I don’t know about you, but it seems like it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to get out of bed in the mornings. My passion for people, for creating music, and for generally being ALIVE, has slowly eroded into a basic day-to-day survival gig. I regularly find myself scrambling to muster the energy to keep pushing forward under the intense societal gravity of the world at hand. And it’s not getting any easier…
I know what you’re thinking. “This guy suffers from classic depression. Get yourself some Zoloft, dude, and you’ll be fine,” and from your distant vantage point, it makes total sense that you would feel that way. Much like you, I used to find it infinitely easier to jump to conclusions, rather than extend an olive branch and try to understand why a person feels the way they do. After all, who wants to get anyone’s sad all over them? And frankly, who gives a shit, anyway?
I’ll be honest with you, I spent the first half of my life living selfishly. I did things for my own self-gratification, and didn’t ever stop to think about how other people felt. It’s a common story — I had shitty role models growing up and thusly, became that very person, at least at first. I’m not trying to make excuses for my past, but it wasn’t until my mid 30’s that I truly understood empathy, firsthand. The change, of course, was directly correlated to experiencing other people’s lack of empathy for me under various circumstances.
I’m not so easily susceptible to clinical depression. I understand what a chemical imbalance is. These feelings of late, aren’t some predisposed mental disorder that might bluntly be diagnosed with common drugstore psychology. I know this because I spent years in therapy in my late 20’s and early 30’s working through all of my childhood trauma, which I did eventually overcome. What I can tell you is that at this point in my life, I (mostly) know how to clearly define the problem at hand, and the main issue these days is that I simply feel more for others than I ever have before.
Unfortunately, I feel very alone in this stance.
I can tell you that at times, the feeling of empathy borders on nausea. I can’t watch documentaries on climate change, war torn countries, or any other depressing subject matter anymore without breaking down emotionally (sometimes for days). Most people would recommend that I block this sort of material out entirely from my sphere of consciousness, but c’mon, isn’t that why the world has become the way it is? Closing your eyes doesn’t make the monster go away.
The problem is that most people have simply tuned out altogether. It’s easier to stare at your smartphone all day or talk about celebrity scandals, rather than deal with your own reality. And when we’re not tuning out, we’re either denying there’s a problem to begin with, or we’re treating the symptoms of our problems, rather than dealing with the root of them. On top of that, we’ve been led to believe that someone else’s problem “isn’t my problem,” and thusly, we continue the cycle… over and over and over and over….
In the old days, being oblivious and entirely self-consumed made things so much easier for me from an emotional standpoint. It was easier to shrug people’s feelings off when all I cared about was myself. In some ways, I miss the emotional blindness of yesteryear, but frankly, I abhorred who I was inside. Going back to that person now isn’t even remotely an option because being self-centered and thoughtless isn’t in alignment with the man who I’ve become.
The truth is, most people don’t care about anyone else’s world view until their own world view is shattered. Usually, it’s when a person suffers the same type of pain or loss that they themselves have either ignored or imposed on someone else, that true empathy is born. Unfortunately, though, there are still some individuals out there who simply don’t have the emotional intelligence to look inward when this happens. Not everyone is capable of empathy I suppose.
Ever heard of The Backfire Effect? The Backfire Effect is the name for a study dictating that, given evidence or data against their belief system, people will usually reject that very evidence and believe even more strongly than they did before. And when 7 billion people believe that there is no problem, or that your problem isn’t my problem, even in light of a towering mountain of substantial evidence, well… I think you get my point.
One of my favorite television shows on Netflix – “Sense 8” was cancelled recently. It was a heartbreaking moment when I found out just a few weeks ago, because I believe it might have been the first show of its kind that masterfully presented a deeply compelling story, exploring diversity and empathy among human beings. Honestly, it might have been one of the most important shows on modern T.V. for that very reason, and now sadly, it’s gone.
Even though I know Sense 8 is science fiction, I still find myself fantasizing about people being able to feel other people’s emotions and experiences through some sort of telepathic connection. If people were able to do this, I truly believe that the world we currently live in would be vastly different. Imagine for a moment, being able to feel what it’s actually like to die of starvation though the eyes of another. I doubt that world hunger would even be an issue if that were the case.
As it stands, I don’t have a lot of faith left in people. Not all people, but most. Most days, I wish I could be inserted back in the Matrix and be oblivious once again, but since I already committed to the red pill, I’ll stand by it. My simple hope is that more people wake up so that those of us who actually do care about people, the world and making things better for everyone involved don’t have to feel so alone and outnumbered.
But that continues to be my hope…
Written by Jesse Scott (J. Scott G.)