We’re at a Junction

Over the last week or so I’ve been ploughing through Gabor Mate’s latest book, The Myth of Normal and I’ll do up an article about it once I’m finished. In two words, it’s brilliant. But the overall feeling I’m getting when I reflect on the book is that, well, it’s really quite sad. Why is that? Well, it’s basically the story of how we’re afflicted by all our issues, our traumas, be they issues with parents, addiction, mental health struggles etc. but what makes me sad about the state of the world painted in the book is that all of the issues are fixable. But, y’know, I can’t help but feel that we’re not fixing them.

Even though we very much can, we just seem to be sleepwalking in our existence. Yes, of course, many, many people are ‘working on themselves’ and are tackling their personal issues but overall for the vast amount of people we’re not. Most of us are unhappy and are disillusioned with how life’s turned out. Even though we’ve done what we were ‘supposed’ to do. We went to school, we got the job, we got married, we got the kids, we got the car, but we’re still not content. And it’s not about being content with things, it’s that we’re not happy inside.

Paradoxically, there’s never really been a better time to be physically or mentally sick. Granted, many, many countries have issues with their respective health systems but for the most part we can all go see our GP today or tomorrow, be seen, prescribed something and sent on our merry way. Or, they can, at least, refer us to a specialist and we can either join a public queue where the state or insurance foots the bill or take the issue privately. Most issues are, at least, treatable these days…so why aren’t we looking after ourselves?

Time/money/responsibilities all play their role but I’d have to argue, and you probably would too that those three elements, among the many others, would be more manageable if we could get our heads straight. Easier said than done, I know. The great dread in me though is tempted to think that we just don’t want to sort ourselves out because it’s easier, well, it’s not easier, but it also is totally easier to stay stuck in the mud of our egos than to change. We box ourselves in with who we think we are and identify with all the delusions that go with that. I should have this, I should be that, they owe me, I deserve that and so on. And this isn’t a slight on anyone, it’s just that this is what we do. We might hate, really bloody detest, our lives but too many times we don’t attempt to make changes because we’ve bought into what our minds tell us about ourselves.

We’re not good enough, we’re not smart enough, we’re not worthy and so on. But deep down, the unhappiness that we all share, can be tamed. Y’know, if you sit down and weigh up the problems of the world, it’s rather quite depressing but the answers are available. And we do know that deep down they are. We’re just caught up and getting in our own way. It’s not easy, it’s bloody tough work and lord knows I’m a long, long way from being anywhere close to the goal but, at the same time, there is a goal and it’s worth focusing on. What’s really the point of existing if we’re not attempting to better ourselves?

So here, I’d invite you dear reader to do something for yourself. Put aside five minutes and ask yourself two questions; Am I living a good life, and; where can I improve? You’ll know the answers pretty quickly, there’s little point in deceiving yourself. And in those answers lies the way that you can better yourself. This is a tiny, tiny exercise but it’s one that will help immediately identify what needs to be focused upon. 

Back to the book. Time and time again, Mate shows that what we deem to be normal isn’t. In our consumer-based, materialistic world we’ve been led to believe that it’s consuming our desires that leads to happiness and the daily stresses of having a job, a career, a constant unsatisfiable need for more are not normal. We’ve accepted they are. How can they be? And what he shows too is that our issues are all treatable. Our addictions are treatable, our mental illnesses are treatable, our obsession with desires and phony wants is treatable too. It all is… we just need to see it first. And that’s a tough step to take. 

Over recent months I’ve felt this huge guilt for my various jobs over the years, I worked in pubs in Dublin for 11 years and while it was mostly good craic, I have to live with the fact that I served alcoholics alcohol on a daily basis and over the long term just added to their problems. My current job is very much similar.

And, this is partly a reason why I’ve done a counseling and therapy course. For years I’ve been part of the problem, and it’s time to be part of the solution. And I like to think that we all can be. But we need to choose it, for ourselves of course, and I think that most people when they see through the illusions of their desires want to be part of it too. We’ve at a junction and it’s time to choose.

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