the wave is what society says is important
the undertow is what really is important
when you’re on top
you’re moved by the wave
when you’re on the bottom
you’re sucked by the undertow
There are a lot of things that whether they are true or not depends on your place in society. Some things:
Being virtuous generally gets you good things if you are on top but just keeps you treading water if you are on the bottom (or worse). This is because virtue is optional for those on top so when they exhibit it they are rewarded. Further down virtue is expected so the lack is punished. Still further down virtue is seen as weakness and punished. On the bottom you generally are in derelict subcultures that revolve around vices and substance abuse. The groups that don’t involve these things are generally higher up and not accepting of those on the bottom.
If you are on top you are treated as if you have innate worth but the further down you go the more your treatment is tied to how and whether you function in society. This is because in both cases you are being treated based on how you are valued, it’s just on top people don’t like to believe they are being treated well just on the account of what they have to offer so they made up the “innate worth” trope. When you are on the bottom all artifice disappears and people really shine their true colors in your face. You only really feel the weight of importance of looks, money, and status when you do not possess them. Because when you don’t people go into “reduced functionality mode” around you, polite but curt (at best), or all the gloves come off and they insult and demean you because you have no power to fight back.
Positivity is generally a luxury for those on top. The self-esteem movement is for those on and near the top because they are the ones who invented it so naturally it would only apply to them. People on and near the top are controlled more by a “soft touch” because they already have most of their lives together. People further down often need to be controlled more tightly and for this to happen negativity enters in. There is even a survey somewhere that said how poor kids heard at least twice as much negativity as rich ones.
I think we can all agree that society’s relationships are continuing to transitioning from Martin Buber’s I and thou to I and it. But the transition is like the dead zone where your cell phone is trying (and failing) to reach the outermost periphery of your wi-fi network but doesn’t know well enough to give up and connect to the cell phone network.
It is a recipe for depression when you are expected to believe you have innate worth (I and thou) while experiencing the opposite (I and it). The culture and modern psychology in general is so disingenuous about this. Can’t we just admit that physical appearance, money, status, and charisma are the most important things. Can we quit pathologizing low self-esteem and learn to see it as an often correct self-assessment. The whole concept of self-esteem presupposes one has innate worth which is untrue for all but the luckiest of us. We need to move to the way it was in pre Christian times where people were open and honest about one’s value being tied to their station.
Help is of less help to those further down in society. Some reasons why:
Psychological help often presupposes one has the resources to make a change. Resources like:
- A ride to therapy, the doctor, and the pharmacy
- Money or insurance to pay for care and medication
- Stable housing and relationships where one has the option to get out of without losing their housing
- A friendship group that doesn’t revolve around vices and addictions
Therapists often have a poor understanding of those whose problems are beyond their control. This is especially true because often these people have had middle class upbringings and have never been poor. Those on the bottom know hyper individualism well because they are on the exhaust end of it! Hyper individualistic solutions aren’t much help for those on the bottom because in order for their needs to be met (like a ride to the food pantry) another party is going to have to perform a sacrificial act.
Therapy (particularly Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) presupposes one’s negative thoughts about them self are distorted. The further down one is the more one’s poor self image is validated by those around them. Belief one has innate worth ends up becoming an impossible psychological burden when everywhere one goes there’re bombarded with the opposite. Then they’re guilted for having negative thoughts about them self and goaded with the idea that somehow their life will be better if they just had a positive self image. But positive self image is a key that unlocks the value one already has, it doesn’t create value in and of itself. For example a pretty person has a lot to gain from going from poor to good self image but the improvement in self image isn’t giving the person anything extra, it’s just causing their good looks to shine more brightly. This is because the expression of positive self image is charisma and charisma disproportionately helps those who are young and attractive. If you are male, 45, and making minimum wage, more charisma isn’t going to get you dates or guy friends.
Therapy doesn’t work as well on those brought up in a disciplinarian environment (like many of those further down are). It takes a good (translation: expensive) therapist to reparent a person who had a harsh upbringing. Therapy has a different way of seeing things than someone brought up in a disciplinarian environment so a lot of times things that could help end up going over one’s head. When one is brought up with the idea that everyone is basically evil and needs correction and punishment to set them straight and then they go to a therapist who says people do good because they know it’s the right and healthy thing, not out of fear of punishment it is bewildering. It would be a good thing to have therapists that had extensive training on shepherding people who hold a disciplinarian world view (while not trying to change it) for those brought up in disciplinarian environments because many of these people are never going to change their ingrained views.
One must realize that in therapy for those further down often the bond with the therapist is more important than whether they are disseminated the precepts of psychology. That’s the only thing that ever worked for me.
Great post on loving yourself:
Telling someone who hates themselves that their life will be better if they learn self-love is about as helpful as telling a penguin it can fly if it just flaps its wings. Sure it sounds good, but no matter how hard a penguin flaps, its feet will never leave the ground. Just as there are birds that can’t fly, there are people who can’t love themselves. But, if you told that penguin to jump in the water and flap its wings, that little guy would be swimming circles around you. I’m not saying that self-love isn’t important, only that it is not the only way to feel whole as a person.
STIR article that says what I feel way better than I could:
When I say that I am against forgiveness, I am not judging individuals who choose to forgive. If doing so helps you, then by all means, forgive. What I abhor is a culture that places demands on victims and survivors, insisting that we are not whole until we forgive. Forgiveness culture implies that betrayers and abusers can expect to be forgiven — they can hurt and harm and rage — and should their targets decline to forgive, they can rest smug in the assurance that the refusal reflects a flaw in their victims, not in themselves.
