The Answer Is Re-Connection
Being heart-centered in a mind-driven world means one thing: You better change, and if you don’t, there’s something wrong with you. If you choose to go against the established narrative that defines our world, if you dare to believe anything else, you're either a fool or a charlatan.
I don’t want to live in a world like that – literally.
That is what really got me into psychology and sociology - a deeply buried thought that I was barely aware of – one that I worked incredibly hard to make up for and that I’d never dare say out loud:
I don’t want to be here.
There was always a part of me that didn’t buy the mental illness narrative – I never identified as a person who has ‘major depressive disorder’ or an ‘anxiety disorder,’ though the symptoms were certainly there. Perhaps I can thank my parents for raising me with a bit of tough love lol (There’s nothing wrong with you, you’re fine!)
Similarly, even when I finally became aware of that terrifying, unfixable thought, the one that would render all of the tasks of the day useless, I never considered myself ill or suicidal – that would’ve been a profound misunderstanding.
Deep down, I did want to be alive – I just wanted to be alive ‘Somewhere Else.’
I used to chase this elusive Somewhere Else, naively thinking it was a place, like Disneyland that I just had to find on a map. But after all my searching proved futile, I realized it was a state of being I was looking for – a wholeness that only comes from a different level of consciousness – a life lived in connection with oneself, other people, and earth itself.
Somewhere Else wasn’t a location I could drive to (It’s definitely not in North Carolina, New Jersey, Delaware, Illinois, or New York.. all of which I drove to). It was more like a radio station I simply wasn’t tuned to. But I knew it was possible because of brief, accidental run-ins with this state of connectedness. When it would arise, all ruminations ceased, all pain was relieved, time stopped, flow was achieved, and being myself was automatic. In those moments, anxiety and depression were laughable concepts that existed in some other fake world.
In the self-development world, people often try to reach Somewhere Else through meditation, inner work, detachment, positivity, re-framing negative beliefs, etc.
But as I engaged with all of these things, some deeper, scarier truth was creeping its way to the surface.
These things weren’t going to deliver me to Somewhere Else any more than a hammer could cut wood. They were the wrong tools for the problem that plagued me most deeply: the problem of disconnection.
You might say, uhhh ok then you’re telling me self-development doesn’t work? Isn’t that like.. your whole thing here?
Yes, it was for a while. I've noticed that people who don't take responsibility for their shadow can't make use of any 'higher level' information. Facing oneself is a pre-requisite to making use of the conversation below.
But it has become harder and harder to pretend that perfecting oneself and becoming stronger, smarter, and ‘better’ is the answer to humanity's pain. It’s not. It’s merely an initiation into the next phase where we must be certain enough of what is true, certain enough of who we are, to go directly for the real solution: reconnection.
The problem is, the systems in place often block organic connection and replace it with a watered-down substitute. Most people smile and wave and gaslight anyone who dares to criticize the Almighty Way Things Are. This is how disconnection took hold in the first place.
When I looked at the people in my life and their seemingly frivolous decisions, I suddenly realized they too were seeking reconnection, just in a different way. Every silly action excusable, every addiction explainable when we see its underlying purpose.
Most people have not arrived at the realization that reconnection is the answer, and they have good reason. If you would’ve told me just a few years ago that what I was missing in life was “connection,” I would have scoffed. Yea right, what I need is solitude. I need to get away from all these stupid people. I need to become so self-sufficient that I never need anyone ever again – escape the matrix bro!”
The Lie We Live in
"The myth of the separate self underlies our entire civilization, says author Charles Eisenstein. This dualistic view of the world pits people against each other and turns nature into something to control. But we can choose another story — one of interdependence and connection. By doing so we become able to solve 'impossible' problems, from political polarization to global warming." - Jeff Krasno
Getting people out of the myth of the separate self is simple enough: Let them try it for a while.
We see this in its extreme form with some doomsday preppers – buying up all the guns, stockpiling food, building high-security fences, and ranting about the idiots who are still a part of society. But when the dust settles, they’ll find themselves… alone. Lacking the most fundamental form of somatic safety: connection.
Hyper-safe spaces have a funny way of becoming dangerous. An obsession with freedom has a funny way of becoming a prison cell.
