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Monday, 17 July 2017 13:41

American politics has disconnected us from our essential selves

I have spent years teasing apart in my mind how humans can find true and sustained happiness in their lives. And, how does this happiness affect the whole community? This concern takes on new relevance as Americans engage in an intense political debate.

What I ultimately found was that there is a core part in all of us that I call the “essential self” that we typically turn away from in childhood, and have long forgotten by the time we are young adults. Some of the qualities of our essential self are peace, happiness, a sense of connectedness, a sense of freedom, and love. 

Why do we turn away from this most authentic part of ourselves? In a nutshell, some of our ancient and extremely powerful survival brain areas powerfully co-opt our attention to matters it deems more important, e.g., seeking our own and other people’s approval, of finding success in various aspects of our lives. 

But, because these ancient-brain survival demands are not a part of our most essential self, it’s usually just a matter of time before we long for something else that we hope will bring back to us these essential self qualities.

We yearn for ways to reclaim the essential self and avoid suffering caused by living a life that conflicts with their essential self.

Now, here is the part I find most interesting. At first glance, reclaiming our essential self seems to be an individual process. But what people typically find on this path is that there is a rich and deep connection that exists among people, whether we know them or not. As New Age-y, or as “out there” as this might seem, brain research has demonstrated this very real connection among all of us.

For most of us, this connectedness eludes us until we quiet down the activity of certain “survival” brain areas. But knowledge of this very real connectedness among all of us forces us to reconsider how we deal with each other. The “Golden Rule” takes on new meaning: If we are truly connected with each other, then if I harm you, I also harm myself. If I am kind to you, I am being kind to myself.

Does this offer our nation any value right now? 

If we just scratch the surface of the amazing politics going on right now and look deeper than what meets the eye, here is what we find:

  • The inherent priority of recognizing, honoring and valuing the essential self in ourselves/others is almost absent.
  • The essential self is who we are at our most “bare bones” state; it transcends opinions, personal preferences, power and control, etc.

When we fail to recognize our true nature and interconnectedness, we are bound to create serious strife and suffering.

Dr. Shelley Uram is the author of “Essential Living: A Guide to Having Happiness and Peace by Reclaiming Your Essential Self” (HCI, 2017).

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