As I get older and reflect, I feel that we, as a society, have been in a very rough place for the last several years. There are societal shifts I feel are going in the wrong direction. There is little room for seeing the goodness all around us due to the current state of our world. I fear we’re being dumbed down by the overuse of technology and some new government regulations that are not in our best interests. We now have a world where we can get high, gamble legally, drink and never be out of touch with the world through the constant use of technology. We are not taught how to calm ourselves, know ourselves, and stay true to our inner knowing. We are becoming an addicted society.
In the 1970s, when I was in art school at Boston University, School of Fine Arts, we all smoked pot, drank alcohol, and had fun. The State of Connecticut recently legalized marijuana for personal use and is making a lot of money on tax revenue, which has increased every month since its inception. This is not your friend’s nickel bag from years before. This is medical-grade hybrid marijuana that is so potent that taking more than a small amount can leave the user almost catatonic. Children and pets have accidentally ingested gummies, and there is a huge caution flag up to protect how people store their drugs. City streets reek of pot, as do the people stumbling out of their parked cars.
On the docket this winter, there was consideration in Connecticut legislation to allow bars to stay open until 4 am instead of closing at 3 am. Is that really necessary?
It feels like our government is trying to keep us numbed out and far from feeling our feelings by allowing these addictive substances to be readily available. Don’t even get me started on legalized gambling. Instead of going to a casino, you can now lie in bed and bet your money on almost anything.
Where are we headed as a society?
Access to Everything
When I was younger, people with mental distress would, unfortunately, take their own lives by committing suicide. Now, some frustrated people go on shooting rampages and take scores of people with them. There are mass shootings almost every week – so many I can’t remember what happened where. Americans lead the world in these awful, unnecessary, all-too-common events. Is it gun control? Is it mental health? Is it necessary to sell semi-automatic weapons at all to the general public? The age to buy those guns was increased to twenty-one instead of eighteen. But how much does that three-year difference really matter?
The increase in cell phone use and gaming are creating unresponsive children and young adults. It is not coincidental. People of all ages seem to be on their phones or computers constantly. Children have busy parents who are on the internet and not interacting with their kids. People walk their dogs and talk on the phone, sometimes dragging the dog along because they’re simply not paying attention.
I was recently at a dinner. When we were served the soup, two younger people at the table hopped on their phones as if ten minutes were too long to be without contact. Is sitting and chatting with people at the dinner table passe? Is live conversation dead?
What do we, the conscious, thinking people, do to safeguard ourselves, the lives of our families and pets, and the neighborhoods in which we live? The world has become more unsafe and much scarier. Do we lock ourselves away or find new ways to “be”? How do we stay in touch with ourselves and stay sane in this insane world? Where would the world be if we got and stayed in touch with our feelings and how we are motivated?
Addiction to Everything
For four years in the 90s, I studied with a leading expert on addiction – Dr. Anne Wilson-Schaef, a clinical psychologist with sixteen internationally best-selling books. Loosely phrased, addiction is “the thing you do to take you away from feeling your feelings.” We all need to name our weak spots. It could be alcohol, drugs, exercising, eating, reading, shopping incessantly, using love and relationships to mask feelings of inadequacy – you name it, it is your addictive process.
After writing over eighteen books and running “Living in Process” training all over the world, Dr. Wilson-Schaef helped open my eyes to the motivations behind my behaviors. I have changed many things for myself over the years. Most recently, I go to sleep listening to a guided meditation instead of watching the news or listening to a talk show host’s monologue. I feel calmer, happier, and more at peace. I fall asleep quickly and sleep more deeply.
I only use a landline for my Rolfing® office and my personal phone. My cell phone is reserved for off-site calls only. As I work with people in person all day and not in front of a computer, I do check for necessary communications a few times a day – either client inquiries or personal matters. In other words, I stay in touch – but not every single moment of the day. At my dinner table, there are no cell phones present. The people there are my sole interest – no text can replace that personal connection.
About five years ago, I stopped drinking alcohol of any kind. I was never a big drinker, and it was a conscious choice to be clear-headed and on my best game. It is amazing to step out of that social drinking culture and witness people getting louder and more ridiculous as they drink. It took me a long time to be content and not need the influence of alcohol or recreational drugs to enjoy myself. Being fully present is the best gift I can give to myself and those around me.
I do struggle with my relationship with sugar as I go in and out of not having it for months, then wanting it every day. This past April, for the second time in my recent life, I had just enough chocolate and/or sugar to give me a dizzying, nauseous headache that put me in bed. Is that how I want to live? Was my body telling me something about my consumption? I would be a fool not to listen.
In terms of my Rolfing® practice, there is no phone in my office, only down the hall in my waiting room. I give my undivided attention to my clients. It is understood that cell phones are to be turned off during our sessions. The work we do is personal and informative. So many of my clients have very little body awareness, so after we do the hands-on work, I teach my clients to embody and use that newly explored body segment in everyday experience. They learn how to sit, walk, stand, and sleep comfortably. Imagine the disruption with phones ringing or buzzing! Seeing my clients unfold and feel better through the ten sessions keeps me working after 42 years! We are totally present to one another.
Another critical factor in achieving inner focus is navigating the balance of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. In lay terms, the sympathetic nervous system is what gets you fired up when you get cut off in your car. At first, you scream, “You jerk! You ******!”. The job of the parasympathetic nervous system is to rise up, catch the high level of upset and lower it back down to calm and manageable levels. Some of what strengthens the parasympathetic nervous system are bodywork, meditation, mild exercise, deep breathing techniques, relaxing in nature, and yoga. With our world becoming more stressful and the average person not balancing their nervous system, people cannot regulate themselves properly, which can manifest in extreme ways.
What we need on a societal level is change. Change geared toward creating balance. The insidious use of technology that borders on addiction, fast food that lacks high nutritional value, resulting in more digestive cancers now being found earlier in younger people, mind-numbing drugs and alcohol, and incessant media input all dumb us down.
I encourage you to begin to decipher for yourself what your challenges are to stay present to your feelings and your needs. Turn off the TV and disengage from your cell phone and social media for periods of time. Get great bodywork and learn techniques for deep breathing and meditation. Encourage your children to speak more about what’s happening in their world, teach them to do yoga, take family walks in nature, explore your neighborhood, and personalize your community. Look into stress-relieving practices to self-soothe – do not self-medicate.
If we leave our sanity to the powers that be, we would all be more numbed out, perhaps growing more disgruntled and becoming increasingly outraged. Dr. Wilson-Schaef wrote the best-selling book When Society Becomes an Addict in 1987, and I feel it is still very relevant. Guide yourself to a healthier you, live fully, and follow your quieted, calmed mind that leads you to the joy and simple pleasures of a well-lived life. Be your own advocate and navigate yourself into a better world instead of falling victim to what our society is pushing on us. Be the change—focus inward and master yourself.
Sharon Sklar is in her 42nd year of private practice as a Certified Advanced Rolfer and has been voted one of Natural Nutmeg’s 10Best Bodyworkers for the last four years. Sharon works with direct manipulation of the soft tissue of the body and movement re-education over a ten-session series to help her clients feel freer, get more balanced, and reduce chronic pain. Great for athletes, children, and adults recovering from injuries, stress, or traumas of life. State licensed. Call 860.561.4337 for more info or to schedule a consultation. Inquiries are encouraged!