My son James and I have certain TV shows we watch together. We cosy up on the sofa (quite often with a fire going but, if not, with a big candle burning – because you need a bit of fire energy in a room). Suffice to say, he usually sets the agenda so lately, we’ve been watching The Walking Dead. Okay, so it’s just a daft TV show but, still, it makes you think, and not just about how you would fare in a zombie apocalypse. Every time I see those ex-people shuffling around, teeth champing, I think…Am I really a bit of a zombie myself? Are we all zombies in one way or another?
I recently read a passage by Anne Wilson Schaef, in her book When Society Becomes an Addict. It goes like this…
“The best-adjusted person in our society is the person who is not dead and not alive, just numb, a zombie. When you are dead you’re not able to do the work of the society. When you are fully alive you are constantly saying “No” to many of the processes of society, the racism, the polluted environment, the nuclear threat, the arms race, drinking unsafe water and eating carcinogenic foods. Thus it is in the interests of society to promote those things that take the edge off, keep us busy with our fixes, and keep us slightly numbed out and zombie-like. In this way our modern consumer society itself functions as an addict.”
She’s talking politics but I think it’s fair to say you can look at it from a wider perspective. Also, it was written a fair while back but I think it still holds, don’t you? In the past it was religion that turned us zombie, that made us obedient and unquestioning, that turned us numb. Now, it’s many things. We pretty much all self-medicate, one way or another. What is an addiction? I reckon you could call it something/anything we use to avoid truly feeling. Mine? Internet, eating and drinking crap (though I do less of that these days), reading trash, watching trash, meditating (yes, sometimes meditation can be used as a distraction!)… How about you? How do you numb yourself?
It reminded me of something we talked about at Penninghame. Sorry to bang on about Penninghame but it really did have a deep effect on me.
Anyhow, this is what they said at Penninghame. “The essential message from your childhood is that you are not okay the way you are. The pain you felt was so deep, intense and overwhelming that you decided to hide it and forget all about it. To survive you had to protect yourself. Therefore you have lost contact with your deepest pain and you believe that it no longer exists.
So we numb ourselves with work, stress, depression, alcohol, drugs, success, money, belongings and love stories.”
I find that fascinating. Some of those things, yes, but I hadn’t thought about numbing myself with stress or depression. Yet, when I consider it, it’s true. I have.
It went on. “We have only learnt to measure our worth by what we mean to others and we are only able to project our feelings outwards and use them to get recognition and fulfillment of our needs. Everything is in relation to others. We so intensively wish to be accepted and loved by others that we compromise our truth over and over again.”
Yes. Today on Facebook I saw a young woman I know beating herself up because she felt she could never be ‘good enough’ for some people in her life. It made me sad and mad at the same time.
“What we present of ourselves is just a minimum piece of our true self. The rest is artificial polish and learnt behaviour. To get approval we give up our true face and put on a mask.”
Yes. How many of us modify who we really are in order to please others, to fit in, to be what family, friends, society expects? I remember when Adrian and I moved out of London to Somerset. Immediately I felt out of place – my clothes were too wild, my hair too extreme, my stories too outre, my personality, my demeanor just ‘too much’. So I made myself blander, meeker, milder, more ‘beige’ if you like, in order to fit in. I even suggested we get married (and I had always been well against marriage) because I wanted to blend in. Worst of all, I started wearing Laura Ashley dresses.
Once you start putting on the mask, it’s very hard to take off. It solidifies, it melds itself to your face and you start to believe it’s your truth. I stopped doing the things I loved and did the things other people wanted me to do. I was cut off from my true feelings, and from my true energy. A big part of me withered and died. I became a great zombie.
How do you get out of that rut? I reckon awareness is the first step. Once you name something, you start to have power over it. Next up? You breathe. You come into each and every moment with the breath. That, all in itself, is as good as a sword or a crossbow for killing zombie-itis.