How can we respond creatively to world crises, rather than feeling overwhelmed or paralyzed by distress?
Differing Views of Reality
In my last article I wrote about "malignant narcissists". These are people who block all genuine emotions and focus their energies on causing suffering for others. While Trump is like the poster-boy for this syndrome, such people can be found not only in leaders, but in daily life. Whatever their veneer, by definition they have a "top-down" mentality.
In the current article I intend to focus on those of us who have not suppressed our feelings, but in fact are in touch with a world that is falling apart. This is part of a "bottom-up" response. It is now clear that we need not only to feel our pain for ourselves and other living beings, but also to find ways to respond to this deepening crisis in a rapid and effective way.
A key reality of our time: it appears that a great unraveling is taking place leading to converging adversity trends.
Denial is probably our greatest temptation.
Human population and consumption are increasing at the same time as essential resources, such as fish stocks, topsoil and oil reserves, are in decline. These are major adversity trends. While reversals in the economy have left many feeling desperate about how they are going to manage, trillions of dollars are spent on the making of war. It is no surprise that so many of us are experiencing a profound loss of confidence in the future. A stunning reality that will be obvious in the foreseeable future: we will no longer be able to take for granted that the resources on which we depend - food, fuel, and drinkable water - will be readily available. Naturally, this is already affecting developing countries first.
In fact, those of us with the clearest vision are affirming that there are serious questions as to whether our civilization will survive or that conditions on our planet will remain hospitable for complex forms of life.
The simple fact is that our current way of life is unsustainable.
We live in extraordinary times, caught between differing views of reality. There is the Business-as-Usual version that doesn't recognize the crisis, alongside with the unconscious or semi-conscious terror that things are much worse than we thought. Living in this double reality creates a split in our mind.
Humanity has entered a rare period, filled with immense opportunity and danger: We are collectively between stories with a break in the narrative describing the overall human journey. Around the world, old institutions of business, government, education, and more are breaking down. New institutions responsive to the new era are rising up, but seemingly at a slower pace than existing institutions are breaking down. As a consequence, there is a growing void or felt-sense of absence of guiding narratives for nearly all humans who are alive today.
Naming this uncertainty as a pivotal psychological reality of our time. This is where we must begin - by acknowledging that our times confront us with realities that are painful to face, difficult to take in and confusing to live with.
The "American Dream" that pulled the United States forward for at least three generations is fast becoming the world's nightmare as the excesses of consumerism produce climate disruption, the depletion of cheap oil, and rapidly growing income disparities. The foreseeable future holds other perils: the threat of nuclear weapons, rising numbers of climate refugees, spreading regions of fresh-water scarcity and plant and animal extinction, as well as declining agricultural productivity.
Depression has reached epidemic proportions, with one in two people in the Western world likely to suffer a significant episode at some point in their lives. The consumer lifestyle isn't just wrecking our world; it is making us miserable. Now, instead of a different "dream," people crave a sense of real possibility told in ways that are believable
The question is: - What it will take for humanity to evolve past our looming, disastrous, "ecological wall" toward a future worth building? Can we grow beyond our "evolutionary wall" - our adolescent behavior - and embrace a new maturity?
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