Societal reinforcement of Anxiety
Thoughts produce images that cause the body to respond with an emotion. Consider how imagery is used around us to induce anxiety, which influences our behavior. These are just a few examples.
The marketing world has a major impact on our anxiety. The goal is to produce images of what we should own, look like, or experience to be happy and fulfilled. The more subtle or not-so-subtle message is that we are less than adequate humans if we don’t possess these things. In other words, if we feel badly enough about ourselves, we will take action in the form of purchasing goods or experiences to decrease our anxiety. The imagery in this day and age we are continuously exposed to are intense. It is not possible to escape without becoming a recluse.
Just consider the body image problem. Eating disorders are an epidemic. In 2009, one in five females had an eating disorder. It is also becoming a male issue. Males, though, have historically taken a little different tact in the form of aggressive bodybuilding. I remember in seventh grade being ecstatic at my parents buying me a set of weights so I could deal with my scarecrow frame. Didn’t work.
Obesity is at an epidemic proportion. There are many causes. I think that one root cause is a negative cycle of anxiety of not having the body you want. There is an additional level of frustration that sets in of not being easily being able to attain it. The emotional energy you might use to go and exercise, organize your diet, etc. gets burned up in the cycle of anxiety and anger.
The imagery being presented to us in the media is unattainable by most of us. Now with digital photography, even the models themselves cannot attain what is being presented to the masses.
Based on the anxiety created by not feeling good about your body, think of the industries created by your purchasing goods to solve the problem–diets, makeup, clothes, plastic surgery. The list is endless. The problem is the anxiety produced about what you don’t have. If the anxiety could be more successfully tolerated, the need for these products and services would rapidly diminish.
The resultant problem is two-fold. The imagery becomes more intense over time, and the energy consumed by dealing with your progressive anxiety would be much better spent actually living and enjoying your life.
During the first ten to twelve years of your life, your immediate environment is uploaded into your brain. You don’t have that much ability to edit and interpret it. You then spend the rest of your life using that database to create a life that is fulfilling and productive. Even the most perfect family situation contains data that is flawed. It is often suggested that there is a genetic basis for many mental health problems. That may be true, but the early programming of the brain is a significant factor.
I am not going to spend a lot of time on this one. Historically, rulers have controlled the population by fear. It is an extraordinary frustrating topic for me to even consider. The bully we all feared and hated in high school often controls the world. Released from the constraints of school and childhood, rulers often come to power using the same techniques used in the middle and high school playground. How often in the history of the world has the most competent person become the ruler? Is there any training required to become a dictator other that the ruthless use of power. Somehow the human race does not seem to have the ability to change that paradigm.
A big difference between the schoolyard days and adulthood is that the adults in charge use visually brutal tactics to subjugate the population. It really hit me the other day when I was reading about a statesman in the fifteen hundreds who accompanied his ruler to observe the systematic torture of a population who had attempted an uprising. How do gangs keep their “soldiers” in line? What happens to anyone who resists? The consequences are severe and visually and emotionally extremely disturbing. There were five million women who underwent trial by torture to determine if they were witches by the Catholic church over hundreds of years. Why were heretics so brutally tortured? The list is endless and is still ongoing. In this day and age, we are even more connected to atrocities. Much if not most of the world’s population is controlled by fear.
Other ways anxiety is reinforced is by world events, such as the Great Depression, World Wars, 911, etc. The impact of these events can last a lifetime. My parent’s behavior was permanently impacted by their experience being raised in the Depression era.
Most of the world’s religions are based on the fear of death, which is our ultimate fear. Vivid imagery and repetition are tools used by almost all organized religions to quell this basic anxiety.
Our parents do imprint upon us positive loving patterns. Unfortunately, as life progresses, there is more reinforcement of the negative patterns. Life generally does not get easier as we move through it.