Hina Khan Palwasha
The world we live in is truly magical in plenty of ways, like you can have good food, age well and after that have a good plastic surgery, and yes cars and maps are more reliable than people, plus you can keep touch with anyone in the world, listen to any song you want, watch movies for eternity, have an instant information about anything you like and so on. But, the truth is unfortunately it is also designed to cause a high level of anxiety and depression.
Like every feature and characteristic has its pros and cons, so does the modernity. There are certain characteristics of modernity that have posed threat to emotionally healthy society.
First, our societies have a certain level of extremism when it comes to merit. The good side of the coin is everyone is free to make their way according to their talents and capabilities while the bad side is, if one is not able to make it, this sure is taken as sign of lack of talent or will rather than misfortune. Our system has a specially designed mechanism of awarding success and honors to those at the top while failures to those at the bottom eventually tagging poverty as sign of damnation and unfortunates as losers.
The solution lies in changing the belief at the core in two different ways. One is that success depends on many factors, not only talent and effort; and failure can hit everyone; even good, decent people. Two, those who fail deserve compassion, rather than contempt just like the achievers deserve applause.
Secondly, the growing individualism in society discourages the role of community. It promotes the idea of individual achievements and special destinies making us believe that groups and communities are for ‘the ordinary’.
The solution lies in changing the perception of an ordinary life as ‘a curse’ to appraisal by adopting gratitude for the day-to-day pleasures and simplicity.
Third, our societies are becoming more and more secular. Without anything to awe or relativize us, the triumphs and unfortunates in life have put us in “the be all and end all” gear.
Solution lies in aligning our perspectives with religion as a source of transcendence to generate a benign and relativizing perspective on our personal tragedies. Religions give us something bigger and beyond ourselves to believe in. It keeps our life in perspective by making us all humble in consoling ways.
Fourth, there is a growing tendency of idealism in our societies. This realization that only the fulfillment of our desires and whishes can make us all completely happy betrays us in many ways. The idea of living a moderately bearable life feels like settling few nice and many difficult ways which in turn feels like a disaster – in comparison with what we have already decided for ourselves.
The solution lies in becoming more flexible and acceptable towards the uncertainties of life realizing that we were just believing in a very improbable dream. We should build up our ambitions around set of circumstances that we have been given.
Fifth, in this half virtual life the media has an immense prestige in our lives. It dictates our lifestyles for better or for worse. More importantly, it enrages us by injecting scare, worry and panic, while making us realize that we are incapable of any effective personal action. Devoid of any decency, responsibility and modesty, it continuously bombards us with the least admirable sides of human nature.
The treatment lies in exposure to stories that focus on delivering solutions rather than expressing anger, living on systemic problems rather than believing the stories of scapegoats emblematic of the beasts. And above all, a continuous reminder to ourselves that the issues we need to focus on most come from our lives and direct experiences.
Last but, not the least, the theory of modernism promotes perfectionism emphasizing the liberty to be deeply satisfied, to be mentally sound and to achieve something. As a result, we end up hating ourselves, feeling weak and feeling we have wasted our lives.
Solution lies in a realization that perfection is not attainable – that a little mental disturbance is an inevitable part of human nature and that what we need above all are good friends and family we can live with and honestly discuss our true fears and weaknesses.
The power of depression in our world – at the moment – is much richer and more effective than needed treatment. We deserve mercy for the price we pay for birth in modern times. But hopefully the treatment is now open to us individually and united as long as we see, clearly enough, the sources of our true troubles and sorrows.