I am overwhelmed by the number of shootings by angry, young, white males in our country. At first I blamed the “entitled brats” for their actions, but the issue is deeper than just misogyny, racism or entitlement – although those are obviously big contributing factors.
Our culture is good at creating a sense of entitlement, even if the methods seem innocuous.
In exploring the underlying cultural issues, I found the Taoist Yin & Yang incredibly helpful in describing our current imbalance in the natural human dichotomy of gender. This may seem hokey to some, but I think it’s a great tool to look at our cultural climate.
The imbalance of Yang over Yin is so strong in our culture and everyday lives, that I can see it in my own mind and in my own struggles.
In fact, this whole line of thinking has led me to an interesting conclusion: The most effective way that I, personally, can challenge our flawed patriarchal system and foster change is to challenge my own Yin Yang imbalance.
This is work that I have known I needed to do for years. I’m incredibly harsh with myself and mentally aggressive, but realizing that doing this work is actively addressing this issue may be the motivation I need to enact real change in my own psyche and in those around me.
There’s your synopsis. Unless you’re ready to TLDR out – read on for the deets!
Entitled Psychology and the Illusion of Control
Do we each deserve to be happy?
No, but neither do we deserve to be unhappy. This is the only succinct answer I have to such a loaded question. Skipping passed the snag that is defining ‘happy’, to assume we deserve anything is dangerous.
Life is not about what you deserve, what is owed to you, what is your due, what you’ve earned. As many readers have probably experienced, even if – in all fairness – you have earned something, there is no guarantee that you will get it. You did a favor, but no favor was returned. You followed the diet, but lost no weight. You worked hard and bought a house, the house burned down. You were kind to someone, and received only bitterness. Not fair, but real.
To assume that we deserve anything and that we should expect it to be given to us, is to assume that life is fair and governed by absolute rules that are never broken. Expectation is often unrealistic and breeds disappointment.
Fairness is a fairy tale about a world we can control – a land where each goal has a clear set of requirements that, once fulfilled, will consistently make you reach this goal. This fairy tale land is a video game. Shoot your bow 20 times, increase your archery skill 1 point. If you think shooting a real, live bow 20 times is automatically going to make everyone one point better… you didn’t have to take archery in high school.
I don’t like this reality any more than anyone else. I have fairness in my DNA. My mom told me that, even as a 6 year old, I demanded that games be fair, even if the imbalance was in my favor. I have constantly struggled with the fact that life isn’t fair and that no karma fairy is following me around making sure I get my due and everyone else gets theirs.
But the second we think things are fair, we think we are entitled to equal and opposite reactions. I give you 10 kind points, you give me 10 kind points.
Some men buy into this ‘fair’ system so much that they believe being ‘nice’, having the right job, or saying the right things will necessarily lead to sex. If they do the right things and don’t get sex? Apparently that means all women are horrid, hateful people who never hold up their end of the bargain and deserve to die. Obviously this is the extreme end of the spectrum, but the fact that some people literally believe this is… indicative of the fact that our culture is seriously imbalanced.
When entitled men feel that they deserve to kill whomever they want just because the life they wanted didn’t show up on a silver platter… what are we teaching these individuals as children?
If we could teach each other to live in a state of openness and gratitude in which we accepted the truth that we are never owed anything, we would be pleasantly surprised at how much we were given instead of disappointed by how much we are still owed.
I’m definitely still working on this mental shift…
Yin and Yang
Quick rundown on Yin and Yang for noobs:
“Everything contains Yin and Yang. They are two opposite yet complementary energies. What does this really mean? Although they are totally different—opposite—in their individual qualities and nature, they are interdependent. Yin and Yang cannot exist without the other; they are never separate. For example, night and day form a Yin-Yang pair. (Night is Yin and day is Yang.) Night looks and is very different than day, yet it is impossible to have one without the other. Both create a totality, a complete whole” -http://www.tcmworld.org/what-is-tcm/yin-yang-theory/
The Yang (the masculine, active, aggressive, hot, hard, creative, logical) is so strong in our culture that it is completely out of balance with the Yin (the feminine, passive, receptive, cool, soft, nurturing, feeling). Our culture prioritizes excessive hard work, aggressive and monetary success, independence, incessant progress, and marginalizes self care, simple and appreciative success, interdependence, sustainability.
We have become so out of balance that just staying home from work if you’re sick is seen as weak, and selfish instead of responsible and healthy. More masculine individuals especially (and I include myself in this category) might even be afraid to let on that they’re sick as simply being susceptible to an illness is “weak”.
