Family, Friends and Faith

Many environmental factors can throw our body systems out of balance. Most of us can name several physical factors without giving it much thought – stress-loads, substandard nutrition, toxins, etc.

However, our social environment and soul connections are equally if not even more powerful determining factors of our health and wellness. In psychological terms this means that it’s important to have:

  • Faith and a reason to believe
  • A purpose in life
  • Support of family/friends
  • A sense of belonging – to embrace our lineage

This gives us a strong self-identity and sense of worth. We’re more inclined to feel healthy and “in our power.” A number of scientific studies have shown for example that people recover more quickly from hospital operations when they have faith as well as family and friends who care for them.

As humans, we’re hard-wired as social beings. Yes, even those of us who sometimes want to run away to a South Pacific island.

Have you seen the movie, Into The Wild? It’s based on the true-life adventures of Christopher McCandless who did actually ‘run away’ to the wilds of Alaska in the early ‘90s. Fully disillusioned by modern societal norms and expectations, he had this vision of stripping away every layer of self-identity that had become associated with the young man known as Chris.

He began by eliminating his given name and went from there; hitchhiking across the country and keeping a journal of his travels and insights. Eventually he arrived in Alaska for a self-imposed period of isolation where he intended to finally distill his essence down to the core ‘I Am’ of his beingness.

If you haven’t yet seen the movie, I won’t spoil it for you here. However, there is an important distinction between 'being' alone and 'feeling' alone. Into The Wild illustrates this beautifully. When we feel alone in the world our self-esteem drops and depression can set in. Our health suffers and some can even lose the will to live.

The psychiatrist, Viktor Frankl, wrote of this in this book, Man’s Search For Meaning. For Frankl, the isolation and the lack of purpose and connection in modern life were the chief causes of mental, emotional, and in many cases, physical problems in the clients he saw. Hope - something to believe in – and connection with others were the means of healing, more important even than the psychotherapy itself.

[And] Houngan Max Beauvoir writes the following:

Many illnesses are considered to result from the individual’s own inappropriate social behavior. For instance, often cases pertain to…a lack of respect, of courage, and/or of generosity, which may in themselves constitute a so-called weakness of character, [and] is known to reflect on the individual’s own health.

Is Western Society a Social Disease?

Perhaps an individual 'weakness of character' can be thought of as a social rather than a wholly personal dis-ease - especially in societies based on competition such as our own. In an environment of exclusivity that doles out social approval for those who 'make it' or conform and punishments (social disapproval and outcasting) for those who don’t, people often feel scared, hopeless, lost, and alone.

In their book Plant Spirit Shamanism: Traditional Techniques For Healing The Soul, authors Ross Heaven and Howard G. Charing refer to “surveys [that] tell us many people no longer trust politicians, big business, or even food suppliers, whom they believe are focused only on profits and their own [self-interest]. They see themselves as leaderless and trapped, isolated and betrayed. This leads to frustration, self-doubt, and anxiety. Tensions like these can in turn lead to physical illnesses, as well as a weakening of the soul…”

The Fear in Her TV

All the fear in her TV
Caused her to sit and fret
About everything that had not happened yet.
This magic box, this world war vet
Gave her all that she could get.
Twas her friend and lover
Her eyes were always on it,
While outside her door one day
There flew a mighty comet,
Brought to her via satellite,
No reason to go out at night.
This groaning box of fear and strife
One minute at a time,
Chipped away at her life
As water does to lime
Though a carnival came to town
She did not so much as turn around,
Sunny days would come and go
As she would catch show after show
How was she to know?
This was the propaganda army
Come to take her mind
And bend it like a bow.
- Jane Evershed

Constant bombardment of media messages telling us we are ‘sick’ with one or another physical ailment adds to our stress levels. We are told these ailments are ‘incurable’ but they can be managed with the help of a new drug.

The media also broadcasts the message that we are perpetually ‘unsafe.’ What effect does this have on our general state of well-being? Gregg Braden writes of this in his book The Spontaneous Healing of Belief:

Since the attacks on September 11, 2001,…we’ve been conditioned to believe that we live in a world where we aren’t safe. It should come as no surprise, then, to learn that the general level of anxiety in the U.S,, as well as anxiety-related issues of mental health, has increased during that same period of time. Studies in 2002 indicated that as many as 35 percent of the individuals exposed to the trauma of 9/11 could be at risk for developing post-traumatic stress disorder. Five years later, that possibility became a reality when the high-school-aged children who initially experienced America’s worst terrorist attack began showing an increased demand for anxiety-related treatment.

It’s clear that in today’s world, maintaining balance and creating wholesome healthy connections with others and with Nature are endeavors vital to our well-being.

...the most important lesson I have learned is that what we see as “normal” living is truly a travesty of our potential. In a society so governed by superficiality, appearances, and petty economics, dreams are more real than anything in the “real world”. Refuse normalcy. Beauty is everywhere, love is endless, and joy bleeds from our everyday existence. Embrace it.

~ Dominic Owen Mallary

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