Little disgusts me more than consumerist shaming. Looking down on people for valuing wealth and material things. This is so hypocritical because we all need to have a certain level of material success to be accepted in this society (especially as you get into your 30’s). You get all these articles saying how consumeristic people are using material things to fill some hole in their soul that could be filled with “love” or whatever the new vague in vogue trope is. Let’s face it, in American money is the state religion. People who are unabashedly consumeristic make us well aware of this fact and so we like to denigrate them because we want to feel better than them even though we would be the exact same way were we given more money.
This is blatantly obvious but for therapy to work one has to trust in the authority of the therapist. I had a therapist lead me away from Christianity at an extremely vulnerable time in my life (just got a bipolar diagnosis, had no job, the girl I wanted to marry was ignoring me, etc..). Suffice it to say I do not trust therapists. That’s why I’m not being proactive finding one even though I’m supposed to be.
I have a hard time understanding why people give therapists any authority at all. It sounds so ridiculous to me to pay someone to tell you you’re worth something. Heck I’d tell you you’re worth something if you paid me!
Often times forces acting on behalf of the rich will demonize consumerism (sometimes known as materialism). They want to drill in your head the idea that money doesn’t buy happiness. While it doesn’t guarantee happiness, it does give one fertile ground where happiness can bloom. The happiness one gets from being rich often is derived from the life satisfaction one feels because of being successful vocationally. Part of this is simply the ability to keep company with the friends one always had. Also since in America the state religion is consumerism, there are little gifts of affirmation those around the rich person bestow on them. For example my big brother has a nice car and once a car full of girls was smiling and challenging him to a race. Little bits of affirmation like that are a godsend to those of us who suffer from insecurity and depression.
Guest post by Carrie:
It is one thing to grow up in darkness, and find light later on in life. Like searchlights that suddenly find you when you realize that you’re lost. Searchlights are blinding for a moment, but they’re a welcome sight. The intent of a searchlight is to seek that which is lost. Once the lost is found, the light is turned off or moved on to a different target. God himself is the searchlight operator, or at the very least, the dispatch officer who sends out the searchlights.
It’s another thing entirely to grow up in a spotlight. To have never known anything other than blinding light that makes every one of your flaws stand out. To feel the need to squash even thoughts that will bring the judgement of others. To never be able to admit to a struggle or a temptation without fear of reprimand or ridicule. And to find the welcome relief of darkness, stillness, and quiet. Finding the gentleness and grace of a moment when the blinding spotlight is turned off and eyes are allowed to open.
Spotlights blind those who are in them. If you’ve ever been on stage, in a spotlight, you’d know that it makes seeing the audience virtually impossible. Every detail of you is lit up and brought to the attention of the audience. The light is not the point of attraction, you are. You are being scrutinized. You are being watched. The light itself is pretty much ignored.
This is what church feels like to me. A place where people are put in a spotlight and are expected to perform… All while being told to be sincere (real, genuine, without wax filling in the cracks). And, since I was born there, I always felt like I was expected not to even have any cracks. Like there could be nothing inherent in me that wasn’t a choice to do or be wrong.
I have no interest in spotlights.
If you’ve ever stood next to one of those big lights that people use at grand openings to attract attention, you’d see that they’re designed for the light to shine upward, not outward. They don’t actually provide a whole lot of light to their immediate vicinity, but they can be seen for miles. The light itself is the attraction. It is a beacon that attracts. It doesn’t reveal much. It doesn’t blind. This is the kind of light God wants the church to be. A beacon on a hill that draws people to HIM.
I think therapists are the ones who need help! People aren’t going to them as much as they used to. So I give them perspective from an older millennial.
Counsel on how people need to face the world needs to be gleaned from real-world experience, not idealistic academic material. For example, social anxiety is often a fitting adaptation to a hostile social environment and one needs different tools to manage in said environment. In sports lingo, they say practice how you play. Academia has this Palagian view of man that says man is basically good, or at least the bad in him or her can be educated or socialized out of them. This is experientially untrue (and politically incorrect to believe). Our culture has adapted to hide verbal expressions of evil but the kinetic expressions are still there, sometimes even more strong (because they can’t be expressed any other way) than when we didn’t have our verbal correctness fetish.
People need to be told the truth, even—and especially—when it hurts. Therapists are afraid they’ll lose their clients if they tell them what they really need to hear so they dance around things. This isn’t helpful to the client at all. There is this myth that our (the millennial) generation likes to be coddled. We are used to being coddled to an extent but that doesn’t necessarily mean we like it. We have seen so much inauthenticity that we can see right through it as clear as glass. So when someone tells us the truth it may shock, startle, and hurt us but most of us will still appreciate it. In my life no one would tell me that church people didn’t talk to me because I didn’t have a real job. I waited years and finally someone of the older generation told me.
Unfinanced worth mandate. Every once in awhile congress will pass a huge spending bill without appropriating funds to finance it. There are a lot of things in our culture like this. For example the cultural belief that one has innate worth. This was once a Christian ideal sometimes lived up to in tight knit communities. However as the boomers got older it morphed from an ideal to a mandate. And, as the erosion of community and family happened, one less and less “financed” by evidence. But you’re paying therapists so of course they’re going to tell you you have innate worth. And if you start with the evidence-based belief that you don’t they are going to slap you with a pathological label rather than lauding your skills in logic and perception.