Elisa A. Escalante/ LMSW/ 4-19-2020
“It could have killed me, and it would have been okay, because in that moment I lived for me. In that moment, I felt a deep and terrifying passion. There is no place I would rather be… than in that moment. So, shoot me, and kill me, and let my last memory be, in that moment when I was happy” -EaE
I hope that everyone gets to that point when they question the ‘method to their madness’. Those compulsions that take us to scary levels because we want to be ‘okay’ or ‘normal’ or ‘cloud 9’ happy so badly, we may just literally die for it. We drive and drive all day every day to take, to have, to succeed, to feel pleasure and to get high off what? Fame? Power? Money? Love? Adrenaline? Take your pick and choose your poison because it is most certainly a wild ride. Why don’t we search for peace in the way that we search for quick money or fame? Why don’t we treat the ones we love as best as possible if love is a vital component to our social/ physical/ mental wellbeing? Why are we searching for happiness in all the wrong places? If anyone wants to know what the list of five above all have in common, it is that they are all addictive, especially if we use it to fill voids and distract us from painful memories. Just to be clear, love is not a bad thing to be open to, but it can be dangerous if we desperately search for it with no standards in regard to what we will not put up with in a partner. All the above, can be dangerous if we become addicted and lose sight on what truly makes us at peace.
Let us hyper focus on our flaws right about now but let us also look at it with the utmost unconditional self-acceptance. What has the world subjected us to? What did they (our society) condition us to believe we want most? Did we get it? Are we trying to fill voids now to make up for things we never got to have? Comparison can often be evil. In fact, I tell most people that the only useful thing about comparison’s is for the sake of sports, otherwise we use it to torment our souls. When comparing ourselves to others we often focus on a) justifying our actions b) self-pitying because we do not have what another person has c) magnifying our struggle above someone else’s d) minimizing our pain due to another person’s pain being perceivably greater than ours. We should compare as little as possible as the journey of our own wellbeing will be more than enough to focus on throughout the course of life.
I have been a ‘therapist’ since I was six years old, I often explain that the mental health profession chose me, not the other way around. I learned a long time ago through many kids/ teens sharing their deepest/ darkest secrets that life is “never what it seems”. Every person we see that perceivably lives “the good life” has a struggle we know nothing about. Take that ‘girl next door’ type with the good grades who smiles every day and helps others and one day we may see her dead from a drug overdose years later. Take who we thought was the happiest of all, and we see the headlines of them having successfully committed suicide mean while they “functioned” and made others laugh. All in all, when we accept that humanity is on a spectrum of mental, social, and spiritual battles it can serve two purposes. 1-We can stop with thinking we are in this all alone and 2- we can empathize more greatly with others.
Our society has standards, but the standards are not designed for happiness, they are designed for productivity and consumerism. Working to “own it all” will not make us happy. Working to have the big shiny things that everyone else has will not do it. Fighting to conform to the “rules” society places on us so that we may fit into this system will obviously, not make us happy. Yet often, we take the bait. I have been equally guilty! I am going to share a list of common lines that will most definitely set any of us up for disappointment:
- I need to be (married/ have kids) by ___ years old
- I need to have _____ amount of money
- I should have done _____ by now
- I need to have ____ amount of likes or follows
- I need a big house, great car, and everything else I want right away
- My fitness goal is to look just like ______________
- I need to lose ____ lb.’s by _____ or else I’m ________
- I failed if I (got a divorce, did not finish school, got fired etc.)
- I must not fail, if I fail at this, I might as well stop trying
Almost every client, family member and friend I have ever had has used a line from the above list or something similar. The bottom line is, do not let the thousands of societal expectations trap you in a mindset of failure and the chronic feelings of shame. We get so immensely pressured into following a specific path that we lose sight of what we want. I can promise off my 11 years in the mental health field, that every person someone thinks that they want to be like, has their struggles too. You want to be married already with kids? Guess what? There are miserable married parents all over the country. You want to be rich? There are also miserable rich people. You want to look just like that professional athlete? Do you know their story and what it took for them to get there? Also are you willing to sacrifice everything else for that body? What do you really want? You! You without the expectations from everyone else, put a pin in their expectations and solely focus on you for a bit.
Many counter arguments include the fact that money may not buy happiness or be a “cure” per say but will certainly make life easier. Maybe cushier, maybe easier, but rich, famous celebrities (often a triple threat of money, fame, and power) are not necessarily happy. Again, money, fame and power are not happy. People around the world question why celebrities are killing themselves. Guess what? Those perceivably happy things that we are all pushing ourselves for and dreaming to get did not cure the many famous people that have killed themselves either by accidental overdose or a suicidal plan. It does not cure the many famous people that are struggling with their mental health as we speak.
To switch the perspective, think about why someone may push themselves the way they do. Why do the greatest most famous artists of all time play instruments and/ or sing to the point of having no life beyond it? Why did the greatest athletes of all-time train to the point of bodily sacrifice and no social life? Why do drug abusers continue abusing drug’s even when their body degrades and erodes from the inside out? Why does anyone get addicted to anything?
I am no expert, although I am a licensed therapist, I am still no expert! However, I have found that some of the happiest people are not necessarily the rich, famous, powerful or the ones with the best, most potent drugs. The happiest people seem to be the ones that are the most “balanced” in life. I strongly believe that achieving balance is one of the most crucial things a human can journey toward. Let us look at all the realms in which we may want to achieve balance:
- Spiritual (Not necessarily religion)
Whatever country you are in, what has it taught you to hyper focus on? I would venture to guess that many Americans have been taught to put most of their energy into the professional and financial realms to a point it cost them their physical, mental, social, and spiritual health. In turn, if we constantly neglect our mental and physical illnesses, it may cost us our professional development and our finances will suffer. Unfortunately, I have seen many people with severely damaged mental, physical, and social health, an extremely stressful high paced job, debt and “no end in sight”. They all want to quit their jobs at that point and cannot do it. Now freedom is no longer an option, as they became trapped and consumed in that “ideal” life they were brain washed to want.
In conclusion, we should not destroy our lives by following the rigidity of a standard set by people that truly DO NOT CARE ABOUT US, they care about the money we give them. We must take care of ourselves first. Sometimes that means NOT destroying our mental and social health so that we may have all the “things” we are “supposed” to have at a “certain age” that people decided to make up based off of their own opinions that were formed by the powers above them looking to exploit them for their money and all that they are worth. We will often find ourselves compulsively hunting after the famous five: Fame, Power, Money, Love, Adrenaline. No shame, it is not our fault, it has been embedded in many of us. However, raising our own self-awareness and having the ability to step back, self-reflect and redefine what happiness means to us can make all the difference in the world. One beautiful thing that social work and anthropological studies teaches us is that ‘nothing is universal’. Meaning there are way less rules than we think. Many people all over the world have found their incredible version of happiness, lifestyle, family, love, riches, memories and much more. Find yours while practicing as much balance as possible and have no shame in it!