To heal, we need to reconnect with ourselves, to really understand our deepest needs, which include needs for empathy, connection, companionship, and compassion. To heal from our disconnect, we first need to relearn to be empathetic toward ourselves, to be patient and loving. Then we need to reach out to others compassionately to build companionship, to allow others into our lives, into our hearts. Not (just) a marital partner but everybody. We need to relearn how to be friends. This is true compassion. Through this work, we can heal ourselves from the disconnect of the modern world, disconnected from everything except the selfish pursuit of money.
Our modern world is driven by the idea of the pursuit of happiness. The enlightenment movement was, in part, a reaction to communal life that connected people but also stifled them into routine interactions with others that were ruled by tradition and custom. Enlightenment thought fought this idea by focusing on the individual. Each individual was viewed as equally worthy of happiness – the seeds for democracy, but also the seeds for individualism. These ideas lead to great strides in knowledge, including science, and a move away from religious dogma. But they also led to disconnection: Disconnection of the individual from others and disconnection from self. Individuals now had the right to decide how to live their lives and whom they want to associate with. The idea of marriage for love gained traction. Once economically feasible, all this combined to the emergence of the suburban nuclear family – the ultimate disconnected nucleus that supposedly would bring happiness but really brought isolation. Yet the message of individualism is so strong that we hardly dare to reach out to others – unless it is for the only socially sanctioned reason: to find a marital partner. Combined with the forces of capitalism’s voice – advertisement – we try to consume our way to happiness: More stuff will make us happy. Our consumption masks a longing, a longing for connection with ourselves and others. Our consumption has further alienated us from everything. We are unable to see the connections between our actions and the destruction around us. Admitting to our part in the destruction of the planet would be too painful because we cannot share this burden. So, instead of changing our behavior, we simply march on, pretending as if everything is okay. Maybe buying something new will help. Or a new marital partner.