A Mind Dominated Culture
“It is no measure of good health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society” –J. Krishnamurti
When becoming aware of the ego it may seem startling to see just how much of our cultural experience is built around the ego. The economic systems of the world (for the most part) are focused around the individual having more, getting more, and working up the social and economic ladder. Beginning in early childhood most people have been conditioned to be in a state of neediness, always looking outside oneself for fulfillment in one form or another.
We are taught that in order to be happy we should create a life for ourselves which meet certain criteria; we should be successful, attain a certain level of social status, make a lot of money, have an abundance of material possessions, have many friends, find the perfect partner, and generally assert our will power out into the world in order to get our needs met. This message of individualism is woven into nearly every aspect of westernized cultures, perpetuating our collective feeling of separation; “It’s me against the world, and I need to get my needs met in very specific ways in order to be happy and feel good about myself.”
This conditioning comes from our family, and also the culture at large. The constant barrage of advertisements on television and online share a similar theme; you will be happier and have a better life if you buy specific products, subscribe to a specific lifestyle, and behave according to specific social norms. Having a nicer car, a bigger house, more money, and greater status can easily become the focus of attention when one remains unconscious to the influences of the collective ego.
The consumer-based culture in which we live also places a strong emphasis on being impulsive and engaging in self-gratifying behaviors. The inability of people to control their compulsions fuels much of the economy, and so advertisers and the media prey on this aspect of the collective ego in order to sell products and make money. The influence of the media over the last century has produced a population with very little self-control or self-discipline. Ads featuring sickly sweet and fattening foods are as ubiquitous in the media as images of half naked men and women. The underlying message is the same in both cases; “you want this and you want it now.”
However, the ego can also strengthen itself in reaction against popular culture. There are numerous sub-cultures in which a person’s identity is derived through rebelling against the norm. Taking on a spiritual lifestyle, for instance, and rejecting all things in the popular culture that are not “spiritual” could be a way of strengthening the ego. In this case the ego would become strengthened through a conceptual identity as being more spiritual or more evolved than the general public.
The seeking of knowledge, information, and specific skills can also serve to strengthen the ego. As long as a person remains unawake to their true nature, they will try to accumulate anything in order to strengthen their conceptual identity, and to provide themselves (as well as others) proof of their self-worth. You can see this phenomenon when observing the world or art, science, technology, or academia, for instance. It is quite common to see people seeking to enhance their self image through being an expert in their given field. Perhaps it is their passion and love for the subject that is driving them, or perhaps it is a deep-seated feeling of anxiety that causes them to look outside themselves for validation through their achievements. Likely, it is a combination of the two. Until a person becomes aware of the ego, it will subtly influence the motivations behind almost all actions, to varying degree.
Another element of ego that shows up in society is the culture of fear perpetuated by the media, government, and corporations. The more afraid you are of the “other” (whether it be another country, another race, another person, or another lifestyle), the more likely you are to give away your power. This takes the form of the fear mongering that occurs in the news and media, which can distort one’s perception of reality to the point of creating intense paranoia and anxiety towards life.
Most news that gets reported is sensationalist, rather than an accurate depiction of the events occurring around the world. If you think about all of the amazing, positive, and uplifting experiences occurring everyday around the world (people helping other people, taking care of animals, and working towards rehabilitating the environment), notice how much of this kind of news ends up being reported. What you find is that very little of the news is positive. The predominantly negative news reporting is a mostly one-sided view of the world, and yet this is what we have come to expect from the media. These simple psychological techniques of using sensationalism and drama as a means of captivating one’s attention, perpetuate a distorted mentality of fear and separation in the collective unconsciousness.
Imagine, instead, that the news consisted of a 50/50 balance of traumatic events and positive events. This simple shift might have a profound effect on the collective consciousness. People might feel generally less paranoid, less afraid, and less anxious for the state of the world. Although, as I’m sure it is well known in the media and the world of advertising, truly happy and relaxed people are generally less likely to buy things they don’t need, are less likely to put themselves in debt, and are less likely to work themselves to the bone to afford a lifestyle of excesses. Perpetuating anxiety, fear, and a mentality of separation actually lends itself to supporting the current economic paradigm.
Though the state of affairs in which we live has ultimately come about due to our shared collective unconsciousness, it is hardly a new phenomenon that those select individuals (and groups) that hold positions of power, have sought to subjugate the masses with the intention of keeping the general public ignorant and asleep. Consider doing your own research on this topic to see how the last century may have been an experiment by certain governments and corporations to see the effects of psychological manipulation on the masses. The British documentary series entitled, “Century of the Self,” provides compelling evidence that the state of anxiety and ego in which many people live today is the result of strategic and intentional action taken by groups of people in power over the last century.
This information is not meant to create more anxiety, but rather, begin untangling the web of how we ended up living in such an egocentric and fear-based culture. When you look around and see so many people anxious, depressed, and disconnected, there are factors at play that have been subtly eroding our natural ability to feel connected to each other and the earth. Having this awareness can help a person break free from their addiction to the unhealthy and manipulative aspects of our culture, and provide greater motivation to awaken from the illusion of the ego.
