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An Over-Awareness Of Self: The Unspoken Epidemic Of The Modern World

Updated: Feb 24, 2021

I was having a conversation with a good friend the other day, we send direct messages as if they were written letters – a long, train of thought style interaction once every few days or weeks. The format of direct message allows for reflection on both sides, which is its advantage (and sometimes disadvantage) over written letters, as one can look back and study each response over and over again, in context with what one was responding to; and in reflection I saw that both I, and my friend, and countless other people I had been in contact with, we all had one stark and shining thing in common. An over-awareness of self. (In this case, self being the experience of self within one’s self.) (haha, vernacular can be ridiculous.)

In conversations, even pre-plague times, we all spoke about our emotions, our thoughts, our reactions to certain situations with a beaming clarity. Blindingly aware of our inner workings, we’d analyse ourselves, converse about how we presented ourselves to others, how others' reactions affected us, how thoughts presented themselves in our heads, how we would change our behaviours or how we wouldn’t, and how all of that would affect our psyche moving forward. So upon this realisation, I formed the thought that as we develop and evolve as a race into this world of convenience and technological advances, we are becoming more and more aware of ourselves. Our sentience has been rebooted, past the initial realisation that we are man and we have the power of creation, and further, with the help of technology and media, to not only be aware of ourselves and our existence, we are aware of 8 billion other existences and how they relate to ours, along with an awareness of our environments, the things within said environment, and also how those things relate to us. We are given an awareness of such vast amounts of information, but the problem lies within this – We are not given any idea of what to do with it.

Take for example, the difference between the generation we are in and our parents’ generations, as it’s the easiest and most accessible comparison to make: As our parents were growing up, they were aware of themselves, their families, their schools, their towns and what they chose to read in newspapers. As time went on, maybe they saw what they watched on television, which was heavily censored and constructed for public viewing. They knew the people they knew, they lived in their towns, they got their jobs and carried on (generally speaking, I am aware there are exceptions to this case). They were aware of the happenings in the world, but it was optional, they could opt out of their global awareness by simply not buying a newspaper, or not watching TV. Compare this now with our generation, and the generations below us. We don’t have this opt-out capability of the information that is presented to us, it makes its way to us in one way or another, be it the constant numerification of people lost each day being announced on the radio, the constant headlines and breaking news of disasters across the world being exploited by the media, our phones dinging and telling us the latest stories of what’s going on in our area, our countries, with our friends, with people we admire – it’s a constant. We can opt out by not using a smartphone, or not watching TV, but then we’re being left behind. As someone who got rid of their smartphone for about a year and a half coming into my early twenties – I basically didn’t exist except to those in my immediacy, I was basically forgotten about because I wasn’t popping up on people’s timelines. If we opt out of the constant barraging of information, we opt out of society as a whole (or so it seems.). So we lie in this awareness, this global awareness, as well as the self awareness – “Who am I in relation to others? Am I worthy of their attention online? What side of me gets the most validation? Who do I present as?”.

Along with the overbearing amount of information through media, conversation is also much more open in regards to who we are as people, how we relate to ourselves or how we experience ourselves. I’ve noticed it in many circles, there is an undeniable prevalence of this awareness, I’ve had deeply enlightening conversations with people like me, clueless and in their early stages of adulthood – but with an overwhelming awareness of who they are and how they process the world around them. However, in an attempt to converse with someone outside my generation, I am usually met with contempt and a refusal to engage in such a “pointless” conversation as whether or not they think in spoken word, or images, or whether or not they hear themselves inside their heads. They're likely better off, and their refusal is probably due to a life long repression of this type of thought pattern, however my point stands - the gap between generational awareness, or willingness to indulge thereof, is very noticeable.

We are so aware of what is going on inside of us, we are aware of our emotions, our thoughts, our reactions to certain situations, and our image, probably moreso than our parents ever were (which applies regardless of what generation you belong to), because they had the distraction of their immediate reality. They could opt out of their self-awareness by opting in to the awareness of societal pressure – Get a job, Get a house, Have a family. There was a more specific guide to Life. This is not to discount the stresses and effects of this option, it is a wildly pressurised ideal to put on someone and I am sure that this came with its own turmoil, and their awareness of self would be affected by that pressure to be attractive, to be stable, to be profitable and to be fertile, but I digress. To make a point; they were one in 4 or 5 billion, and we are one in 8 billion and counting. Our societal expectation is Be Successful. Be Happy. There’s less pressure to copulate and reproduce as the world is struggling as it is, so the focus becomes less on making more of us, and more on making the most of ourselves. We are given this utmost awareness of our inner workings, the workings of the world around us, but we are given no framework to work within. Success to one is different to another, our prospects are so vague and vast that in a world with endless possibilities we are crippled by them. It becomes easy for awareness to become less useful. It can be fantastic to be self-aware when within an emotionally open, spiritual, or otherwise welcoming circle and one can express these things and what they’re going through – but now that we’re locked down, we’re held away from each other. It’s near impossible to have an existential debate/rapport with somebody over text. Video calls are useful but hold no comfort to those in need of true connection.

