Toxic Monogamy in Media

I truly wish that as a culture we would change the way that monogamy and cheating are portrayed in the media. I’ve written a lot about Polyamory on this blog. While I am currently in a monogamous relationship, I still think as human beings we are naturally polyamorous. There is a lot of social and biological evidence to support this theory, but I won’t get into that now. Today I just wanted to discuss the harmful effects of the way monogamy is represented in TV shows and movies.

The other day I was watching Doctor Foster on Netflix. It was a very good series, but I couldn’t seem to get past one huge problem in the plot. Ultimately the show revolved around a doctor whose husband had been cheating on her. It seems to be a reoccurring theme that if someone is cheating they are inherently a monster, a liar, and incapable of true love. Viewing things in such black and white terms is unhealthy for everyone involved, in my opinion.

Now I’m not saying that cheating on a partner that you’ve agreed to be monogamous with is okay, but demonizing someone for cheating doesn’t make the situation any better for anyone. All this does is make the person who has cheated think they are a hopelessly flawed person, selfish, heartless even, when in reality it may be that they are just unable to conform and live up to society’s unrealistic relationship standards. In the end, monogamy is going against our nature and some people, despite having the best intentions, simply aren’t able to do it. After all cheating would not be so insanely common if humans were truly monogamous biologically. But does this mean people who cheat are awful and unable to love? Of course not!

I understand that a lot of you out there may not be too eager to have sympathy for cheaters. Especially if you have been cheated on in the past. However, take a moment to consider the way this perception of cheating and monogamy also harm the person who gets cheated on. I doubt being cheated on would be so devastating and painful were it not framed in such a light. Just because your partner has cheated, it is assumed that they never cared about you at all. Your whole relationship must have been a lie. They must not have ever really loved you, otherwise they wouldn’t have cheated, right? Wrong. I can say from personal experience as someone who has made the mistake of cheating in the past, that I never for one moment stopped loving my partner. It wasn’t that he wasn’t good enough or that he couldn’t make me happy. The fact is I just fell in love with someone else at the same time. It didn’t have anything to do with the way I felt about my partner. There is no need for people that have been cheated on to doubt themselves, their love, or their worth as a partner.

The idea that we are only able to love one person at a time is ridiculous to me. There are all different types of love. We are able to experience many different forms of them at the same time. If we can love multiple children, multiple friends, multiple family members, why would we be incapable of loving multiple people romantically at the same time? Once again, this still isn’t a defense of cheating. It is completely unacceptable to break a partners trust in such a way. My problem is more with the culture surrounding romantic relationships in general. It is unnecessarily toxic and harmful, causing immense amounts of heartbreak for no reason.

I am hopeful though. A few years ago when I first heard the term polyamory, I had no idea what it was. Now it seems to be a widely understood concept. It is becoming more and more accepted among the younger generations. I am quite excited to see how this shift effects society as a whole. I believe a shift toward polyamory can only benefit humanity as well as individual mental health.

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Social Awareness about Mental Illness

As you grow older it is interesting to watch the world change around you. The social climate is so vastly different than it was when I was a little girl. It is refreshing to see that a lot of the things that used to be controversial or taboo are now commonplace and widely accepted in the majority of society. Even though I have always been a liberal and progressive person, even I have come a long way in my ideas and beliefs.

One of the areas where progress has been made in regards to visibility and social acceptance/understanding is in the field of psychology, particularly when it comes to mental illness. When I was an anxious, socially awkward, probably autistic little girl, there wasn’t much support out there for me or my family. No one seemed to understand what was wrong with me or my sister. My mother, who is also likely on the spectrum and who has been shy and anxious all her life, was forced to accept these issues with no explanation or even understanding from her peers or colleagues. She has lived the majority of her life simply believing she was strange and that was that.

Thankfully, as I’ve grown up, there has been a major shift in social awareness and understanding of mental illness. From a very early age, I came to understand that I had an anxiety disorder. Even though knowing that didn’t fix the problems I faced because of it, there is something very comforting in at least having an explanation. It has also been a great help knowing that other people around me understand anxiety disorders and what it means to have one. In the past, I’m sure you were just considered rude for not always making eye contact or smiling and greeting others on the street. I doubt it was given much more thought than that. This perception, I’m sure, caused a lot of people that were already struggling socially to be even further ostracized by their communities. Now I am easily able to explain my odd behaviors to others and, more often than not, receive compassion and understanding in return. Strange habits and behaviors can now be discussed openly, with far less fear of judgement.

