I’ve only recently come to recognise the reason behind my feelings of discombobulation (meaning disoriented and befuddled) in observing the dire state of the world. It’s a persistent, uncomfortable feeling that I think many, many people experience. This blog is my attempt to understand this feeling of discombobulation and to suggest a possible way to live with this very natural reaction to a world gone crazy. This reflection isn’t about solutions and advice to either the state of the world or my (or your) troubled mind, just an honest exploration of this common phenomenon.
The state of the world is an immense subject to cover so I will keep my assessment at a very general level. From a positive perspective, from being on this planet for over 50 years, I have seen in Australia significant advancements in social and cultural diversity and freedoms, educational opportunities, advances in medical procedures and the technology of lifestyle conveniences such as smart phones, internet and cheap air travel. It could be said we live an era of immense opportunity for higher quality lifestyles, of increased options for socio-cultural engagement, learning and wellbeing, for living longer and healthier.
At the same time, and especially noticeable in 2019 I’ve observed an increase in reporting on the crises that began decades ago, primarily since I was born in the early 1960s – climate collapse, the ecological crisis of ecosystem collapse and species extinction, a crisis of democracatic governance, the crisis of increasing inequality, the persecution and/or dismissal of the most vulnerable in society especially indigenous peoples, the corporate welfare state and its hegemonic influence over populist governments, the health crisis of increasing obesity, sugar consumption and mental health and demensure, the crisis of war and domestic violence. The list could go on. A spiritual crisis of our search for deeper meaning. You get the picture. In this rapidly devolving age of uncertainty I find it difficult at times to find the bearings of my life, confusion of how to deal with the collective atmosphere of fear, anxiety and uncertainty. Bearing witness to the unfolding crises, I have increasingly longed to find some stable footing, to step away from this discombobulating existential discomfort and insecurity.
Reflecting on this conundrum, to remain engaged and open to the dark feelings and troubling observations, I recognised several challenges to adequately responding. There is the challenge of remaining open and sensitive to life (to not close down mentally or creatively), to nourishing genuine compassion to self and other beings, to accepting and coping with my sense of vulnerability and inadequateness, my sense of profound impotence to exert wider change, the dilemma of balancing the right kind of hope (refer to a previous blog here) with hopelessness. Oh so many challenges to juggle!! I will deal with these some other time. I will for this reflection focus on the challenge of discombobulation arising from witnessing the collective crises and threats of our time: to become resilient.
If we get swallowed up by our own sufferings whether it be despair, grief, sadness or anger, perhaps post-traumatic stress, depression and anxiety, what will inevitably be spat out of the grim mouth of our beholden consciousness is overwhelm, cynicism and disempowerment. Being swept along by the tsunami of dark thoughts and negative imaginings may not feel like a choice but at some point, it becomes a habit of choice (usually unconsciously made) that creates its own psychological and behavioural rut. Negative states of mind and heart are contracting forces on awareness, an undermining of one’s sense of self (the illusory self is for another blog!). This is NOT positive coping, this does not create the opportunity to adapt to immediate or long-term threats or disturbances and if there is no adaptation, there is an undermining of one’s resilience, to sustain one’s self and life in reasonable harmony and wellbeing. To not cope is to compromise one’s iner resilience and that is a journey that traverses the rugged mental landscape of loss and powerlessness.
Given that everything that I am arises within my consciousness, then it is within my consciousness, this awareness of my being and agency that I must begin. This is foundational to coping. Personal responsibility begins with acknowledging this fact, that all perceptions, thinking, feelings, emotions, imaginings and sensations arise in our awareness, and that individual awareness can be the portal, the empowered agency to an expanded, wiser consciousness freed of its limiting habitual patterns and reactions. If I cannot recognise the power of my consciousness to come into a new relationship with my sufferings, my responses to the crises of inner and outer worlds, then I will remain a slave to the consciousness of fragmentation, powerlessness and disconnection. The ‘external’ world will continue to control my ‘inner’ world.
Humanity will always have its crises but that need not necessarily lead to the psychological and existential crisis of diminished life meaning, persistently diminished mental health and regular feelings of discombobulation. Too many of us avoid the issue of how the external world, especially the global crises impinges on our mental states through ineffective coping strategies such as addictions, excess busyness and avoidance. I know that I must remind myself regularly that I, indeed all of us can break these mostly unconscious habits and acknowledge the capacity to raise our awareness. My response over 12 years ago was to develop my NatureConnect ritual. The relational experiences of connectedness with nature, the sacred, deeper aspects of my being and the Divine provided and still continues to offer the stabilising platform of a heightened consciousness for dealing with life challenges, and to nurture my resilience. What do you do to nurture your resilience? What is your experience of discombobulation? Such an interesting word!!!