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Lenses and the Cultural influences on Anxiety.

We all experience Anxiety idiosyncratically. It’s personal.

Although we share common thoughts, feelings, symptoms and behaviours, the personal manifestation of the anxious experience is born out of our many cultural biases – those ‘lenses’ through which we have viewed and continue to view Life, The Universe and Everything. 

Thinking of our life journeys as little seeds planted in the soil then seeking nourishment and light to grow and bloom, let’s explore the greenhouse effect of intense lens wearing. 

So many lenses are granted at birth as either predispositions of our DNA and the womb environment in which we form. We then consider the circumstances that we are born in to.  Then we look at those influences over time that we grow .

Granted by Nature at Birth
For example, at birth we generally find ourselves granted a set of lenses according to the following: gender (an iffy subject in itself), ethnicity, our genetically determined traits and quirks. We may be born differently abled or transgender, neurologically diverse or so many other interesting things but it’s very likely that such diversity goes unrecognised… until we start to struggle in a world designed for typicality and/or perhaps we dare to stand out as a spokesperson for change in a “normal” society.

Granted by Circumstance at Birth
Then we consider what we are born in to and the lenses we are immediately given: the era of birth, geography, social status and wealth of your family and community, popular trends at the time. These are great examples of factors that determine wildly varying social norms (can you imagine how different life would be if you were born in the 1700s?).

Acquired on our Journeys
Thirdly, there are those biases acquired as we grow and learn how to interact with (and how to react to) the world: health, education, social circles, romance, careers, politics, chance events, finances and media course the many multi-faceted layers of parental influence and their inherited experiential legacies. 

Whatever earworm was playing at No 1 in the charts may have a lot to answer for, but more seriously, trends on public health, politics, education, domestic cleaning, diets, fashion, medical and psychological theories are all HUGE influences – even where you might never have directly interact with them because they are the cultural weather outside. They are the basic ‘stock’ that all your nourishment is cooked in.

Lenses may in some cases enhance our viewing like a telescope, a microscope, a pair of spectacles for our myopia, a magnifying glass to go with our deerstalkers when there is a mystery afoot or of course, who doesn’t  enjoy a lovely monacle for inspecting vintage Sherry bottles in the 1920s, what what. But these are lenses we purposefully acquire because of an identified need. Where lenses generate difficulty is in the very obvious challenge of sharing perspective or outlook with others. Furthermore that we don’t tend to notice that we are even wearing them.

Consider: How easy is it for two people from the same neighbourhood see eye to eye, compared with two people with very different sets of lenses see eye to eye? What about a mixed group of 20 children in a classroom? How about 50,000 people in a city? How about the population of the world?

On a personal level, the inability to see anything clearly leads to two main problems:

1 – lack pf personal clarity about what we see and believe.

2 – assumptions about what others see and believe.

This two-factor combination often leads to discord, argument, suspicion, mistrust, prejudice. Between individuals, communities, countries and cultures.

Closer to home and the heart, romance and relationships are also subject to this issue. Often in a topsy turvy way. Have you ever lusted after some absolute god or goddess of a human being only to be heartbroken when they were not as kind or as smart or as loving as you expected? We are often attracted to our biased ideals of others – not the reality. Expectations are the root cause of disappointment and it’s not just ‘beer goggles’ at play, it’s a heady cocktail of desire, need, fantasy and self-esteem goggles.

Where couples row, there is often a similar ‘lens bias’ issue. Sometimes one partner cannot see where a certain ‘line’ is over a sensitive topic (you ever had that other-half who just didn’t know when to stop making jokes and you just can’t see what’s so damn funny?). Sometimes it’s a gender-role clash of expectations of duty and no-one can see that boundaries need to be established – or worse, one party refuses to see them or smashes right through them.

Personal boundaries and fantasy viewing are also absolutely key in other relationship dynamics – including friendships, relationships with parents or siblings, colleagues and your boss. This why so many of us animal companions! Animal companions don’t bother with any of that lens stuff, they don’t judge. And that’s what this is all about – JUDGEMENT. Despite their frequent facial expressions of minor incredulity cat’s don’t actually criticise, budgies don’t judge us despite their cages and dogs don’t damn anyone (except maybe the postman).

So what do we all do about these chuffin lenses?

Well the IFFY approach is to say “hey, I see you (but I don’t). You see me too (but you actually don’t)”.

Where those tell-tale emotions start to occur (yep, those anxiety feelings of racing heart, sick stomach, anger, tension and so on) you can be alerted to that inner guru telling you to stop and think. Drop the vision you are holding because it’s total BS.

Instead, to achieve a practical moment of peaceful communication over pointless contest, we need to simply accept the biases of others as OK and also your own biases as OK but something you can at least to some degree, DROP. This is not a point of weakness or submission to the view of another, it’s a position of power and clarity because you are no longer being controlled by ego or motivated by the bloody fight or flight response. You are dropping lenses that narrow and obscure thus creating a greater perceptual field for you to stand string in. You are also creating and holding space for the other person to grow too.

Instead of battle lines, it results in the opportunity for negotiation of common ground.

Humanity holds so many lenses of judgement that it’s amazing we haven’t caught fire. On the other hand, if we were to lose the judginess and become aware of their influence – that is – what it looks like to have and not have them, to hold BOTH versions in our understanding, then instead of fire we could create eternal rainbows in an infinity of prisms.