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America is exhausted.
Not just exhausted, but overwhelmed with fatigue.
This isn’t something new. We have been tired for one reason or another for decades, but the issue has only grown exponentially in the past few years and has skyrocketed during the pandemic. Many books have been written about how we need more sleep (think The sleep revolution), and advice on how to get more sleep (put your phones in another room, get a better mattress), but the fatigue I am talking about is different than just a lack of sleep. It is an exhaustion of our current system, a rejection of our current way of life. America’s fatigue is presenting physically, but stems from a mental and an emotional exhaustion that we have not yet come to terms with.
Too much fatigue, hyper-fatigue, is dangerous to the psyche and the soul, our society and our world. We are in danger of crossing a line from which we may never return, so it is important to understand the concept of fatigue: why it is dangerous, where it comes from and how to relieve it so we can move forward towards Belonging and a better future for all.
Humans do not function well under a state of fatigue. Fatigue is the inability to exert the necessary physical force one would expect their body to reasonably accommodate. (skybrary.areo) Mentally, fatigue leads to a general decrease of attention and the lack of ability to perform complex ( or worse, simple) tasks with efficiency. Fatigue causes our emotions to run out of control and present in the most negative ways: crankiness, irritability, frustration, aggression, etc. People break down in times of great fatigue, we don’t want to eat, we often cannot sleep, tears come at no notice at all and relationships suffer greatly.
People who are fatigued should not be allowed to operate heavy machinery, but they should also not be allowed to make tough decisions, be in charge of others, or be expected to solve problems until they have rested and recuperated. Fatigue can take time to expel, and often requires multiple days of rest and even sometimes counseling before it will fully dissipate. The fact that we are allowing a mass fatigue to perpetuate throughout our society is irresponsible. The fact that we cannot recognize it is scary.
Americans have always pushed the envelope when it comes to “making the most of our time” or “living like there’s no tomorrow”. Our country was founded on the principle of always wanting more: more freedom, more land, more choices, more resources, etc. The benefits of this mindset is that we seek growth and always want to achieve greater heights, however, even with the best of intentions this concept provides false expectations. Unending growth is just not possible. We cannot take and never give, we cannot work and never rest, the law of the universe is that we must stay in balance. One of my favorite explanations of this is from ‘The sword in the stone‘ where Merlin explains to Wort that balance makes the world go round.
In our current world we believe that we can say NO to this guiding principle and use the concepts of money, technology and size to stress and stretch and warp the environment to strive for constant growth. Americans glom onto these concepts as guiding principles to a good life. Ideas such as “big is best”, “only the strong survive”, “money makes the world go round” and “technology is inherently good” (unless your enemy wants it too) are catch phrases that we live by with little regard for the fact that anything else could be true.
We have given our leaders the ability to trick the system because what we want is more important than what is best for all. What we do not realize is what we give up in return for this foolishness. Like Pinocchio and the boys on Pleasure Island, we are in danger of turning into asses if we do not mature enough to realize that unending money, pleasure, partying and fun is only part of the equation. In fact, we are already seeing the repercussions of our folly in our current environment by the sheer amount of different types of fatigue we are currently experiencing.
The myriad of collective fatigue we are experiencing can be separated into the following categories: Fatigue of Change, Fatigue of Expectations, Fatigue of Decisions, Fatigue of Emotions
Many of these fatigue experiences have similar sources and can also be linked back to the distractions of money, size, technology and our unending quest for pleasure. Exacerbated by the fact that we have not yet reassessed our social contract, we are also struggling to connect with what our country and society stands for. People without a country, people without beliefs and culture that tie us together, are forced to go it alone and that isolation and fear only adds to our fatigue. Our lack of connections strengthens the fatigue as we have nothing left to recharge our soul but our piles of stuff. Worse yet, we have lost our connections to the past and most ideas have lost their meaning. Without meaning and without history we are in danger of becoming nothing.
Change is a tough concept, but one we continuously face. Change can be exhilarating if we choose it, but excruciating if we do not. Often, changes come at us and make us feel that our ENTIRE world is being turned upside down. This allows the panic and fear emotions to creep into our psyche and craft an unrealistic view of our environment. Living in a time of unprecedented dynamic change, its not hard to see how many people could be struggling with all of the differences they are faced with every day. Struggling against change causes fatigue, struggling to create change does the same.
The world has awakened and erased the borders that so many conservative Americans had tried to keep in place. Those who had created a bubble around their lives in order to keep change at bay are now struggling through ambiguity and with a feeling of loss. Not so much that they don’t want others to have what they have, but more a fear of losing what they have or maintaining their planned future for their children. Whether or not these fears are irrational or unfounded, intercultural misunderstandings and a lack of awareness and understanding in general have created an uneasy, unfamiliar environment that this group is struggling to rebalance.
