As human beings, we sometimes take for granted that our minds and bodies are harmoniously in sync with the world around us — meaning, it could make sense to believe that we are created with the ability to emotionally handle the challenges presented to us in life. However, when we take time to focus on the makeup of society juxtaposed with the nature of human emotions, it becomes clear that the issue isn’t so simple.
Focusing on society for a moment, society is a human-made system that is dependent on the people to uphold the structure. Without the people, society collapses. The basic makeup of society is a token 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 and/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 co-exist while avoiding chaos. (This is a very basic description, as society has other sub-influences, like religion, politics, etc.).
What does this mean, in terms of society and emotions?
The environment we live in today is in many ways the product of a human-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. What’s important for the sake of this post is that what it takes for society to function is not based on human emotions (even if some of the rules of society may be partially influenced by emotions, to a degree). The parts of life that tend to most significantly impact our emotions are relationships (family, casual, and romantic), occupation, finances, and health. It’s also worth mentioning that society basically works according to systems theory — if society is in balance, then there’s a better chance that people are in balance too. However, when society is out of balance (not enough jobs, overpopulated schools, crime, etc.), the whole structure is impacted, including the people.
When the world began, there weren’t jobs, corporations, cars, college, social expectations, social class, or several other forms of human-made institutions that have developed over time. Many of these institutions translate into stressors that have various impacts on our emotions — stress, anxiety, depression, chronic pain, fears, anger, etc. Society is constructed to maintain social order, rather than with respect to 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 –which 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 pretty difficult desire to meet without it 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 impact 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 (don’t forget, it is possible to find fulfillment and joy in the ways we make our contribution to society). So here are a few suggestions to move towards 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 — overall, and in daily life — then we can create a life/schedule that helps 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 in our lives. Same goes with addressing tendencies to procrastinate or indulging in self-fulfilment 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 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.
5. 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 within our reach, and ultimately, is one of the keys to creating peace and fulfillment in our lives.