Can society make us sick?
When we’re feeling emotionally unwell we often relate our state of mind to things happening to us within a narrow spectrum of social relations and events. It’s an overbearing boss, a marriage fragmenting, a debt burden that’s becoming untenable. At such times it’s natural to make these kind of connections and equally natural to look for answers in such places. But suppose changing our job, getting divorced or solving our financial problems doesn’t result in us feeling any better; where do we go then?
Well one possibly is to take a look at our lives from a broader perspective and consider how we’re relating more generally to the world around us and the society in which we live. Despite the invisible security bubble that we all construct to protect us in our dealings with the world we inhabit it’s important to remember that such bubbles are permeable. As we pass the homeless person in a doorway or see news items about Syrian refugees we may consciously have thoughts that disassociate our lives from theirs, but at other levels of consciousness feelings of insecurity, fear and trepidation will also coexist. To what extent such negative thoughts impinge on our abilities to feel self-confident, safe and secure will determine how we experience life generally and in existential terms how we see the future.
The transient nature of these types of concerns and their often lack of specific relatedness to our normal daily lives can result in us feeling troubled but vague as to what’s actually wrong. As a result more immediate and present options are often considered responsible and in particular our frustrations with our work, family and personal relationships.
So what’s the answer? Well the first thing is to become more tuned into our feelings and by doing this hopefully begin to differentiate their origins. For example, we may need to catch ourselves when we find we’re skipping certain newspaper articles or switching channels on the TV and instead focus on what’s happening and what we’re trying to avoid. We may find it helpful to talk with others about more general matters, even if this feels at odds to what we might normally discuss and share. Over time, doing this will become more natural and we should find a sense of objective proportionality replacing perceptions of vulnerability and anxiety even if the topics we’re talking about still deter and worry us.
To sum up it’s worth repeating the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself”, which were part of his inaugural speech address and related to calming the concerns of the American people at a time of economic crisis.
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