There's a lot of talk these days about how anxious, lonely, stressed, depressed and mentally ill we are. In fact the number of prescriptions of antidepressants has doubled in Australia in the last 10 years - which I think says something.
One of the things that I've noticed that's gone along with this experience is this “running away” from ourselves.
We do this in so many different ways.
We do it through scrolling on social media all the time, through buying something, or through some sort of addiction or addictive or compulsive tendency.
I define those tendencies as ways of trying to do something outside of myself in the hope that it's going to change how I feel inside.
I believe that part of the reason why there's this feeling inside, is because we are disconnected from ourselves; because many of us don't really know who we are and we're scared to find out.
Ultimately this is what we all want right?
We all just want to feel good and feel okay with who we are on the inside.
Now, I'm not a Christian but I adore reading widely - psychological studies, philosophical texts, religious and spiritual texts. It got me thinking about what Jesus said - “the kingdom of heaven is within”. Our experience of feeling enlivened, connected, joyful, passionate… these things live inside of us and yet most of us don't spend much time connected intimately with our own inner world where all these things live!
It has become something that is rarer and rarer.
This is not entirely the fault of each of us individually.
Collectively we have gone through a lot of traumas - wars, famines, displacements. Combine this with the eradication from our culture of ways to process that and deal with that collectively, to stay connected with each other and make meaning from it. So we find ourselves with what we have - the age of disconnection.
I want to say this as a comfort really, that the difficult psychological work of getting to know yourself can actually be the way through. So many people who come to growth, healing or therapeutic work find that there are some barriers and obstacles when you first start to be willing to take your attention off the things outside of yourself - other people, places and things and start bringing it inside.
For this work, I direct clients inward to key areas: firstly the somatic work - the body sensations and emotions and then the thoughts and patterns of behavior that go along with that.
I no longer remember the first time I heard this but I love the phrase “intimacy = into me you see”.
Can you see inside yourself?
Can you see who you really are?
Do you know how you feel about things?
Do you know what you value, what's meaningful to you?
Do you like the person that lives beyond the resistance to going within?
That isn't the person that's fearful and trying to people-please or anxiously go over there and do that thing or desperately stay connected on their screen. When all of that kind of behavior starts to drop away we fear it and yet the most comfort is to be found in the capacity to be comfortable with oneself with your own inner world.
We've lost touch with this because we have a culture that doesn't let us feel. I believe this is related to the mechanistic direction that our culture has gone. we have become stuck in a culture that's getting us thinking like we're machines and so it doesn't really matter how I feel it matters that I can show up and do this thing, be productive, participate in the mechanistic experience of culture and society
And yet what this has led to is not feeling better but feeling way way worse while not acknowledging and allowing ourselves to feel these bad feelings by medicating and distracting.
This means that we also don't get to feel the good. Brene Brown has become well known these days for talking about how well we need to experience the difficult feelings so that our emotional palate is open and we can feel the positive feelings as well and yet this is so difficult to do in today's culture.
It’s really hard to do it with another but you do have influence and capacity over doing it with yourself over opening up this inner world. You can become more aware of how you feel, more aware of who you are.
If you know yourself, then when you are alone you are actually accompanied. The better you know that person, the more likely the person accompanying you (YOU) is someone you like!
I just want to emphasize that for many people, this can be a really scary thing because we've been disconnected from it for so long that a lot of the first thing that comes up when we start to touch in and get tender with the inner world of our being is pain. But pain accompanied is pain made more bearable. Many years ago while living in Bali, I had to have an operation performed with no anesthetic. It was incredibly painful. Yet, because I was able to squeeze the hand of a really good friend while this was happening, there was some sense of this accompaniment that allowed me to tolerate pain better. We might never have had something like this from another person.
This is what we want to be able to give to ourselves. We want to be able to feel that hug, that squeeze. Of course we want to feel it with each other but we want to be able to experience it with ourselves as well.
I beg you please have the courage go gently do it slowly but get to know yourself and how you feel and just maybe you can start feeling a little bit better.