Blog #18: Love & Anxiety-Individualism vs. Community

We live in a culture that currently is fairly obsessed with Self and individualism. The old days when the group or community mattered more than the individual seem to be long gone. Other countries still focus on the importance of the family or community, but here in the good ole US of A, we like ourselves. We like to be sure that no one gets in the way of our personal happiness. Here are some typical slogans that you may have heard.

Look out for number 1!

You deserve a break today.

Nice guys (girls) finish last.

He (or She) who dies with the most toys wins.

If you don’t take care of yourself, no one else will.

Be all that you can be.

While it is very important to love and care for ourselves, there is a cost when we cease focusing any of our energy toward the good of the society or culture in which we live. Linsey Lohan, Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, and most of the Kardashians, are some examples of what can happen when self-focus runs amok. Some people may be fascinated by the lives of these celebrities and find their escapades amusing, but most parents would not want them used as role models for their young children.

As a professor, a favorite quote I shared with my college students goes like this: “A person wrapped up in themselves makes a very small package.”  Not only have I seen this to be true, a person wrapped up in themselves often also experiences more anxiety. When a majority of the energy and focus in life is directed inward, toward self, ego, possessions, etc., bettering or collecting more of these things becomes the prime concern and top priority. Therefore, you are much more aware of what you have to lose.

Because of the brain’s bias to the negative, (see past blogs for more on this), fear of loss is of much greater interest and much more motivating, than hope of gain. So a consistent fear of the loss of all we have fought to gain, generates internally greater and greater levels of anxiety. To quote Daniel Coleman in Emotional Intelligence”; “When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller.”

Love, on the other hand brings a sense of calmness and security. Being loved and loving is one of the best antidotes we can “ingest” into our hearts and souls against the toxins of anxiety and fearful selfishness. When we focus solely on ourselves, we forget that at the core we are mammals. We are more than an animals, but as mammals, we therefore need our pack to feel safe and secure. People who are focused on the good of their communities and those they love, tend to be happier, and feel more secure and peaceful. They often have more of a sense of intimate connection and purpose. They have a better balance to their focused energy, some going toward self and some going towards the community and loved ones. Studies have shown that people who love and give are much happier overall. There is something fulfilling and rewarding about making a positive difference in other’s lives.

I am not suggesting we stop taking care of ourselves but perhaps taking a look at our lives to see if we are in balance. Is some of my focus going toward bettering the self and some towards bettering others? As a child, attending a Mennonite church I was taught that service to others was all that mattered.  My needs were deemed irrelevant. I later learned the hard way that living without love and care for myself turned me into a burned-out angry mess. Perhaps in your families or religious organizations you have gotten a similar message. Well, as in anything, balance is the key. Love of self is connected directly to the love of other. Most cultures and religions subscribe to some form of the golden rule; “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you!” So go out and love this week, love yourself and continue to love those around you.

 

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War orphans from Uganda, they know how to do community, they would not survive otherwise

Going deeper:

  1. As humans we often struggle with extremes, balance seems to come with hard work and experience. In this area are you in balance, or do you tend toward one extreme or the other? Selfishness, or are you a people pleaser with an utter lack of focus on self-love and care?
  2. Whichever side you typically inhabit, this week try to focus a bit more energy into the other side. Notice what impact this has upon your mind, body and soul. If you have been programmed to think that self-love and care is “selfish”, practicing it may be hard for you, but please try. You will feel better.
  3. Those of you who naturally have these two sides in balance, thank you! Please keep being a great example to the rest of us who need a bit of support and a role-model.

 

To learn how to evict the anxiety in your life, join a Real Life Solutions 3-wk anxiety reduction workshop. Go to http://www.sdtraumatherapy.com for more information. Mention this blog when you sign up and receive a 10% discount! Happy Loving!

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