“The way we live today requires that we get away from the way we live today!”
~ An Airline Ad Circa 1971 ~
It was a full-page ad in the New York Times — perhaps run by Eastern Airlines — inviting the reader on an escape from New York City to a getaway destination in the Caribbean. Facing mid-year exams as a grad student, it appealed so much to me that I ripped it out of the paper and replaced the picture hanging above my couch with it.
Then I went back to my studies. After all, it was beyond the budget of a “starving student”. But (witness this blog) it implanted an idea that has stuck with me for decades. If our circumstances don’t match our comfort level, it’s time for a change. That’s especially true when we are in “the times that try our souls.”
For many of us, this is one of those times. To a certain extent, “trying times” has been a hallmark of the 21st century — from “Y2K” (the crisis that wasn’t) to 9/11 to WMDs (and the war in Iraq) to the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression – we’ve experienced one trauma after another.
We’ve weathered those (more or less) but then comes the election of 2016 and its aftermath. Irrespective of one’s political convictions or preferences, right now we’re all experiencing a sense of turmoil, uncertainty, and unrest. It’s unclear about what’s likely to happen — and even some actions are being undone before they fully take hold.
For those of us with more progressive tendencies, our angst is even more extreme. It’s hard to feel safe when we perceive that the clock might be turned back on topics like climate change, social security, and health insurance.
We fear a loss of meaning if values related to civil rights and individual freedoms related to reproductive choice are put at risk — not to mention desires for expanded educational opportunities, more equitable taxation policies, and common-sense gun controls.
Indeed, we even may experience a sense of decreased self-worth in the face of the possible loss of values that we’ve held dearest in our identities as Americans. If our country’s politicians lack the good will to deal fairly and compassionately with immigrants and refugees at home, or stand courageously for oppressed and needy people elsewhere in the world, can we truly feel good about ourselves?
If we step back and look at all of these, we might recognize that they are not “merely” political issues. No, they go much deeper than that. Safety, meaning, and self-worth are core issues — at the human and spiritual levels. We could even call them “existential” — they touch us at the soul level.
Our first reaction to them — from the reptilian and animal parts of our brain — is natural: flight or fight. The problem is that “flight” either means emigration (maybe moving to Canada or elsewhere) or simply hiding under the covers (physically or figuratively). Neither are likely to solve the problem — and Eastern Airlines has long since disappeared in an airline merger anyway.
So, the alternative is to “fight”. And that seems to be happening — mainly under the general banner named “RESIST”. Indeed, resistance can be appropriate, healthy, and helpful. It’s a natural way we connect when we are alarmed — when both external and internal sirens and red lights give us “DANGER!, DANGER!, DANGER!” signals.
The problem is that resistance tends to be inherently weak and only marginally effective. In the first place, as the saying goes: “What we resist, persists.” The “opposition” mobilizes and combative struggles ensue. Furthermore, when we resist we act in a negative way — our energy is “anti-“. We focus on what we “don’t want”, rather than what we’re really longing for.
Mother Theresa is famously quoted as saying, “I was once asked why I don’t participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I’ll be there.” In other words, it’s much better to focus positively — on what we want, rather than what we don’t want.
When we do that, we are leading from strength — from the truth of our being. We see things from the wider perspective, connecting with what really matters. We go deeper to gain clarity on our deepest desires. And then we articulate them in specific, positive, and proactive ways.
At Big Love, we believe this means beginning with basics. In this case, we connect first with our fundamental needs — for safety, meaning, and self-worth (the U.S. constitution uses the words “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”). Our topics and questions are:
- Safety — what is true that brings me/us a sense of overall well-being?
- Meaning — how can I make a difference by being my/our fullest self?
- Self-Worth — what’s necessary for me to feel good about me/us and all others?
Becoming clear on these things is the starting point for feeling better right now. Being centered and grounded, we have the freedom and courage to know more exactly what is ours to do. Even if that knowing takes us back to “resistance”, we’re prepared to reframe the direction from “don’t want” to “want” — and we’re ready to make our “demands” be known. When we do that, we are moving from resistance to insistence.
Here’s To More BIG LOVE,
Olivia & Steve
It’s Your Turn!
We invite you to take a few moments to reflect and journal about your response to the ideas in this post. For example:
(1) What are you experiencing and feeling in terms of safety, meaning, and self-worth these days?
(2) What would it take for you to release any feelings of “resistance” and move to “insistence” right now? If you’ve tried it, how have your feelings changed?
(3) Any other responses to the topic?
If you’re willing, please share your responses in the comment section under this blogpost as it appears on the Big Love Community Facebook page.
Big Love News:
This blog on “Safety, Meaning, and Self-Worth” is the first of several on the topic which will appear in future issues. Watch this space for more!
We plan to publish a new blog each Tuesday. Our initial, introductory “series” will provide overviews of Big Love’s key building blocks.
If you there are topics you’d like us to address, please send us an email from our “Contact Us” web page.