Lately it seems we put lot of effort into creating moments of calm in our lives.
Everywhere you look there are all kinds of tools, programs, workshops, and advice on how to de-stress and create inner calm.
Well, there’s clearly a stress/anxiety problem that we’re all experiencing, but not getting to the root of.
There are the obvious everyday pressures that give us stress.
But sometimes it seems like there is also another source.
Something indefinable. Something bigger.
You can’t put your finger on it, but it is definitely real.
The thing that doesn’t seem to go away no matter how “okay” your life seems to be on the surface.
THE COMPETITIVE PLANE OF THOUGHT
Notice how no matter how much you have, how much you do, how much you achieve, how much you get in shape, it never seems to reach some “higher” level that you can’t even really describe?
Welcome to the competitive plane of thought.
Different people call it different things. Wallace D. Wattles calls it the competitive plane of thought, Steven Pressfield calls it the hierarchical way of thinking.
I’m not talking about competition. I’m talking about the competitive plane of thought.
These are two different things.
Competition exists in relation to others, but the competitive plane of thought is a way of thinking that results from internalizing certain beliefs about competition.
In this free market, hierarchically structured society, these beliefs can become intensified and eventually cause harm psychologically and emotionally. This is especially the case if you believe it is the only way to think because everything around you reinforces it.
WAYS THE COMPETITIVE PLANE OF THOUGHT CAUSES STRESS
The belief that competition is natural
Everywhere we look there is hierarchy. In our societal structure, at the workplace, and in our schools.
But does that make it natural? Not really.
Hierarchy is thought of as natural by those who refer to Darwin’s idea of survival of the fittest as a scientific basis for social and economic movements. However, Darwin originally used the phrase “struggle for existence” which he used to include all activities species use to survive. In fact, Darwin emphasized the co-dependance of animals in herds, packs, and flocks for survival under this umbrella phrase.
It was actually a British philosopher named Herbert Spencer who came up with the phrase “survival of the fittest” that has since become a greatly reduced conception of the complex and diverse interactions in nature and gives the impression that it is natural for all species to stomp and climb over each other to survive.
It doesn’t even come close to what Darwin observed in nature and what he was trying to communicate.
Interdependence is fundamental for the survival of a species. Thinking that the only way to survive is to participate in a war like environment where everything is a threat to your survival can make you feel insecure in pretty much every situation in life. Then,believing there is no other choice, you can begin to behave ways that don’t feel right like spreading rumors about coworkers, accepting work conditions that you are not happy in, and creating distance with others. Over time, you might feel you have lost some personal integrity and respect for yourself. This internal conflict would certainly cause stress.
Believing that new is better
We are led to believe that as time passes, humans are becoming more advanced and aware of things. So it would only follow that the current social, technological, and other systems are the best. This belief is justify by pointing to all the advances in western medicine, all the pharmaceuticals we have available, all the computers, 3D printers etc. etc. However, it is the definition of “advancement” in our current ethos that is creating this belief.
We need to ask ourselves if our health, lives, comfort are actually better as a result of these advances. In what ways are we “more” advanced than in the past? In what ways are we not. In the past societies had different values and put effort into advancing things they valued.
In fact, we are now looking back to past traditions and discoveries because our way of life isn’t necessarily working. We are re-discovering the wisdom of ancient writings and ideas about life. We are moving away from viewing the body as a machine that can be “fixed”, and moving towards a more holistic view of health.
With all the technological gadgets, scientific discoveries etc., we are over worked, over stressed, and don’t even have the time and energy to enjoy time. We are working to buy more and more stuff but our lives are not necessarily more satisfying or fulfilling.
However, when we believe that all that we have now is the best and “highest” form of humans advancement, we begin to cling to all that is new even if it may be making our lives worse. We feel the newer our stuff, our technology, our house, or our car, the happier we will be. Aside from the environmental consequences of this way of thinking, it can have negative consequences on our lives as we blindly take on the dominant view of what is “better”.
By focusing on only that which is new, we can ignore and devalue some important learnings from the past that could help us to create more happiness and wonder why we are stressed and unhappy.
Believing that normal is real
Our idea of what is “normal” changes constantly. It is manmade. It is relative. It is an illusion.
By believing there is a normal, we can easily feel abnormal in a society that creates hierarchical social levels based on very specific criteria within categories such as money, looks, blah, blah, blah.
By deeply internalizing these messages, we can feel pressure not to deviate from what is normal and feel stress and anxiety. I mean, instead of being yourself, you feel you need to hide yourself because god forbid anyone think your true self is weird or not good enough!
Over time, you may get used to playing a role in front of others and actually start believing this is you. Meanwhile, the person inside becomes exhausted from suppressing their needs and self expression. Over time, the subconscious decision to hide your true self could definitely cause stress.
So what do you think? You think this could be part of why a lot of us feel stressed and anxious?