For more than a year, I have been taking a very deep, at times painful and at times empowering, journey into my own unconscious. Specifically, being with old, long-standing beliefs around who I feel I need to be for others. It has been eye-opening and humbling. And it has been sad. Deeply sad. It has been downright grief-filled in a way that bypasses any thoughts or stories I might have about what is going on, and instead, expresses itself throughout my entire body in a way that feels like every single cell in my being is relentlessly sobbing.
I have come to know this experience as a state of mourning. A state that I now know intimately, having grown accustomed to its presence such that when it shows up I no longer fight it. Instead, I let it wash through me when I can. I cry it out when I need to. And I give myself lots of TLC in between. Sometimes it stays for days. My last go around was for more than a week. It feels like someone I love has died, but that now I must go on. Some days are better than others. But always, either near or far, it is running in the background.
What has brought me to the place of such heart-break? Witnessing within myself, while watching it unfold in the world, a belief system that says, “Do everything you can to make sure you are never wrong in the mind of another.”
I will never be able to explain here all of the nuances, all of the devastation, all of the ways I have distorted who I am to make sure no one thinks I am doing anything wrong. Suffice to say, it goes deep, and it is pervasive. It is soul-crushing and it is life-wasting. It is maddening and it is deadening. And it is something we are doing now to each other en mass.
I suppose I should not be surprised. For years, we have been being primed for this. For years we have been creating a model of weighing in on each others “wrongness” and “rightness” across social media platforms. We have made it desirable, acceptable, and even required, that we weigh in on each others lives. That we rate one another. That we desperately put ourselves out there looking for others to tell us how we are doing. Begging for the answer to Am I right or am I wrong in your eyes? Do you approve or disapprove of me?
Please, please weigh in on how I am doing, and I will change myself accordingly.
Likely there has always, or at least for a very long time (probably when we acquired language), been opinions offered up by other people about us. Been fears inside each of us around being accused of wrong doing by another. Judgment, gossip and criticism used to mold and manipulate us to conform. Ways that we have been overtly and covertly coerced and shamed into doing things according to someone else’s agenda. Or else. But up until this time period in history, there was always a limitation to the scope, reach, power, pervasiveness and level of pressure that could be applied against us.
No more. There is virtually no end now in terms of how we can make each other wrong. How we can use the technologies to bend people to our will. Sadly, we have been going willingly. As a matter of fact, even though social media leaves us depressed, lonely, disconnected and suicidal, we can’t seem to get enough of looking outside of ourselves to determine who we are, and whether or not we are okay. Whether or not we get to be here. Whether or not we are an asset or a liability to the world.
Enter 2020. A year that not only sacred us all to death-but one that has both accelerated and birthed the narrative that says, “I have the right to weigh in on what you do. And if you do not subscribe to my version, you are less than, wrong, a danger.” Having grown accustomed, expectant even, of having our lives weighed in on by another through the platforms of social media, we are primed now to believe that we owe it to one another to be told what to do and how to feel.
This is a dark and troubling road to walk down. One that traps us in a never-ending hell where we believe that it is only by the approval of another that we are valuable, and “allowed” to safely be here. I will you from first hand experience, if you walk down this road unaware, you will not only waste your life by agreeing to all of the wrongs things, you will have created the path to the most wrong you will ever go on to create in our world.
Watch your mind. Listen closely to the explanations you are giving about yourself and your behavior. You may notice this in real conversations or in the imagined ones you have in your own mind when you are defending yourself. Listen to, and feel for, the narrative you have about your own wrongness. Watch the way you shift yourself in conversations when you sense, or imagine, another’s disapproval.
We are wired to herd together. To belong to one another. This sets us up to bond over what others expect of us. But that should never, ever, come at the expense of your healthy expression or your innate, felt sense of your own goodness and value. Nor should you ever acquiesce to a demand that comes from a sick herd. This is a tricky one and can only be ascertained by experiencing yourself beyond the demands of the group. This one place alone may be the hardest thing you will ever do. But in so doing, you will live and experience joy in who you are, instead of mourning what you have allowed yourself to become.