The world depicted in the movie Wall-E is quickly becoming a reality for us. Amidst towering issues of trash and little to no natural nourishment, we are being directed to take up residence in another world, in space … and I’m not talking about physical trash.
The trash of today is failed relationships, marriages, and emotional health. All of these issues are rising at an unprecedented rate, and as quickly as these problems are rising, the folks in Silicon Valley are providing a vast array of escapes for our consumption. Whereas the inhabitants on Wall-E flew to a spaceship in orbit around the earth, we are flying to a spaceship in the digital world that orbits around real life.
We’re getting fat on quick and easy consumptive digital media. Text messages, youtube videos, twitter news updates, and facebook posts all promise a life of connectivity. I fear that these methods of relating are moving us all towards less capable social abilities where problems in the real world can only be talked about or resolved digitally.
Two months ago, the Middle-Tennessee area was hit with thunderstorm after thunderstorm after thunderstorm from Friday night through Sunday evening. Some areas accumulated 15+ inches of rain during that time span, which led to significant flooding in many areas. Thankfully our house was not the victim of these fast moving waters, of which I am still grateful.
Often I will recall when something bad has happened, from something as small as a cup of milk being spilled by my kids to losing a job, a friend, or something more substantial. When those ‘bad’ things happen, I generally remember other times in life that feel similar. On the flip side, I rarely remember when things go ‘right’.
Just this morning our family ate a meal without any spilled food, drinks, or items. Glory. Yet, I don’t memorialize those moments because ultimately I believe that I’m entitled to things working well. So when they go well, I don’t celebrate, I chalk it off as normality. Yet when something awry happens, I question and wonder why life doesn’t work.
Remembering brings us face to face, if we’re willing, with our view of life. Do we expect good, and get mad at the setbacks? Perhaps another perspective is do we accept the setbacks expecting them to happen, and fail to remember/address the good? My hope is that remembering will lead me to hold both the good and bad in the same hand, giving each their due; laughing and weeping.
Will you remember?
To varying degrees, all of us have experienced trauma and loss (often times as a child). Because of these losses, be it physical or emotional, we tend to create internal reactions (these in turn create external reactions) that keep us from feeling the pain of similar losses in the future. This is a God-given gift for all of us to keep us alive, because without our ability to adapt and survive difficult (sometimes life-threatening situations) we would become an emotional vegetable.
In the therapy world, this idea most closely resembles attachment theory. Attachment theory posits that we either shut down (stuff) our emotions, or we latch onto all relationships to feel safety. The problem with both of these responses is that relational intimacy is always disconnected and distant. Much of what people long for is connection with others. Studies have shown that people generally care more about having meaningful and intimate relationships than they do about money or success. If that’s true, and I believe it is, then we are constantly looking for a safe relationship.
Having a ‘need’ for others is not a fatal flaw for people, but a gift. Much of my research and interest centers around marital relationships, and thus my thoughts today are such that a healthy marriage offers an incredible ability to heal the wounds of each partner/spouse. A healthy marriage has three components. First it allows for hurts to happen, and keeps harm far away and when harm happens that both are willing and able to address it in an open and collaborative way. Secondly that there is awe, gratitude, and delight in the other person. This is the general sense or feeling of wonder and curiosity of your spouse. Lastly, perhaps the most important, a healthy marriage is one that offers a safe home for the partners to return to. When life happens, we all need a safe relationship that will allow us to be who we are without the fear of pain via judgement, shame, or isolation.
This safe place offers to be the fertile healing grounds for your sexual abuse, the death of your mother when you were 9, your best friend’s suicide 10 years ago, the loss of your pet as a kid, or the lonliness of being a 15 year old yet to reach puberty. Perhaps your tragedies aren’t seen as difficult as the ones I’ve just listed. Perhaps you’ve had a good and easy life, one devoid of any major devastation. Regardless of how ‘severe’ your losses have been, we all have the fear of being alone in this world without a safe place to return. Marriage, among other intimate relationships, can be your safe place.
Recently I’ve been experiencing some consumption fatigue, in large part because I see an estimated 3,000 advertisements on a daily basis (some stat research here). Because of this fatigue, I’ve been contemplating some thoughts about what it might look like to consume less, and create more. The following are a few of those thoughts.
Creating offers us the ability to look at tomorrow, while consuming is self-centric today thinking. Creating engages us into the world that we live, seating us next to others that are doing the same. There is a communal aspect of creating that draws us into relationships. Something similar could be said for consumption and community, but it seems that creating will generally lead us to share our engagement with others, yet consuming typically moves us into a more isolated and controlled environment that doesn’t rely on others to be present.
Creating shows the world something of who we are, in our uniqueness and individuality. Consuming is about someone else, their identity, and in some ways our need to become someone else.
So what does a healthy balance of creating and consuming look like? We have to consume in order to survive (food, water, oxygen, etc), but to thrive we have to create. With this in mind, maturity can be defined as creating more and consuming less. Kids spend their whole life consuming, and at the point that they are ready (either by necessity or choice), they enter into a lifestyle that because creating-centric either in becoming parents or in “flying the coop” to experience life on their on.
I’ve organized a group of marriage, family, and grief counselors to offer free counseling to those who have been affected by the flooding here in our city. I’m wanting to make this available to as many people as possible. There are a lot of hurting people that need help once the physical labor is done, and I believe that there are some gifted counselors that can meet some very real needs.
Visit: www.CounselorsForNashville.com for more information
No one who is successful got so by enjoying the relaxation and perks of comfort. They took risks, put something ‘on the line’, and did things that they didn’t want to do.
Don’t think, act. If you sit around and think about the consequences or perils of a scary or frightening action, you’re likely going to build a case that will justify procrastination or inaction. However, make sure that you’re not acting out of ignorance or idealism. There comes a time that planning creates better outcomes. Yet if you feel that your planning is merely a sophisticated procrastination, as it often times can be, drop kick it and start acting on what needs to be done.
“Good psychotherapy isn’t simply recounting what’s happened to you since your last visit, or how you’ve felt in the past week or month. Although that can be a small component of each weekly visit, it should never be the focus. The focus is in helping you better understand your thoughts, relationships and behaviors, and how all of that impacts your emotions and can lead you into whatever condition you’re grappling with.”
Skimming the surface in life is more emotionally expensive than actually digging in and being honest of life. The lack of depth in our world feels to be expanding at an unstoppable rate. From information to nutrition, we can satisfy our most basic longings in an instant rarely stopping for long to consider the implications of the hunger that we are feeling.
Too often insight, knowledge, and assumptions act as intermediaries for the lack of experience.