With the dual imbalance of excess Yang AND deficient Yin, this aggressive capitalist version of Yang has become a caricature of itself.
The Yang should be about creation, but it has become destruction. The masculine overconfidence that fosters innovation has instead created entitlement. The Yang’s energy and expansion has turned into frenzy and greed. We live in the constant hot, hard daylight of Yang without the balance of the cool, soft and restful nighttime of Yin. We are burning ourselves out and never allowing ourselves to feel and heal.
We witness individuals struggling with entitlement dealing with their frustration in the most aggressive, active, hard, isolated ways. The Yang is not comfortable with submission, compassion, or with confronting one’s emotions. The Yang is comfortable acting, asserting… killing without a real motive apparently, if there is no receptive, empathetic Yin to balance.
Each individual carries a balance of Yin and Yang that may change moment to moment, so this isn’t to say most people in our culture are on that end of the spectrum. Neither is Yang evil. A wild, imbalanced Yang is destructive the same way a wild, imbalanced Yin would have it’s own problems. But I think it’s appropriate to use the Yin Yang example to describe some of the most unhealthy, destructive traits of our present culture.
Taking Down the Monster from Within
This is where I get about as spiritual as I ever get. This is the deepdown, vulnerable part where I say “Hey, this feels true to me and while I can’t back it up with a handy study, it resonates with me and hope it resonates with another.” But my truth is my truth and will never be exactly the same as someone else.
Within my own mind, my masculine, Yang voice is very strong. It tells me that my Yin is weakness. It tells me that I have no inherent value without creating something and that if I have an opportunity to be valuable in some constructive way or another and fail to do so, that it reflects on my self worth. It fails to understand that resting, feeling, and filling myself, make me more receptive to others, more creative, more healthy, more balanced.
That’s the status quo talking. That’s the hyper-aggressive, hot, hard, flawed, unchecked Yang. That’s the “you can buy happiness if you work hard enough to afford our products” marketing. That’s the fear-based information of a news industry built around profit. That’s the mentality of a capitalist culture more interested in the contents of your bank account than your heart.
If I can learn to quiet this inner aggression and tap into my Yin, I can balance my mind. I can practice self-care, rest, intuition, empathy, compassion, and forgiveness for myself and others. If I can achieve this balance in my own heart, I will enter all my interactions with the outside world from a more holistic place without so much aggression, fear, defensiveness and close-mindedness. I can change my presence and energy from dividing and judgmental to healing and inclusive.
This is where I was about to reference Ghandi’s “Be the Change…” quote. I Googled it for accuracy and discovered it’s a false attribution:
Gandhi’s words have been tweaked a little too in recent years. Perhaps you’ve noticed a bumper sticker that purports to quote him: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” When you first come across it, this does sound like something Gandhi would have said. But when you think about it a little, it starts to sound more like … a bumper sticker. Displayed brightly on the back of a Prius, it suggests that your responsibilities begin and end with your own behavior. It’s apolitical, and a little smug.
Sure enough, it turns out there is no reliable documentary evidence for the quotation. The closest verifiable remark we have from Gandhi is this: “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”
Here, Gandhi is telling us that personal and social transformation go hand in hand, but there is no suggestion in his words that personal transformation is enough. In fact, for Gandhi, the struggle to bring about a better world involved not only stringent self-denial and rigorous adherence to the philosophy of nonviolence; it also involved a steady awareness that one person, alone, can’t change anything, an awareness that unjust authority can be overturned only by great numbers of people working together with discipline and persistence.
This more accurate quote mirrors perfectly my belief that, while shifting my internal dialogue and energy is absolute integral for the health of my self and my community, my responsibilities do not end with myself. I 100% DO NOT mean that I have a responsibility to change someone else. That sounds close enough to missionary work to make my skin crawl. However, it means that I cannot simple change my inner balance and then seal my little balanced world off from the rest of existence. If my hope is to help those in my community feel more balanced, more healthy, more grateful and less disappointed, less victimized, less isolated, my personal balance must be part of the system. My heart could be a filter and accept the aggressive, Yang-based pressures, the entitled attitudes, the fearful and defensive actions, and meet them with the cool, soft, understanding Yin within me, returning compassion, healing, gratitude.
This is next level enlightenment and true Ghandi-like behavior. I do not expect to attain it in my lifetime (expectations are the root of entitlement, remember), but certainly it is worth trying for.
Our culture is imbalanced and divided, and I am trying to start the shift toward a Yin Yang balance in one of the most difficult places I can think of: my own mind.