As human beings, we sometimes take for granted that our minds and bodies are harmoniously in sync with the world around us. It makes sense to believe that we are created with the ability to emotionally handle life’s challenges. However, when we juxtapose societal issues with the nature of human emotions, it becomes clear that the issue isn’t so simple.
Society is a man-made system that is dependent on people to uphold the structure. Without people, society collapses.
Society consists of an economy and laws. For example, people contribute to the system (work) and are rewarded with money, which is then spent on necessities for personal survival or luxuries, which then is spent and contributed back into the social structure. At the same time, society also has rules and regulations (laws) that define social standards in order to coexist while avoiding chaos. (This is a very basic description, as society has other sub-influences, including religion and politics).
Modern life is in many ways the product of a man-made structure, rather than the result of a greater existential phenomenon. We don’t go to school because the universe willed it, school was created by people and is a part of our society. Societal functioning is not based on human emotions, even if some of the rules of society may be partially influenced by emotions. Relationships, work, money and health most significantly affect our emotions.
Society basically works according to systems theory. If society is in balance, there’s a better chance that people are in balance too. However, when society is out of balance (not enough jobs, overpopulated schools, high crime rates), the whole structure — including people — is affected.
When the world began, there weren’t jobs, corporations, cars, college, social expectations, social class, or several other forms of man-made institutions that have developed over time. Many of these cause stress, anxiety, depression, chronic pain, fears and anger. Society is constructed to maintain social order rather than to respect our emotional limitations. Therefore, it is important that we learn to understand and manage our emotions, thoughts, and behaviors within a system that in many ways overwhelms the concept of balanced emotions.
It is also important that we promote healthy ego balance for ourselves. This includes our ability to balance our personal desires with the realities of living within a larger system. For example, we may wish to lay on the beach, do yoga, watch movies, and hang out with family and friends every day. However, within our society, this is a difficult desire to meet without causing or reinforcing other stressors. If we feel entitled, we may end up in a stressful, disappointing, and depressing battle with reality as we end up fighting the balance that is necessary to function in society. And in systems theory, our positive changes will positively affect the entirety of the system. By achieving personal balance, we also create more balance for our environment.
It is also up to us to create boundaries that will allow us to function in society while also meeting our personal needs and desires. (It is possible to find fulfillment and joy in the ways we make our contribution to society). Here are a few suggestions to move toward the balance of society and emotions:
1. Understanding our priorities. We may not be able to have everything in life that we want, but if we know what is most important to us both overall and in daily life, then we can create a “life schedule” to help achieve our priorities. These can be anything from simple weekly activities to career and family needs.
2. Understanding our emotions. Knowing what we’re feeling and how our emotions manifest within us will help us understand where more balance may be necessary.
3. Understanding our triggers. We may know that we feel frustrated, depressed, stressed, or anxious at times, and we may know how it manifests, but it doesn’t always mean that we know what’s causing it. Understanding our triggers for emotional imbalance is a necessary step to creating change and balance.
4. Setting boundaries. Easier said than done, right? Boundaries can (and need to) go both ways. If we tend to overwork, it may be helpful to set limits with work in order to attend to other important priorities. Same goes with addressing tendencies to procrastinate or indulging in self-fulfillment to the point that we end up struggling to deal with the realities of society.
5. Acceptance. Rather than fighting the realities of life, coming to an acceptance of our personal and greater world helps us to utilize the resources within and around us to create balance. This is not to say that we should resign ourselves to obedience or defeat our dreams, but resistance to our surroundings actually impedes progress, change, and balance. If we’re feeling victimized by the structure of society and react by resistance, we actually end up causing ourselves further emotional imbalance than if we accept the nature of our environment and then make it work for us.
6. Psychotherapy. There are many ways to help create and maintain balance, and often it could take some outside help to understand ourselves, how we work, and where to go next. Therapy is there to help us along the way.
While our society presents many emotional challenges, achieving balance between ourselves and our environment is one of the keys to creating peace and fulfillment in our lives.