Why are we unsatisfied?
Let’s look at a few factors. First, the amount of stress from living day to day is increasing, from job pressures, money worries and the ever-present dissatisfaction, especially in the free nations of the world. Oliver James, author of Affluenza, calls out a key component of the source of this dissatisfaction: ‘advanced capitalism makes money out of misery and dissatisfaction, as if were encouraging us to fill up the psychic void with material goods.’
He goes a step further by blatantly stating, "I contend that most emotional distress is best understood as a rational response to sick societies."
Let that sink in.
Emotional distress in response to a sick society.
He calls this phenomenon ‘Affluenza’ a type of selfish capitalism that is nobly in English-speaking countries whose citizens that are heavily invested in their levels of success—ie fame, wealth, comparison, and the ‘rat race.' We’ve lost touch with our own feelings and the doubts, fears and insecurities we feel have been co-opted by corporate interests and in maintaining hierarchies that keep us stuck.
How has this happened?
Namely, a society has more than it needs yet advertisers convince them they need more. And with each subsequent generation the anxiety and depression increases.
If we look at this problem with the lens of epigenetics, it is not a personal defect within our DNA, but an opportunity to empower our liberation. Epigenetics is a new science where the paradigm of living above your genes. Each subsequent generation receives DNA with certain set of tendencies and potentialities within it. One such negative might be the tendency for depression. Yet it won’t come to pass unless that specific sequence of genetic material is triggered, often by stress. While we don’t have control on the actual sequence, our daily life choices, actions, beliefs, thoughts and feeling have an impact on how those are expressed.
As a result of poorer quality food, more stressful lives, less connected within relationships, and of course less meaning in work-a-day lives, is impacting our epigenome and genome, both as individuals and our society at large.
Are you programmed for dissatisfaction?
Perhaps you are genetically prone dissatisfaction, however we have a capacity for being programmed. Our brains, especially in the formative years of birth to the age of 7, we are learning how to live in the world and pick up programming from our environment and role models. Even after the age of 7, we can easily be programmed when advertising and media plays on our fears and insecurities.
For instance, as Oliver James mentions, we are saturated media as it is, “barely concealed advertisements for classes of product.” Even, and especially, education, as "little better than a systematic method for spreading the virus.”
In his book, Richard Brodie shows how the Virus of the Mind are passed on and ‘infect’ us, especially regarding finding meaning. We have memes in society that program us. Memetics, the studies viruses of the mind and how we transmit ideas between individuals, pervades how we think. This type of programming has become insidious and virtually undetectable.
Memes about meaning
In his recent essay, ‘On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs,’ David Graeber, makes a few points that are crucial to this discussion. First, that we live in a society where many of us realize that our work is fruitless and meaningless. More and more of the world’s population is making this realization and it leads to the emotional distress that Oliver James mentioned. Some cope well, changing to more meaningful careers and lives, or finding meaning in their work. Yet, most unfortunately do not adapt instead turning to nihilistic tendencies, searching for a panacea, or accepting the status quo. It’s the lives of quiet desperation that Henry David Thoreau was referring to in Walden.
The meme here is what TV shows and education teach, that we live in lives that are not our own and live through the bullshit. We live for our weekends, our vacations, and those few precious moments: graduation, an award ceremony, the raise, the wedding, birthdays and anniversaries. We’re not meant to find meaning every day. Instead we get sucked into the drama or fear of the latest news or media offerings. Until our own death, we simply exist and suffer.
The second crucial point that Gaeber makes is that while those that pursue more meaningful work, i.e. auto workers or teachers, ‘should’ make less money and be inconvenienced because their work actually matters to the world at large. In his words, ‘yet it is the peculiar genius of our society that its rulers have figured out a way…to ensure that rage is directed precisely against those who actually do get to do meaningful work.’
The prevailing meme: we’re told that doing purposeful work that serves a cause greater than ourselves, that it is perfectly acceptable to be paid less or treated poorly, because that’s the price you pay for doing good work. I personally find this appalling. These are only 2 of the memes that are in play.
Why do many of work in jobs or careers that do not challenge this status quo? I believe it is because we depend on the money and the powers that be keep the economic, educational, and financial systems to keep us in this dependency. The system keeps playing on our fears and dissatisfaction and instead of solving the root cause, it’s easy to seek for a panacea or a pill that can suppress these feelings.
What causes lack of meaning?
While a depression is a coping mechanism by the mind and body after a stressful situation. Behind lack of meaning and an overwhelming sense of hopelessness is complex. It can have many causes, including biochemical or hormonal imbalances.
Step 1: Trigger. Something we perceived as something negative happens, often we don’t remember the source looking back. It’s often very subtle.
Step 2 Response. We have a response or reaction to the negative event or situation.
Step 3: Habit. We continually rehearse this response, it becomes a bad habit. We become addicted to the bad habit and ‘see’ the trigger everywhere and repeat the response, even though the response may be ineffectual.
We see life, an advertisement, hear about someone’s life and we are triggered all over again. This is how a short term negative becomes the new cage for living one's life.
What you need to do instead?
The truth is we need to go inward.
The real courage, is understanding how pervasive the system does manipulate our actions and that we, are truly empowered individuals to take control of our own lives.
The best way for us to move forward is to take our empowerment into our own hands. Liberation is the best solution. Once you become liberated, turn around and help those ready to leap forward as well. True liberation then, is not from the oppression of a job, but the oppressive memes that live within our own heads.
Over to you
Notice how these memes and feelings of dissatisfaction show up in your life. If you’re stuck in a situation that brings you unhappiness, notice what specifically is upsetting you. Once you begin to see patterns consider the following:
1. Is there more clarity you need? If so, what?
2. How can you feel more empowered?
3. What memes effect you more than others? How can you talk back to these memes/fears?
4. How much autonomy, purpose and mastery do you feel in your life and career? Are there things you can do to increase these feelings?
5. Do you know what your priorities are? Use the Wheel of Wellness I have created as a free gift to help you to figure that out.
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