A Society of Paranoids

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“Wheatfield With Crows” July 1890, Vincent van Gogh

I unfortunately encounter quite a few raw, judgmental, and hateful people. I mostly likely to refrain from making grossly generalized statements such as this, but experience has shown me, time and time again, that this is the case. And yet, I do not mean this as a depreciation. I’m merely observing and recognizing it.

I think for a long time I was in denial about this because I believed, and maybe still want to believe, that all people are inherently good. But as years pass and experiences and incidents repeat in disappointingly familiar ways, I find it inevitable to draw some conclusions.

The type of person I will describe now is the ultimate manifestation of rawness and negativity. By rawness, I am referring to raw feelings– feelings that existed at their height in the very beginning of humanity, when they possibly served a somewhat practical purpose of ensuring survival. I’m referring to raw feelings like jealousy, envy and hatred. Viewing all others as competition for limited resources and aiming to gain victory over them without hesitation or mercy must have surely increased the chances of survival for our early ancestors.

But doing this now… Hating someone for no other reason than the fact that they simply exist and wish to coexist with you in the same space…To despise someone you know nothing about, to never even allow the opportunity to learn about them before passing severe judgments about them….And wishing them harm just so that they will get out of your way… It’s this kind of rawness, a state of having fallen behind evolution and humanity, that I fail to comprehend and accept.

As much as I feel hurt and withdrawn because of this type of thinking and behavior, I also feel sad about people who live in this constant state of mental war. What might it be like to view everyone but yourself as an enemy? What might it be like to always be on guard, to protect yourself from imaginary harms, to constantly plan to strike first before another strikes you…What might it be like to live in a constant state of fear, insecurity and suspicion about the world, to be consumed by how wicked it all could be…

Isn’t all of this just a form of paranoia? And what if you have an entire society made up of people who feel, think and act this way? A society of paranoids? What might be the consequences of their fears and wars? And what happens to the rest of humanity who wants goodness, happiness, and peace?

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Letting Yourself Be Vulnerable

I’ve been listening to many Tara Brach podcasts in the past few days. I find her descriptions of the inner workings of people extremely insightful and true. She uses ideas of Buddhism to understand and explain human emotion and action, and how we can relate to ourselves and one another.

One very interesting thing that she talks about is how we all build scales, to protect ourselves. And it all comes from vulnerabilities and fears — the fear of not being accepted, not being loved, not feeling worthy or deserving of love, etc. And she talks about how we do not allow the love of others to come in because of these fears.

With inspiration of her discussions, I tried to open myself up to someone recently. I definitely did. I was able to go one layer down and reveal the first layer of my vulnerabilities, which I have never done before. But I also realized that there were other layers that I had not reached and had not opened up.

It’s shocking to me how even at times where we have the intention to be very direct, open and honest with someone, we actually are not 100% honest. We still do not reveal the very, very deep workings of our psyche. The very deep and sometimes shameful vulnerabilities that we ourselves have difficulty facing. Even my most honest self, is still withdrawn and scared.

What is it that we’re so scared of? Why is the fear of being rejected and unloved so frightening and powerful? Why do we allow these emotions to control us so? And how can we ever establish truly meaningful relationships if everyone is always pretending that they are stronger and better than they really are? Don’t we all have to let go a little?

Something else I struggle with is what I actually touched upon in a previous post, the struggle of knowing that something is wrong, analyzing it correctly, and expressing it as such, only to later fear that I may have made a mistake or that I have been hurtful. Although my desire to never hurt anyone’s feelings is very strong, I also know that my assessments of and feelings about situations are fairly accurate. And if something doesn’t feel right to me, it probably isn’t right. And that is not something I should regret. I think this mainly has to do with self-confidence and having the assurance of knowing that what I feel, cannot be wrong. Ideas can be wrong. Judgements can be wrong. But feelings, no. You can never tell yourself that what you are feeling is unreal or insignificant. If it exists, if it’s there, there is a reason for it and we have to learn to trust that.

What I do based upon those feelings are still open to discussion. How we react to situations is definitely something that we all can work on. But I think how we feel about them should not be questioned.