We have no outlet, and those we ask questions to have no space within to discuss anything beyond what they already know. That internalisation of our awareness with lack of output can become rampant, our thoughts run wild when trapped in a cage. We are consistently analysing ourselves, a seed of doubt can grow into a vast network of self-criticism when we don’t have access to our communities that allow us to express and work through these prosecutions of self. Now more than ever we are screaming out for guidance, spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and yet, the void is silent.

I suppose my point is this – As a society, we are gaining awareness in all faucets; globally, socially, internally – however we are not providing the supports to cultivate the benefits of this awareness. Instead, we are living in a world that brushes its awareness under the rug, to continue on ‘as normal’. The younger generations are screaming out for guidance. The boosting of awareness of mental health is the beginning, but we need more support than diagnoses when in fact the problem may lie within society itself, and not the chemistry of the brain (though of course, in some cases, it is very much the chemistry, that is then further mutated by society, but that’s a conversation for another time). The dialogue must be opened in regards to spirituality, philosophy, and our awareness of self. We can no longer regard these faucets of being as 'wishy-washy' or as illegitimate dialogues due to their lack of scientific language. We must give future generations a better framework than what we have. In a world of vast consciousness, we need connection, we need support, we can no longer brush questions under the rug. We need to utilise the media we have, not to berate ourselves with information, but to communicate and cultivate thought, to support those who need it and to provide the community we need, not one of expectation and regulation, but one of free expression and relation to others.

Our awareness is a beautiful result of our evolution, and if we provide the supports we need for future generations, we can cultivate not only broader thought, but broader idealisations for the future, broader horizons for development. Unfortunately I have no answers for how to develop these supports and how to make them available to wider society, but I know one thing; It all begins within, with self. If we allow for the cultivation of a healthy awareness of self, we can allow for the cultivation of vast advancement in our self, and therefore within our societies – we are, after all, a collective of selves all trying to figure out what’s going on. Let’s give ourselves the best chance of figuring that out.

I've included some supports below that I found useful that are available if you’re struggling with your path;

Mental Health Supports:

Pieta House (Free Emergency Therapy Services)- 1800 247 247

Aware (Free Support Service for Depression/Bipolar Disorder) – 1800 80 48 48

Samaritans (Free Support For General Mental Health) – 01 116 213 (Paid Online Therapy/Counselling) -

Men's Support Circles: Darragh Stewart PhD contact; or follow @darstewy on Instagram to see when circles and other events are being held

Music Therapy (Munster) : Music Therapy, an effective and holistic approach to mental health treatments

Spiritual Supports:

A List Of Spiritual Groups/Meetups; (of course, only attend meeting that are in line with Covid 19 regulations)

Catholic Supports;

Speak to your local priest, it seems silly but that’s what they’re there for – guidance!

Islamic Supports;Muslim Sisters Of Éire (Support for Muslim Women In Ireland)

Islam Ireland Community Department (Community Supports for Muslims In Ireland)

Hindu Supports; a link to The Vedic Hindu Temple and how to contact them

Buddhist Supports; a link to the Buddhist Centre in Dublin, can be contacted from anywhere in Ireland

Shamanic Guidance (Shamanic Healing & Counselling): or Speak to Aldo Jordan, an Irish shaman who provides one on one healing sessions and spiritual guidance – 086 3750 250

Philosophical Books I Found Helpful;

The Book On The Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are – Alan Watts : Free Downloadable PDF

Meditations – Marcus Aurelius (a hard read, but a good’un) :

Notes From The Underground – Fyodor Dostoyevsky : A novel that explores the darker side of self and the futile nature of it’s manifestation within society (another hard read, but worth it)

Some Youtube Channels/Videos:

Philosophy summed up into short accessible videos :

A video on meditation by Yongey Rinpoche that changed my life:

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