Others formerly ostracized for different reasons have now gained a sense of power and are ready for change and opportunity. While happy with the change, it feels like a constant fight; one that brings with it waves of weariness, anger, and pain. Change feels too slow at times, but also can bring surprise when the boundaries once believed to be static are constantly pushed by those wanting even more.
Lastly, a worldwide fatigue has grown from the mishandled and misunderstood pandemic still plaguing us all. Not sure who to listen to, what to believe, or even what to do, many have simply given up and are living with a “Que sera, sera” mindset. Unfortunately for many, this turns deadly and is often irreversible. Still, “revenge” is the new norm whether due to a new appreciation of life or a subconscious death wish and our insatiable desire for “normal” is exacerbating so many other fragile systems in our lives. See how dangerous fatigue can be?
Our fatigue has also led to broken down systems in other ways. Our expectations of what life can bring, of how we should treat each other, of expertise and what it means, how we should care for ourselves – all of these have been turned upside down and often we live in a land of opposites compared to the world that existed in my childhood.
We are tired of being polite, tired of having manners, and do not understand why life was ever so stuffy and controlled. Decorum has lost its meaning in many ways, and often we are only concerned with how others made US feel, not the other way around. We have expected so much of ourselves that we cannot go any higher. Men must be soft, but still able to be aggressive or protect their family at the drop of a hat, women must be superwomen able to do everything a man can do; biology be damned. Overtly, these ideas are not unreasonable in theory, but the expectation of always being ON and never being able to stop is contributing heavily to our mental health epidemic.
Expectations are also overblown in terms of what we are supposed to care about. Empathy is great, I highly recommend it, but we expect ourselves to be able to constantly care about the entire globe every day. An extremely unreasonable expectation, it has caused us to go around the bend all the way back to having to recreate awareness. While humans are a compassionate species, evolution takes time and the invention of the television and the internet have not happened so long ago that our emotional capacities are able to keep up. Trying to care continuously, always being faced with someone somewhere needing care, has stressed our capacity to the point it has broken. This has caused us to turn inward and unleashed a tidal wave of selfishness that is circling the globe. If we cannot care about everyone then we decide to care about no one.
The overabundance of data, media, and options has choked our ability to make decisions. The instability of our leaders and the constant disagreements between experts has left us feeling cheated, and caused us to stop listening to anything but our darkest selves.
Those out of work are struggling to make the necessary decisions to make ends meet, those who never stopped working are exhausted due to living in two worlds. Work has become so hard that many people have left, some without any idea of what the future has in store. Anything is better than what we have now, they think, but have no idea what they really are searching for and no idea how to make the decisions to get them there.
All of these stressors have cracked our desire to feel. Fatigue of empathy, but also fatigue of emotions in general. We do not want to cry, and little makes us laugh. Anger wears us out and creates a hole in our heart unable to be filled. With everything going on we have no one to share it with because we constantly feel misunderstood.
Depression is cured for a bit only when drowning in wine, drugs or streaming services. Eating comforts, but then we feel guilt and then back to depression we go. Relationships have grown so hard that we would rather not try. Why open up and try to connect when we will have more trouble dealing with both of our emotions that we do with our own?
Even those determined to go out, to live a normal-ish life, feel ostracized by the masses and angry that they have to deal with all of this. They “revenge” themselves in any way they can, but little brings back the joy they remember from before covid. Those unlucky enough to have it rough before find it even harder to find hope for the future.
As we have seen, a world-wide lockdown is not possible, neither for our psyches nor our economy, so what else can we do to get our rest? How do we regain our balance and dissipate our fatigue? By being very specific about our path to healing.
The first thing we must do is re-center our Empathy. Instead of caring about everything, or only caring our ourselves, we must reassess our empathy circles. Perhaps that is just you until you can heal, but have a plan to add others back as you do. Maybe focusing on yourself still allows you to open your circle a bit including your partner, your child(ren), your pets, your family or a friend as well. Keep the circle small until you can feel your strength returning. Make notes about other ideas, people, events, or concepts you care about. As your capacity grows, as you start to regain your health, add them back slowly as you are able. Yes, some things need our assistance now, but overstressing and not being able to act because we are too tired does no one a favor.
We can learn to coexist with change, examine our expectations, deliberate tough decisions and embrace all of our emotions, i is possible and I know the way. With help we can start to regain balance, feel less fatigued and more energized, and gain fulfillment in our lives. The answers to our fatigue are found in the concepts of the Essential Elements of life and they can help us regain our health and our strength. Learning them, understanding them and integrating them into our lives helps us create a path towards longevity, happiness and contentment.