I was steeped in the myth of the separate self until fairly recently, when I couldn’t help but notice it ruining my health, depleting my motivation, and sending me right back into addictive behaviors I had once conquered.
To stay committed to isolation is a death sentence – even research shows that loneliness is more harmful than smoking and drinking. The 'me vs you' battle of the sexes, the races, the political groups, the corporations, and the intellectuals who bicker amongst themselves has become too much to stomach. We must put down our pretentious weapons and radically recommit to connection.
But let’s face it, going over to your crazy neighbor’s house to hang out doesn’t exactly sound like a good time. Visiting your judgy relatives is only likely to send you into an angry spiral, not deliver you to that sacred state of Somewhere Else. No wonder people are more and more committed to disconnection. Most are merely seeking relief.
So What Can We Do?
This is something each individual must answer for themselves, but here is the framework as I see it:
1. Establish personal safety. First, we do need to take a page out of the doomsday prepper’s book. It’s hard to do anything when you feel insecure in your relationships, finances, or how you relate to yourself. Work toward stability first.
To do this, think about your deepest pain. How would it be resolved permanently? If you’re not sure, think back to a time when that pain didn’t exist – Why was it absent? Now think of some things you might do presently to re-establish those prior conditions in a more sustainable way. What are the obstacles and how would you get rid of them?
This phase isn’t necessarily fun – You may have to put your head down and do some dirty work if no magical shortcuts reveal themselves. See if you can work directly toward personal safety until it is mostly achieved.
2. Admit the truth. Ok, so your relationship to yourself has improved, you’re no longer flailing around in toxic relationships, and ideally, you’ve even made money a non-issue (eg. getting roommates, saving up to buy yourself time, downsizing, or doing work that pays well and you don’t mind doing it). Now that you’re safe, you can admit to what you actually want without any ‘have-to’ strings attached. Your self worth is no longer tethered to how well you fulfill the status quo.
I recently came to the unsavory realization that I don’t want to hustle or prioritize profit through Exist Better, I don’t want to waste all my time and money pursuing a counseling license, and I don’t want to work a soul-sucking job. I've done it all and I've watched others do the conformity dance: I know where it leads, even with the best intentions.
Once I finally had the balls to admit all of these truths at once, I thought: Wow, that's counter-cultural, even for me. I want to drop out of the economic system, give my work away as a gift, and go live in the woods. That dark thought that once seemed dangerous was actually leading me to an unfamiliar personal truth. I want to exit this system, not exit life.
Upon closer inspection, these desires weren't a problem. They actually simplified things. I knew what steps I had to take if any of them were to become possible. It was radical honesty that got me unstuck.
"I was living the American dream and I realized it wasn't my dream." - Joshua Fields Millburn
We often spend so much time and effort contorting ourselves into society's version of success that by the time we get there (if ever), we realize we've been duped.
Long story short: Admit what you want unapologetically, no matter how implausible it seems. Once this is done, we progress to the final stage.
3. Re-connect. Ah yes, better late than never. Once all the dust is cleared, we can actually prioritize our quality of life. We re-learn how to be human like a POW who has just been freed (I laughed out loud at how dramatic that comparison is, but its true).
This is done through the process of reconnection – Reconnection with our favorite activities, our curiosity, our flow state, our intrinsic motivation. Reconnection with other people who actually jive with us – people we can trust. Reconnection with our bodies, our circadian rhythm, the outdoors, and earth’s natural cycles. Reconnection to meaningful labor and personal purpose.
One warning: Don’t try to skip to this phase if you haven’t laid the groundwork. When I was still in the illusion of the separate self, I thought I could jump right to bliss as a solo endeavor, simply by escaping mainstream obligations. But I found myself feeling how the doomsday prepper probably feels once he’s finally gathered his last bit of stuff – painfully alone.
The re-connection phase feels like thawing out in the sun after being frozen all winter. There are many wounds to heal, but it happens effortlessly. It feels like coming clean and getting clean all at once. It’s a deep contentment that needs no substitute. The need to “figure it out” and live from the mind goes extinct.
If you’ve sought the answer to a seemingly unsolvable riddle, or you’ve searched for Somewhere Else your whole life, you might stumble upon reconnection and finally realize you’re home.
Don't give up.