As with most things though, there is a potential negative to this social progress. The other day, a thought occurred to me after explaining to a new friend why I am so inconsistent with my texts (sometimes I’ll reply right away, other times I’ll be MIA for hours or even days.) In some ways, knowing that other people will understand and be accepting of these social issues enables me to continue engaging in otherwise frowned upon behavior. I started to wonder if being enabled to continue these behaviors in this way actually serves to exacerbate the problem.

In the past, a lot of people like me just had to “suck it up” and make phone calls, keep appointments, and participate in other common social interactions. There was no excusing yourself from normal expectations by saying, “I’m sorry, I’m just too anxious.” And while I’m sure it was often unpleasant, it may have actually been therapeutic in some ways to be forced to face your anxiety regularly in these ways, instead of being able to so easily avoid any situation that makes you uncomfortable. With so much social and technological progress, isolating oneself has never been more simple. Perhaps this is partially why despite significantly improved living conditions in a lot of the world, rates of mental illness continue to rise.

I am very grateful that more and more people are becoming educated in regards to mental illness and psychology in general. I’m sure overall it is extremely positive. With more knowledge and less stigma, people will more easily be able to reach out for treatment and support. The more we learn about these disorders will also lead to more effective forms of treatment as well. Yet it is still important to consider the possible drawbacks of this crucial shift in global consciousness. I would be very interested to see what solutions we will come up with to address this issue and when we will somehow draw a line between acceptance/understanding and enabling.

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Humans Aren’t Bad, Our Systems Are Bad

The more I read of Daniel Quinn’s work, the more I start to embrace humanity’s potential. As I’ve stated in other posts, I’ve always felt a stronger kinship with other species than I have with my own. It is hard to feel as loving toward humans when we are constantly bombarded with news and real life examples of people at their worst. It makes us start to believe that humans must just be inherently flawed, selfish, ignorant, violent beings.

However, learning about the ways in which the societal systems we’ve built up throughout the centuries affect us is beginning to change the way I see my fellow humans. We are all the product of our environments. I do believe we have free will to a certain extent. But the choices we can make are limited by a lot of factors. A major one of those factors, I’ve come to realize, is our society itself.

Now I believe that if humans were still living within the same structure of community we once did, a more natural one, we would be just as innocent and lovable as other animals. I may even believe that other animals could become as disturbed as humanity is if placed in the same detrimental systems we’ve placed ourselves within.

I hope that this new perspective will help me be more gentle and loving towards other humans. Now that I can clearly see the bars of our collective prison, it’s harder to blame anyone for their poor choices or violent actions. In reality, crime, poverty, severe mental illness, famine, corruption, these things are not natural parts of humanity. They don’t reflect who we are as a species. They are merely the symptoms of a larger problem. Our systems. Our systems of government and the ways we have all been conditioned to live.

I have felt like a victim of these systems for so long. I’ve desperately wanted to escape into the forest and leave this life behind. Live close to the earth as I feel we were all meant to. Yet for some reason, I didn’t think that was a normal desire. I felt like an outlier. That most people were comfortable and happy with the way humanity has been heading. And maybe a lot are. But that doesn’t change the fact that my instincts turned out to be right. We aren’t made to live in this way. It brings out the worst in us. It makes us hurt one another. It causes mental illness, aberrant behaviors, endless suffering, subjugation, environmental devastation, mass extinction, war, hunger, disease, death, etc.

I can no longer find blame in any individual now that I see the true error of our society. One that no one person created or decided upon. One that was thrust upon all of us. One we feel powerless to change. One we wouldn’t really know how to fix if we wanted to at this point. We are all in this mess together. And it’s no one’s fault. I don’t have the answers to these problems. I don’t even really believe we have enough time to fix them before we’ve damaged the earth beyond the point at which it can support us.

What I can do is be kind while I’m here. I can stop seeing the worst in people. I can stop harshly thinking “they should know better,” “they should be better.” Instead I can acknowledge and focus on the good, that glimmer of animal innocence inside all of us. Instead I can think “thank you,” “you are doing your best with what you’ve been given.” Because in the end I do believe that’s true. We are all doing our best. The fact that hasn’t been good enough for me a lot of the time made me think humans were the problem. Now I finally see that is not the case.

From now on when I see another human, I’ll think about Pitbulls. They are not bad dogs. They are not mean dogs. They are simply a product of their experience and their environment. And just like with Pitbulls, even the ones trained to be dangerous, I will love them anyway.

