There are certain life events that alter us forever. The birth of a child, the death of a parent. A broken heart inflicted or received. Shattered trust, a health crisis, or reaching the pinnacle of what we thought we always wanted only to find out there is always a deeper level or a higher branch. If we’re lucky, we have support, love, and encouragement to navigate and re-acclimate to a new chapter in our lives.
“The Times They Are A-Changin’“. Bob Dylan wrote this song in 1963 forever marking the historical significance of the civil rights movement. Social injustices, political unrest, a cry for unity. The idealization that standing together and fighting for what is just and true can institute change to help alter the course of history and bring positive transformation.
During this same time period, Otis Redding wrote the song “Respect” as the voice of a desperate man who vowed to give his woman anything she wanted in exchange for respect, albeit his meaning more a euphemism than a term of reverence. Two years later in 1967, Aretha Franklin changed a few lyrics and delivered an anthem not only for the feminist movement but also for humanity.
Presently, we are revisiting these same issues and yet instead of uniting, we are pitting against one another politically, socially, and racially. Over the past several weeks, many people have been experiencing bouts of unexpected sadness, raw and deep; disconnected from an apparent catalyst yet mirroring feelings often experienced during times of personal change or upheaval. Attempting to breathe through it like a labor pain has the same effect, it still hurts like hell.
There are as many self-help articles on how to combat stress, depression and anxiety as there are opinions about the current political situation. Though I’m not promoting ignorance, I am advocating giving yourself time away from all of it to decompress and recenter. Being constantly bombarded with negativity, fear tactics, and toxicity are not healthy, nor do they allow you to make your own choices and decisions based on facts as well as what you believe and honor.
Decisions are determined by past experiences and on the emotions connected to them. Several years ago, neuroscientist Antonio Damasio did a study on people who had damage to the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for generating emotions. All other aspects were deemed normal for these people except the ability to feel emotions and surprisingly, to be able to make decisions even though they had the ability to reason. Perhaps the continuous assault on emotional trigger points is blurring our ability to make decisions based on real issues and events. Are we absorbing the energies of a disillusioned collective or are we at the turning point of change we have anticipated and hoped for since the preceding cultural uprising of the 1960’s?
When people are afraid, the priority becomes safety. This is ingrained in us from the moment we come onto the planet. We want to feel safe. When people are afraid, they are much easier to control and manipulate. We may resist taking risks out of fear of failure. Or stay in a situation that only feeds our bank account out of a fear of being insolvent. Or conform and follow the herd from a fear of being alone and alienated; unprotected; unsafe.
Without going into a middle-aged diatribe about the effects of technology and social media on socialization and culture, how do we even attempt to supplant distrust and fear with a sense of unity? Showing respect for the individual while appreciating their contribution to the collective whole helps to alter the discord. When we show respect for one another, help one another, are kind and thoughtful without expectation, we are promoting equality and oneness. Being genuine, smiling and making eye contact to let another person know they matter and are being seen also promotes a sense of solidarity and connection. Sharing your gifts, your knowledge, your expertise and receiving what is offered in kind. Being of service takes ego out of the equation and allows each of us to be present for ourselves and for one another. It is an altruistic, pollyanna attitude towards a level of national and global dysfunction that has reached unimaginable heights. But what we have in all of this is each other. Aligning our strengths and coming together in community will help us to persevere, heal, and become stronger.
Today Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature 2016 for “creating new and poetic expressions” as a musician. This award validates not only the importance of literature’s oral tradition but of the binding cultural impact of poetry and music. Maybe this is also a sign of hope for the changes that are coming. If we each celebrate our unique gifts and capabilities while also honoring those in others, we are doing our part to build unity and fight a fear based mentality that keeps us from living as fully as we can dream.
“We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.” -J.K.Rowling
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