Survival in Abundance

More often than not we fall prey to our own inherent failings as creatures of this world. The cause is deep, ingrained in the way we have been programmed to behave from childhood and adolescence in order to survive in modern society. What is moral, polite, correct and decent, all swirl in our heads and hearts in order to keep us from stepping on too many toes and possibly lose favour by the crowd, from which we depend so dearly. It is probably true that we’re unconscious to most of these hidden tendencies, this psychology which is so resistant to being revealed and possibly even uprooted one bright day. We likely believe the justifications in our minds which conjure stories of who we are, why we do what we do, and the necessity to keep this sense of self intact throughout all of the challenges that our life presents.

There is a vast record of great and subtle minds who have released knowledge from one generation to the next, suggesting higher paths to trod and travel. They have given us pieces of one and the same map that promises to shed light on a darkened road full of repeating burdens and ailments which humanity seems adamant on continuing to encounter in a dumb daze. This fragmented map is always in our grasp, particularly in modern times where cyber networks appear to contain almost every piece of information ever preserved or recorded at one point or another. Relative to the psychological theories of the last century, psychoanalytics and the like have pointed to defensive mechanisms wired to our every circuit which have their origin in our earliest years.

Survival mode, as it is called, is rooted in our genes and the system of psychological and physiological nerves which, together, make us who we are. The infant depends entirely on those who care for it and it has no choice but to rely on this greater force for its every need. For quite some time this relates primarily to the body, nourishment and basic survival. As the child grows, however, the psychological facets of a personality, with its own quirks and qualities, increasingly enters the spotlight. The wild world of wrongs and rights, moral codes and social politics flood into the child at the same time as it learns to communicate and interact with its environment. The child very soon learns what gets it in trouble, what types of actions meet with approval and attention, and it naturally maximizes the latter in favour of being secured a safe and comfortable position in life. How often the child suppresses its own personal tendencies and individuality in favour of satisfying the expectations of those around it depends on a host of factors, but it nevertheless holds true for every single soul on the earth as an objective fact.

Adulthood is a whole new theatrical performance. The individual is no longer a child and their dependency on external forces is significantly reduced. There is no longer a need to depend on approval to the degree that was necessary in the past. And yet these deeply imprinted and ingrained tendencies have become like second-nature, as if permanently glued to the personality of the individual. Deep fears of rejection, designed to keep us safe and cozy in the social scene, are coated with layers and layers of numbness that prevent us from feeling the root cause of our behaviour. The price of this unfortunate state of affairs is that vast reserves of our energy, which could otherwise be used to think, feel and act creatively, are used up in trying to save face, appear attractive, and build and maintain a self-image which is praised by every passing bystander.

Creativity, that masterful engine we refer to with glee, is like a river. The channel in which that body of water flows can be wide or narrow, and that difference is greatly based on the amount of emotional hang-ups we retain from our childhood. The survival instincts that have made their way into our modes of expression as children have remained in us as adults and literally block or, even worse, filter the quantity and quality of creativity which we are bestowed with at any given moment of time. The road to brilliance, emotional freedom, and honest glory is one built, brick by brick, by the quest to dismantle this survival-mode psychology and replace it with one based on conscience and intelligence. It is, more importantly, based on a psychology which knows it can always survive no matter what life throws its way.

The survival mentality is based on an assumption that the world isn’t abundant, but that it is scarce. On a macro level and looking into the long-term, this assumption is reasonably true. And yet, relative to the social order, relationships, and the realm of immediate ideas and possibilities, it is most certainly false. Every opportunity we have to connect to one another, create connection where there was once a gap, is stricken from us when fears rooted from a survival mindset are actively at work. The cure is persistent observation, awareness and relentless struggle as the conditioning can be modified and a release of old bad habits can gradually be dropped in favour of a healthier approach to the way we lead our lives.

The cosmic joke is that when pressures from life increasingly create stress we respond by reverting back into hypnotic self-preservation, a state in which what we need most — creativity — is nowhere to be found. The antidote must be detachment, to separate oneself from the events of life to some appreciable degree. The practicality of escaping survival psychology and behaviour has to exist in such a way, and only in such a way. To be attached to the events of life is to be trapped and bound, caged within a story in which we singlemindedly strive to preserve a self-image and reputation of who we think we are. Unfortunately, we simply cannot have the best of both worlds. To be able to access the creativity necessary to face the challenges of life with ingenuity requires that we be free from a psychology which has its basis in instinctive self-preservation.

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