When we think about the future, we always imagine a technological utopia, where we fly with our cars, have even better gadgets, work with quantum computers, and much more.
As a culture, we also think that scientifically we are a very advanced society and that most of the stuff that’s been unknown before the 20th or 21st century is already known and there are just small bits and pieces left to complete that huge puzzle.
There is a huge elephant in the room that nobody wants to look at. And that is the fact that psychologically, we are not as advanced as we think. Moreover, it can be said that we are still in the dark ages, and I’ll explain why.
Have you ever wondered why you are not satisfied with your life? You are not enjoying your day-to-day life. You are always postponing the state of well-being and happiness to the future and you don’t even think twice about the fact that you do so. You are like a hamster in a wheel, chasing a small piece of cheese, but you can’t see that because everybody around you does the same thing. We are a society of cheese chasing hamsters. We think that life is a process of chasing stuff, without realizing that the narrative of chasing is entirely fed by the culture we grew up in.
So, what’s wrong with chasing and what does it have to do with not being well psychologically?
To answer that first let’s try and answer the question of what is psychological well-being.
20th-century psychologists came up with the notion of the subconscious and conscious mind (actually, that concept has been known for thousands of years in various eastern and even western cultures, but let’s talk about the context of modern western psychology). What that means is that they differentiated two aspects of yourself: conscious and subconscious (or unconscious).
You’ve probably heard that thousands of times, but I don’t think that you’ve actually thought and realized the implications of that distinction.
As they say, most of your life is governed by your unconscious mind, or in other words, you are a robot, a zombie, directed and programmed by some other forces. You act from the impulses of your subconscious programming and you don’t even realize that.
Also, it’s worth mentioning that having a conscious and subconscious mind is just a mental model. It’s not the case that you literally have two minds. It’s just a psychological model that tries to more or less accurately paint a picture of a psyche.
Considering that, if we use that model to look at what’s going on in our psyche, we might notice that there can be a huge part of ourselves that we don’t see and aren’t conscious of.
So, what does that mean?
It means that we don’t fully know ourselves, even though the mind fools us into thinking that we fully know ourselves and there is nothing more to know.
Psychological well-being is the process of coming to know yourself first as ego and a personality, then metaphysically and spiritually.
How can you do that? Well, there are many ways. But first I want you to realize that you won’t be able to do that as the hamster that I’ve described above. Exploring yourself is a journey that you have to start walking to realize your hamster-ness more and more. You might spend a couple of years just observing how chasing stuff doesn’t bring that state of joy and happiness that you want. That will never work. Why? Because you won’t have time to become more and more conscious of your different aspects and to know yourself if all you do is chase success.
To be joyful and happy, you have to explore and know yourself as fully as you can. No amount of cheese chasing will do that for you.
But why? What does knowing myself have to do with feeling happy?
You, as an ego, feel that you are separated from everything and everyone. That creates a distance between “you” and “everything else”. For you to stay alive and feel safe, you have to preserve that boundary, again and again, every minute and every second of your life. You have huge defense mechanisms that allow your survival as a selfish ego.
When you don’t start observing yourself and trying to figure out why you do the things you do, and when you don’t get interested in those cultural programmings that I talked about above, you are not aware of that ego structure that I mentioned. You follow that blindly. And that causes constant battle with yourself, over and over again. If you think that you have enemies somewhere outside yourself that affect your emotions and moods, you are wrong. Whatever you feel and however you are, it’s all your making, and you can change that.
If you start observing yourself, studying yourself like a scientist studies animals in the zoo, you will discover more of that subconscious mind that we are talking about. And you know what it means to discover aspects of the subconscious mind? They will become parts of your conscious mind.
A conscious mind just means everything that you realize about yourself. If you take and consciously point the light of your consciousness onto yourself, you will find lots of nasty stuff, lots of inner demons, and deeply suppressed feelings and emotions. But as a result, you will become more honest and truthful with yourself.
Also, part of psychological well-being is your awareness of your body. How aware are you of your emotions, feelings, and sensations? If we talk about getting to know yourself, first and foremost you have to start listening to your body and emotions. Emotions are one of the greatest teachers that could potentially teach you all the stuff you need to know about yourself.
All the religions around the world talked about this because the core of every single religion is self-understanding.
The core of every single psychological school, method, or self-improvement technique is self-understanding on various levels.
Every single developmental model in psychology is about advancing through different stages by understanding yourself more and more at a different level of your being.
So, this is very important, especially for the hustle culture that we live in. We don’t hear this anywhere basically. From childhood, we are told that we have to be successful and to have great jobs and families and all that, and if we do that, we will be rewarded with that mysterious state of happiness that all of us are waiting so eagerly.
But you know what? That ain’t gonna happen. Once you realize that you can’t get that cheese you’ve been chasing your entire life, it will be too late because you’ll be too old to implement all the stuff that I talked about. Or maybe you’ll never realize that.
But if you’ve already got tired of being a hamster, and right now you can’t stop being that way, you can at least plan your life in a way that will be more suitable for exploring stuff I mentioned. Year after year, you’ll realize that you are going through life by the narrative fed by your culture, and you might want to stop doing that.
In conclusion, I want you to remember that being well is not something that happens to you, it’s something that you do. For that to happen, first you’ll need to unlearn all the stuff that you believed about yourself and the world, that’s not true, and then go ahead and figure out what’s true. If you truly figure out the truest and most honest aspects of yourself, and if you integrate aspects of yourself that you are afraid of right now, you’ll probably realize that all the fears, insecurities and all the other psychological problems that you thought you had were like a rubber snake that you thought was a real one.