It is also important to remember that no one is to blame for the state of things as they are now. We are each responsible for our own state of being, and paradoxically, it is through the suffering caused by the collective ego that we are each, in our own time, waking up to the greater reality beyond the ego. Allowing oneself to be manipulated or controlled (either consciously or unconsciously) can be a necessary step towards awakening and taking greater responsibility for oneself. In that sense, the experience of being manipulated by another can even be viewed as a blessing in the process of awakening. This is true for our cultural experience, as well as in relationship with one another.
It is not as though there are evil forces in the world trying to keep the masses asleep. But rather, the only reason that anyone would be motivated to control and manipulate another person is if they do not feel much love in their own life, or feel their connection to the higher flow of energy from the Universe. It is the suffering of feeling afraid and alone that causes a person to seek control over others. Evil is no more than the result of a disconnection from love, from one’s true essence.
Cultural Healing Through Love
It can be tempting, as one begins awakening to the magnitude of manipulation and corruption that has been perpetrated in the name of fear and greed, to turn against those in power as the “other,” whom need to be overthrown. But keep in mind that everyone is seeking love and connection in their own way, even if that seeking takes the form of negativity or manipulation. And just like a child who has learned maladaptive strategies for getting attention by engaging in destructive behaviors, these wounds cannot be healed through force or punishment. It is only through love, acceptance, and compassion that negativity and fear can be healed.
Often the ego reacts with negativity towards that which is negative. What a paradox! The ego approaches ridding the world of ego by using force or negativity (guilt, blame, or shame). This approach will never work, in that whatever the ego resists or reacts against, only becomes strengthened among those having the reaction. When you react to negativity with negative energy, then you yourself are creating more negativity. No lasting solution or healing can occur when negativity is flowing from you.
If you desire to dissolve negativity and the collective ego, then learn to remain in control of your own thoughts and responses to life. View those who would use fear to control others with compassion and understanding, rather than judgment or condemnation. All of us know the experience of causing pain to others. We all know how it feels to close our hearts, and the suffering it causes. Holding this higher perspective about what motivates those misusing their power will allow you to see the painful events taking place in the world with greater acceptance and compassion. When you choose compassion and a loving perspective, this vibration is sent out into the world, creating a greater opening for healing to occur.
It takes commitment and awareness to stay focused on peace and love amidst some of the traumatic events that get played out on the world stage. Look at your own reactions to events playing out in the world to see if you hold any negativity towards them. Can you stay loving and compassionate towards the actions of others, even when they are destructive or negative? Can you see the higher perspective and wisdom in why painful events may sometimes be necessary for our collective growth and awakening? In practicing holding a loving perspective towards all of life, it can be helpful to understand that there are laws that govern how energy flows in the Universe.
We live in an attraction-based Universe, where negativity attracts more negativity, and alternatively, love attracts more love. This greater connection of energy is what the separatist ego mind can never understand. The fearful mind demands retribution and justice, claiming, “an eye for an eye.” But as Gandhi noted in his infamous writings on peace, “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” Embodying love more fully in your life is truly the most powerful way to create positive change.
This idea of love healing all wounds is more than a hopeful sentiment. It speaks to the collective energy field in which all life is connected. Every thought that you think, and every emotion you create, ripples out through the collective energy field, creating a slight change in the vibration of the whole. Though you may not be able to see the collective energy field, and our current scientific instrumentation is not yet sophisticated enough to measure it, once you tune into it and feel it for yourself, you will know the reality of it. Initially, however, it takes faith and courage to step beyond the ego in order to begin feeling the interconnection of life energy. But by doing so, you offer yourself the opportunity to transform your own life, and very literally, the world.
In the process of freeing yourself from the culture of fear, it can be helpful to become more discerning with what you subject yourself to, and what you focus your attention on. Pay attention to what types of movies, books, or television programs you gravitate towards and why. Does the content of these sources of entertainment feel uplifting and inspiring, or is it more of a distraction, reinforcing experiences such as drama, violence, or suffering? Notice how when you watch television or go online, there are images constantly popping up on the screen vying for your attention, often with dramatic or sensational content. The techniques used to get your attention are abrupt noises, bright colors, flashes of light, rapidly changing imagery, and dramatic imagery. The ego loves drama and will gravitate towards it every time.
Notice, too, what physiological effect this type of mental and emotional stimulation has on your body. All of this stimulation is designed to increase your heart rate and create low levels of tension within you. When your breathing becomes rapid and your heart rate increases, your body releases cortisol. In this state you are much more likely to respond compulsively, as well as become more suggestible to outside influences.
Any moment you find yourself slipping into negativity while engaged in the world, return to your breath, and detach from whatever activity your were engaged in for a few moments. Find your center and allow peace to return naturally. In this way you will be taking back conscious control over your state of being; a simple act that has profound implications in your spiritual growth. Be sure to take frequent breaks from the television or computer, and to stay connected to your breath while you engage in these activities. Spend as much time outdoors in the sunshine, breathing the fresh air, and engaging in positive and life affirming activities whenever possible. Your commitment and intention to release yourself from cultural manipulation will improve your sense of autonomy, well-being, and overall confidence in yourself as the creator of your own reality.