I have suggested previously that what we are experiencing is a global collective ‘stop’ exercise that could be considered to be like a ‘reset button’ being pressed across the planet and across our diverse human societies.[i] It is a recognition that we are all in this global experience (experiment?) together. All the lids are off the various Pandoras boxes – all various forms of information are now out and circulating. So much is now ‘out there’ in the grand public domain. And so much of it, more than we realize, is not only coming from external events but from our own inner projections. It now seems that the outer spaces are becoming our collective psychological space. That which consumes us from within can also become that which consumes us from without. As I have stated in my recent book,[ii] humanity is vulnerable not only to biological viruses that do damage within the body but also from mental viruses that can create harm throughout the communicative cells of our cultures. It is equally important to consider the need to step back and examine those external memes and networked communications as it is important to examine the internal genes and cellular information.
What is happening right now across the world is all-consuming, is it not? There is no escaping this phase we have entered – we have to go through it. And that’s also the point I wish to make. We have entered an experience we need to go through – but not to get stuck in.
I’ve seen so many videos and read so many articles these past few weeks that I could compile a huge mosaic out of it all – yet is it possible to make sense out of it? It is like dealing with fractals – pieces of a complex pattern that repeat themselves. Nothing is clear-cut at the moment – yes, I know, when were they ever? When there is so much contrary information, so-called ‘facts,’ and then theories and more theories going around, the human mind is not able to find a cohesive picture. A possible result of this can be what is termed cognitive dissonance. One definition of this state is: ‘Cognitive dissonance refers to a situation involving conflicting attitudes, beliefs or behaviours. This produces a feeling of mental discomfort leading to an alteration in one of the attitudes, beliefs or behaviours to reduce the discomfort and restore balance.’[iii]
All this uncertainty and conflicting information and advice – ‘do’s & ‘don’ts’ – is, I sense, creating a state of mental discomfort. And the result of this is that the mind desperately wishes to reduce this discomfort and restore balance by seeking – or being provided with – a coherent picture, or closure. The danger here is that this ‘closure’ or ‘coherent picture’ may be provided by an external source, institution, or body (a structure of orthodox ‘authority’) and many people will jump onto it as a way of gaining closure, and thus comfort. When, in truth, we need to find this coherence and closure within ourselves, through our own resources.
As I have said on numerous occasions,[iv] the external ‘picture of reality’ is no longer a consensus one, and there are distortions and attempts to erode a clear perception. The psychologist Carl Jung proposed that the collective unconscious is also a realm that is responsible for mass psychosis. It is when people collectively begin to access this archetypal space and attune to an underlying resonance, or unnameable sensation, of disquiet and nervousness that there is possible an external manifestation of hysteria and/or psychosis. It may be that what we are seeing now is a mixture of news, information, misinformation, hype, hysteria, and an overall mix of narratives that is culminating in a collective cognitive dissonance. Perhaps what we need at this time is a step back and to take a rest – hit the pause button.
It is necessary now, perhaps more than ever, to be in a response mode rather than in a reactive mode. The most immediate reactions are, after all, usually those that come from conditioning – such as conditioned reflexes. We cannot control them as easily as we can trained muscles. There are so many triggers now in circulation, especially amongst social media, that we could become a global humanity reacting in a jittery, reactive ‘reflex’ mode rather than responding from the power of a trained muscle under the supervision of conscious awareness.
As suggested, we have entered together a period of global experience/experiment whereby we are being compelled to act from the place we find ourselves in. The question is, are we acting from a place of valour, balance, goodwill, nobility and nurture – or from a place of selfishness, security, shock and survival instincts? We have been delivered a task as a human family to solve. It is not a time to be going off into cliques and divisions like schoolyard tactics. We are no longer in our childish years. We are navigating our collective species towards an unprecedented future. If we are unable to find our coherence at this early stage, what sign is this for the grand future of humanity?
As a species, we are unified at essence. As diverse cultures, we are under the influence of many conflicting narratives, opinions, belief structures, and the rest. The more we move outward, the more we become immersed in these diverse, and often conflicting, narratives and perspectives. The more we move inward, we find our commonality and coherence through essence. It appears that there is already a separation occurring amongst people. There are those who are being pulled into the foray of external narratives, with all their uncertainties; and others who are retreating inward to find a place of unity – a space of rest. Currently, we have a choice of how far we wish to be from ourselves. And how we answer this question will determine how close or how far we are from others. It is we who choose this spacing for ourselves. This time may not be for rushing into something, or even away from something – but rather, for allowing things to reconfigure. And that includes us.
Part of the problem may be that everyone is rushing ahead of themselves in order to find a solution. This is the same whether it be a physical solution (such as social quarantine and/or a proposed vaccine); or it may be a personal solution such as seeking for a particular narrative that gives the comfort zone of a specific answer or reason for things. This rushing ahead, whilst not yet having found our footing, could be creating holes rather than making us whole. The time we now find ourselves in is tiring – it drains our energy. Everything we know is adjusting. Things around us are reconfiguring. And yet, on top of all this, we allow others to offer various solutions that may only further the current confusion. The solution may not come by controlling all answers. The result of all this could be causing more dissonance than balance.
The need to find an overarching reason for all that is going on – and thus to find a closed explanation – also causes disruption for all other events, narratives, and descriptions that fall outside of the overarching narrative we choose upon. Cognitive dissonance may not be eased by latching onto a ‘explanation/solution’ amongst others but rather exacerbated because of the rejection and resistance we give to other explanations and narratives. By accepting the ‘one solution’ we ultimately end up rejecting, and also resisting, all others. And if our friends and family fall within those that prefer the other narratives, then we may end up resisting them too. The state of personal dissonance and anxiety is not so much dependent upon what is ‘out there,’ but rather upon what each person holds within them. The further a person moves away from themselves, the further they move toward imbalance and disharmony. That is, if you are not right where you are now, then you are ‘somewhere else’ that is not a part of you. The real change occurs not when, who, or where, but moment to moment within each person. It is neither a destination nor an ideal. It is not about trying to be holy but more about trying to become whole. It is a question of resonance rather than dissonance. Resonance within and between ourselves – not dissonance within and between others.
Life is going to change for most people, in varying ways, in the weeks, months, and likely years ahead. If we start this journey now from a place of instability and dissonance, we are beginning this path with few provisions and a bad pair of walking shoes. How far will we get? As any decent walker, or pilgrim, will tell you – preparation is everything. Are we prepared? Personally? As a community? As a humanity?
There will be many more choice points coming down the road. Good to get into practice now, from the outset. Dissonance only takes a few people so far. Resonance, in balance and coherence, takes so many more people so much farther. If I were to make a choice right now, I would choose from a state of resonance within myself.