Next time we will discuss another element necessary to create an environment of Belonging that leads us towards Integration. Until then, please take care and get some rest 🙂
I know divorce. It was a concept introduced to me at age six, when my young parents succumbed to their desires for more and decided to dissolve their marriage. The most destructive event in all of our lives, it threatened to destroy not only our family, but each of us involved either by choice or circumstance. Divorce is not something to be taken lightly, so when I see our leaders asking if America should get divorced, or that many citizens are ready for secession, appalled or astounded doesn’t begin to describe my feelings. Flippantly, we throw around this heavy word, with little regard for neither the horrific experience nor the externalities divorce creates. Want to know what is in store if we decide to tread this path? Perhaps after our journey today, some will be a bit more careful when discussing “America’s divorce”.
Divorce was still a relatively rare concept when I was young, at least in small towns across America. In fact, my best friend and I were the only school mates in our grade to experience this concept personally in elementary school. Thankfully, her parents divorced after mine, so they could learn some lessons on how to be more civil, but divorce is almost always difficult, even under the best of circumstances. So many tears, arguments, screams and nightmares come with the experience of divorce – the more emotional the players, the more dangerous the game becomes. A time of great change and great learning, my childhood stretched my emotional capacity to its limits and forever changed my trajectory in life, but I can only imagine how hard this time must have been for my parents.
Together since 20, at 26 they became the first of their friends, and more than likely their relatives, to experience the concept and head into the painful unknown. Being the first, they knew no teachers able to guide them through this extremely tumultuous time. Unbeknownst to them, they were riding a social “tidal wave” as the concept lost its taboo and peaked in the 80s.
As a child, I was a victim of my parent’s divorce, so bear little to no responsibility and instead dealt with choices outside of my control. For my parents, they were the stars and the spotlight belonged to no one else. A harsh hand dealt to two people who had longed to feel special all of their lives. They were the ones who had to make the choice to upend our family, to admit they were inside a mistake that neither were able to fix, to see that there was no future that included both of them together. They had “failed” and no one could save them. To fail with no hope for redemption is a brutal experience for a human being, the harshest type of accountability we can experience.
The pain of emptiness is all consuming. Having something one day, then waking the next without it, gnawed at my insides and created a hole that took years to refill. Divorce makes it terrifying to trust anything or anyone. When your family is broken, your safety and belonging are challenged and one must recreate a solid ground alone. Hesitancy, anxiety, fear and uncertainty fill the psyche and become a constant enemy that fights viciously to overtake one’s soul.
Yet, I consider myself one of the lucky ones in the entire experience. Overall, I still had love. I loved them, they loved my brother and I, so even though we were breaking a part I didn’t have to to lose those emotional bonds; they would just be different. Of course, this mature understanding of the situation did not come easily. It took years of research, therapy, schooling, and maturing to come to terms and heal, and it left lasting scars. Scars, however, that I find bittersweet and am grateful for as they combined to create who I am today, and now allow me to see the situation from multiple perspectives.
We think divorce is an easy way out. Americans today are happy to talk about what the land will look like in a civil war, how we want people who think differently to die, how great it would be if “X group” didn’t live in America any more. Those are the thoughts of children. Those are the thoughts of privileged people who have never experienced a group or family dismantled. Those are thoughts of humans who have either never experienced real loss, or are so spiteful for how much loss they have experienced that they want all to suffer along with them.
My parents were young, inexperienced at life and had no connections equipped enough to bridge the gaps that existed between them. Their reality became full of distrust, fighting, and pain; a perceived source for all of their unhappiness. They believed the only way forward was to fail together and dissolve the union. Their coupling had grown so toxic that the only path forward was to separate. Believing they were too different to bridge the gaps, they made the choice I believe they regretted for much of their lives. The strange thing is, they didn’t devolve because they were too different. Sure, they see life differently in some ways, but the thing that broke them was the fact that they were too emotionally the same.
Both inadvertently ached for the same thing. An ache that created a shared commiseration that was unable to be filled by the couple they created. The bond they shared was ultimately the same thing that pushed them apart. Neither of them felt they had ever really experienced unconditional love and support. They wanted what most of us want…someone to recognize what made them special.
Neither realized the depth of the hole this left in themselves or each other. This lack of realization meant they were unable to fill these holes within themselves or each other. Over the years, this continued to cause anger, frustration and ultimately resentment. They were unable to see that the same insecurities that plagued them also existed within the other. Even if they had, their age and lack of experience left them unequipped to help the other.
