. We need to feel like we are part of a community, we need to feel like we have purpose, and we need to feel listened to and heard on an intimate level.
For all of the wonderful things the technological age has brought us, it has failed us on a most basic level. We are disconnected and disengaged with each other. There is an ever-growing sense of isolation in this world as we drown in stimulation and technology. We no longer feel like we have a singular purpose, we are sort of lost in the static noise, being pulled in a thousand different directions and yet no direction at all. I think this is the root of our societal angst and our societal depression.
We have lost touch with that sense of community and that sense of vulnerability that our ancestors felt in their struggles for survival. When you are surviving, you are constantly on your toes, having to band together as a community and engage and use our minds in creative and utilitarian ways. There was a sense of purpose, a sense that our every action had meaning and consequence. There was a common struggle, a sense of connected growth that fused us together intimately through love, work, learning, and growing through the future as a community. Can we rekindle that flame? Can we bring ourselves back from an isolated abyss and truly connect with one another again?
I would like to hope so. Personally, in my own life, whenever I have felt overly anxious or depressed about life, I noticed that during those times there is usually a disconnect between myself and my family and friends. There is a sense of being a lonely, misunderstood, wandering lifeform somewhere out there in the endless void suffering alone. Well as recent studies about the abundance of anxiety and depression have shown, we are anything but alone. At some point, we have to want better. We have to choose to engage with life and with one another.
As a society, coming together is going to take time and will be anything but easy, but on a close, personal level we can each do simple things to remedy our loneliness. For me, simply picking up the phone and calling a family member or a friend who I haven’t talked with in awhile can make all of the difference in those trying times. Just those brief moments of engaging with someone else, investing time, finding commonalities, and expressing and relating our own struggles to each other is so essential. It can be joining an online community or attending a book club once a week. We are not alone and lost despite our thoughts and our feelings telling us so. There is always a tribe of like-minded people around the corner, if we only take the time to find them.
Take advantage of the technology of today and find a group. Go to events, go to meetings, join forums and vent about your life, share coffee with someone who you wouldn’t normally give the time of day. In these divisive times, we can open up our minds to the plights and complexities of others who we feel are so different from us. They aren’t. They are living, breathing, vulnerable, multi-faceted beings of light just like everyone else, and just like you.
Feeling like you belong somewhere, that your voice is heard, and that your words and actions carry weight and meaning for someone else is everything. We are a tribe of wonderfully beautiful and complicated people, each struggling in our own ways but also together. Our collective struggle may have grown silent with all the walls we put up, but we struggle together, and that is an assuring thought. No one has to nor deserves to go through this life alone. We are each too special for our light not to be seen and shared by others. Let’s open our hearts and our hands and build something together through community, starting locally and slowly, but surely, ever-expanding globally. This is our future and our legacy, hand in hand. ❤