Granted there are dogs living in Chernobyl. And we admire Viktor Frankl’s message about dealing with unavoidable suffering, along with all the other messages out there about courage and personal choice in the face of adversity.
We also understand that our ‘inner world’ needs to be balanced and well managed for us to function adequately, if not also happily.
Still, to imagine that life is, by default, mainly about endurance; a test for how well and how long we can endure and maybe rise above toxic circumstances of every imaginable kind, is a rather gruesome proposition.
And worse, to basically have this message, packaged under the mantras of “all happiness comes from within” and “it’s all in your perception” being peddled by so-called spiritual teachers and enlightened self-help gurus becomes nothing short of abusive.
Nothing and nobody can do well in a toxic environment. It’s that simple.
Survive? Sure. Some can survive, for a time. A few will rise. But that doesn’t mean those who drown are weak and misguided. Plenty of family friends from previous generations perished in Stalin’s gulags and in Nazi concentration camps.
We are, of course, responsible for our own happiness and wellness inasmuch as we can control certain things. We have to do the inner work.
But it’s an insult to place all the responsibility and blame on any individual for all illness, hardship and suffering. Despite the fact that the toxic positivity out there has gone wild, everything wrong is not your fault, and certainly not only your fault.
The setup is absurd. Things go wrong, clearly you haven’t manifested enough or correctly. On the other hand, your haven’t worked through your karmic load and you are here to learn tough lessons, therefore you have to embrace suffering and challenge. But if you have suffering and challenge, clearly your perceptions are all skewed.
If you’re an animal lover like me, your social media feeds are full of emotional rescue stories of every every kind – from fish and birds to cats, dogs, horses and so on.
Granted that animals don’t have the same cognitive abilities that humans do (as far as we know), and certainly not the same range of options, the fact remains that negative and abusive environments cause a lot of harm to the healthiest of creatures.
To undo that harm, and for any creature to do well, the first thing anyone does is remove it from whatever horrible environment, and place it in a healthy, nurturing one. This, and the subsequent process of rehabilitation require a significant amount of time, effort and resources.
And here is the issue. Teaching people the quality of their life is entirely their responsibility and/or fault costs nothing. Creating an environment that isn’t oppressive or toxic is very costly. And encouraging people to have standards, and also do better towards each other, is a complicated invitation that doesn’t sell very well.
Ideally, we’ll need to face challenging, unprofitable and extensive global changes in work environments, education, healthcare, food production, politics, etc. in order to improve the contexts where people live, work and function on every level.
On an individual level, people need to stop with the default hyper-independence and selfishness. Yes, healthy boundaries are needed, but we’re in this together. Convenient doesn’t translate into healthy, and inconvenient doesn’t necessarily mean toxic.
Notwithstanding good habits and the work we all must do to heal ourselves from emotional and physical issues, our lives do not happen in a bubble. Context matters.
And since we can’t all buy or create our absolute perfect circumstances, minding some basics is both the practical and accessible path. As in, change what we can change, even if it means going way out of our comfort zone. Especially if it means going out of our comfort zone.
And also, always hold others (including institutions) accountable for their contributions. Don’t just nod and endure. Nothing can really improve onto health and happiness and justice if we go along with what is obviously detrimental to all, no matter how many spiritual exercises we perform or self-help books we buy.