Of course, back in the mid-80s neither understood this. All they really understood is that they felt unappreciated and unloved. They were not getting what had been promised, because they did not understand the promise in the first place. It started with little things: slights, jokes, and spending less time together. It grew to outright cheating, and then anything to impose the same hurt they were feeling. Hatred was easier than fixing anything, blaming was easier than admitting anything, and so came the divorce. Each were convinced the issue was with the other, and both claimed to be the victim. They never really looked inside to see their contribution to the problem, and neither fully understood their affect on the situation. Neither wanted to see the shared pain, misery and confusion that they both had caused.
Americans think this is what they want. We like to feel we are ready for war. But that’s because we watch too much unrealistic media. Divorce is a breakdown of a shared culture. It happens when we not only stop getting what we want, but it starts to feel impossible to get what we need. The problem with America today is that our wants and needs are all mixed up. We need to redefine and reassess what matters. Take stock in what we have and really think about the importance associated with whatever we feel may be missing.
Divorce is a cool war, not a cold one. Everything is okay until it’s not. We can live on our phones talking smack to each other, feeling happy at the zingers we sling, and all is fun and games until both sides want to control the same thing. The first time both parties desire the same thing tensions rise and anger flares. In a divorce, the law takes over and the fights take place between lawyers and mediators, with violence a rare occurrence. This will not be the case if our country divorces. If our country divorces the fights will take place on the streets, in our neighborhoods and our cities with little regard for the law.
This divorce will be messy. While our country once had many neighborhoods whose inhabitants saw life from a similar vein, those borders have turned to vapor and diversity crisscrosses our land. America has been restructured based upon preference and much less based upon necessity or segregation. People live where they like: city/country/suburbs, hot weather vs. cold weather lovers, etc. All races, sexes, genders, shapes and sizes fit within each of our segments and Americans of all kinds live side by side.
What on earth do we think this would look like if any groups tried to secede? Who will give up their coasts, town squares, city councils and other aspects of life to move elsewhere and take up sides to fight a silly war? Ideas are grand, awareness is good, but action often looks different in practice. We need to be realistic. We need to take a breath. Let’s all be a bit more mature than my young parents exploring love and family for the first time.
Groups at odds must first be understood if we want to erase their anger. Our hurt drives us towards hate. Hurt that comes from many places: changes that are too quick, or not quick enough; intercultural misunderstandings; dreams that feel out of reach; assumptions about our character; a lack of trust and/or empathy in our daily lives. Many of our people are suffering from feelings they struggle to understand, and emotions they are unable to diffuse. While it is unthinkable to believe one blog post can help bring clarity to these issues, I will humbly offer one strategy that has helped me and mine create a strong culture of trust. My hope is that this suggestion could help one or more people out there, and the more we can help the less chance we have of tearing our country apart.
The AFDA method helps to transition our emotions to something manageable and proactively provides a path to harmony.
A – Admit – In order to solve anything, we must first admit what is happening. Identify and define the issue to provide clarity to the emotions one is feeling.
Example: I am feeling hurt because my spouse over talks me when I am sharing things I feel are important. This hurt makes me doubt myself and resent them.
F – Forgive – It’s totally okay to feel any emotion one feels. All emotions are human and natural and we do not have to be perfect. Our feelings do not make us unsavory. Our spiteful actions spawned from our emotions cause our shame or self disappointment.
Example: It is totally okay that I feel these emotions. I am human and deserve to be listened to because I matter.
D – Decide – Decide what you want. Do you want to be right? Do you want the other person to admit they were wrong in their actions? Do you want things to change? What should it look like? REMEMBER: It is often not possible to be right AND get what we want. It is important to choose which is the most important part in order to be successful.
Example: It is important to me to fix this because I do not want to feel this way any longer. I should find a way to share this with my spouse in a constructive manner to help us move forward together. Even if I am the victim, and did nothing to cause this I need to take control of the situation as my happiness is up to me. If I do not speak about this, or find a way to fix it then I am allowing myself to live in a vicious cycle that will cause me pain.
A – Act – Put your decision into action. Divide the action into steps if necessary and reassess along the way. REMEMBER: Action often needs repetition to create new habits. Do not be discouraged if things are not fixed right away. Keep repeating this process, if necessary, until you get the desired results.
This is the start of our Belonging – understanding the problems in order to create the necessary solutions. Seeing our part and doing our part to help change things for the better. Please join me next time when we dive deeper into our bridging our gaps and uncover additional ingredients necessary to raise our vibrations and scale Maslow’s hierarchy.
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