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Resisting Stillness

Even though I have been practicing meditation every day for years now, there are still plenty of days when one of the most challenging things I do is those 15-30 minutes of stillness. My breath just won’t come naturally. My mind frantically tries to cling to racing thoughts. My anxiety will not be tamed. Today was one of those days.

When I have these difficult meditation days, I try to remember to take a step back and observe the mere fact that I’m struggling. I think, isn’t it interesting how much my mind is resisting this stillness? What is it so afraid of? Why does it try to prevent this deep peace it knows is waiting within?

We are so conditioned in our culture to see any time not spent working or producing something, planning something, is time wasted. We are being lazy, unproductive. Yet setting aside this quiet time to observe our breath, our minds, this existence, is quite possibly the most valuable thing we can do.

It is important to remind ourselves when we have these difficult days just how important our practice is. We need these few moments of stillness even more when sitting down and just breathing feels impossible. And even though your mind may continue racing through the whole meditation, you can’t stop fidgeting, or you can only bring yourself to sit for five minutes rather than thirty, thank yourself.

You have still given yourself a beautiful gift. Don’t dismay. Don’t allow these challenges to make you disregard all the progress you’ve made. An ebb and flow exists in all things, even your practice. Don’t let your “bad” days overshadow all the others. You’re doing just fine.

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Raised as One

I’ve read that Asian cultures generally practice collectivism. Focusing on the betterment of the whole rather than the goals and desires of the individual. This can be seen reflected even in anime. It’s easy to notice the difference between these shows and American programs. The characters are much more concerned with their family, friends, community, and humanity as a whole than themselves.

In the United States, this is almost diametrically opposed to the way we live. Americans seem to always put themselves first, maybe extending this to close family occasionally. We practice individualism and pride ourselves on our country’s focus towards individual freedoms. And while this does allow more personal independence, it feels rather isolating.

As a species, we evolved to live and work together, to support one another in order to survive. We were never meant to be on our own. I think this is one reason feeling isolated leads to so many mental health problems. Our deepest instincts are crying out that we are not safe, that something is wrong, that it is bad to be alone, dangerous even.

All of this got me thinking back to how ultimately we are all one. Irrevocably connected, pieces of a whole. Seeing what a difference different cultural beliefs can make in a society, I began to wonder. What if we took collectivism even farther? What if humans taught their children not only the value of looking out for their friends and neighbors, but that those very people were in fact a part of them, an extension of themselves? Imagine how different the world might be.

This is more of an interesting thought experiment than something I believe could or would actually be put into practice. However, I would love to see what kind of world that would create. If we were all raised from the very beginning to believe that we were not merely this physical body we inhabit, but actually just a branch of that massive tree of life, of existence. How different would society have developed? Would we still have wars? Would we have destroyed this planet that we are an extension of?

I don’t pretend to know what effect this type of culture would have on humanity. But it is certainly interesting to think about. I know I wish I had been raised that way. So that I could fully rest in the belief that I am merely a cresting wave in the ocean of existence. Maybe then I wouldn’t retain this fear of returning to the ocean.

What Bindis Really Represent

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Recently, the bindi, traditionally worn in the east in places such as South Africa and India, has become a fashion accessory to young women in the West. This has spurred somewhat of a controversy. I have seen various posts online criticizing “white” girls for wearing bindis. Some people seem to think that this is insulting and disrespectful of the cultural and religious aspects of this symbol.

However, the bindi is not inherently for women of eastern cultures. The bindi can represent various things. Before I began wearing one myself, I looked into the meaning behind it. I found that the bindi was created as a way to worship one’s intellect. It is placed on the forehead, directly over the sixth chakra, the seat of concealed wisdom. The wearer of the bindi wishes to retain energy and strengthen concentration. It is worn as a reminder, in the hopes that one’s thoughts, speech, actions, habits, and character may become pure.

I would never want anyone to be offended or feel disrespected because they see me wearing a bindi. I simply wear it to express to the world and to myself, my wish for peaceful thoughts and a strong intellect. Being an intelligent woman in this world is not generally celebrated. Woman are expected to be passive, pleasant, and quiet. Many girls I know are even embarrassed to be smart and dumb themselves down to attract the interest of men. I wanted to show the world that I will never be ashamed of my intelligence. Knowledge is power, and I am proud of my mind.

Keep learning, ladies. ❤