The first time I came across a deer carcass strewn across the side of the road, I was two years old and in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I remember every last detail down to the sickly sweet smell of death. I remember vividly the sinking, constricted, powerless feel of tragedy as the feeling signature of that sight impacted my body. I remember the feeling of horror. My father’s response in a sad sounding tone of voice was “don’t cross the road deer”. I was shocked into a kind of buzzing numbness at the response and at the sight of people driving by as if nothing was out of place. I was shocked into the realization that I was “supposed to” feel like this was all in perfect order. This was “supposed to" feel normal and I was perhaps even "supposed to" understand that this was a fair consequence for having crossed the road. My mother, being a highly empathic person who also could not cope with the insensible cruelty did what all caring mothers do and attempted to explain the scene to me in a way that would make me feel better. She tried to help me make it ok so that I did not feel so bad about it. She explained that the deer’s spirit was not there anymore and that the deer’s body will feed other things so that the energy is recycled. This event at two years old became an imprint within me.
People really don’t know any better than what they do. They follow in the footsteps of what did not work for their parents, because no one knows what else to do. And then there is the “hundredth monkey”; the one that changes the game for everyone, the one that spreads a new idea. For thousands of years, we have had a reaction to things that cause a negative feeling in us… We have tried to desensitize ourselves to it and we have done anything we could to feel better about it. We have tried to lessen the impact of those feelings by getting ourselves to feel differently about it. We have made a practice of escaping our feelings. As a result, we infuse our children with the idea that “feeling negative emotion is not ok”. We call it feeling bad. We believe as a society that feeling anything other than positive emotion is not ok. It is very dangerous to propagate this idea. Often, when parents try to help children feel better about things without allowing them to feel the full impact of it (as if that feeling is correct and valid), an internal cascade occurs. And the cascade is this: “If this is supposed to feel ok and if this is normal, when what I actually feel is that this is so not ok, that means there must be something seriously wrong with me and I am not equipped for the brutality of this world.” It is understandable that parents do this when their children feel badly because they cannot stand to feel the way that they feel when they see their children upset. We invalidate and desensitize our children when we try to make them feel better instead of helping them to feel like it is valid and ok to feel exactly how they feel. We do an immense disservice when we teach them by doing this to resist their own negative emotions. Anything you resist persists, and so we trap our children in their negative emotions when we try to help them avoid negative emotion by showing them how to run in the direction of positive emotion. We need to validate (mirror) and allow them to befriend the way they feel entirely before any action is taken to improve a situation or the way they feel.
We live in a desensitized world. We have created a society full of people that are so out of touch with the way they feel that they are capable of killing each other. To survive in today’s world and really feel everything, takes immense bravery. If we really let ourselves feel, this entire world would be different. It could not stay the way it is. To survive in today’s world the way it is, one practically needs to “shut down” their feelings. And so we do. We numb our feelings out with prescription drugs. We try to change our feelings with endless self-help techniques. We try not to feel our feelings by indulging in our porn addictions and liposuction surgeries and televisions. We are trying to not feel life.
No one really feels equipped to live in this world. This is the secret we are all keeping from each other. We are under the impression that we have to desensitize ourselves to live in this world. We have to make ourselves feel like things are ok that don’t actually feel ok. We are anything but authentic. We are afraid to feel. We are afraid of what will happen when we let ourselves feel exactly how we feel with no conditions. What we find when we allow ourselves to feel how we feel is that our feelings are valid. What we find is that nothing is wrong with us. A deer carcass on the side of the road is tragic and it is completely appropriate to feel horrified. Just because something is commonplace, does not make it “fine”.
I have been watching the Uinta ground squirrels outside my window. I have been watching them dig mounds of dirt up in my yard. In the west, they are considered crop and lawn pests. They are poisoned and shot with shotguns and ripped apart by farm dogs. We have been raised with the idea that this is normal and therefore should feel ok. But it does not. I am watching them graze and dig and roll in the dirt and enjoy the morning sunlight and affectionately rub up against one another. These are sentient beings. Their birthright is to be allowed to carve out their lives here on earth in accordance with their value to the universe. Humans need to learn that humans are not the only species with value.
We have made the look of manicured lawns more important than the entire lives of other sentient beings. I find it painful to see the hypocrisy in people. We lock the sociopath away for the rest of his life in a state of punishment for not feeling any connection with or empathy for his fellow human beings. When this is how the natural world and many extraterrestrial species see us. We breed animals and imprison them in pens specifically to kill and eat them. We decide what plants are worthy of life and which one’s aren’t. We call them weeds and we rip them up by the root. We see a spider and we step on it. We see a bee and we swat it to death with our fly swatters. Never mind the fact that the bee is responsible for the food on our dinner plate. We use animals of all shapes and sizes to test our cosmetics and pharmaceuticals on before we wear and take them. We drain the blood of the earth to power our cars. We are entertained by films and video games in which we steal from and injure and kill each other. And to live in today’s current society, there seems to be no way to escape participating in this sociopathic escapade. And these students who shoot their fellow students in their schools are not freak anomalies. They are symptoms of society’s greater illness; they are created by us all. They are byproducts of suppression and desensitization.
Our world will not change and people will not begin thriving until we are wiling to re-sensitize ourselves. We must start with ourselves. We need to be willing to feel life and make adjustments to society as a result of really feeling it. It is painful to feel this world in its current state. But it is more painful to spend your life running from feeling the state of the world. You will find that suffering is not the result of feeling pain; it is the result of resisting feeling pain. The world will remain as brutal as our level of desensitization to its brutality.