It has been said Albert Einstein thought the question above was the most important question that the human community could ask itself. It is a simple question with a yes or no answer and yet our future will depend on how we respond. Up to this point in our history our answer has been a resounding NO! One result of our believing that we live in an unfriendly universe is that we have become very anxious. As a result, many of us over the years have tried many different self-medicating strategies to relieve our anxiety. Things have only gotten worse.
In fact things have gotten dramatically worse in a specific American demographic in particular. “In its annual survey of students, the American College Health Association found a significant increase—to 62 percent in 2016 from 50 percent in 2011—of undergraduates reporting ‘overwhelming anxiety’ in the previous year.”
Existential anxiety, however, is also increasing across the board in the U.S. population. “Anxiety is the most common mental-health disorder in the United States, affecting nearly one-third of both adolescents and adults, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.”
Now let’s connect our belief in an unfriendly universe to our growing anxiety in America. In a community where Social Darwinism (survival of the fittest) is the dominant worldview, competition will dominate cooperation as the most prevalent behavior. We might expect to find more stress in the struggling lower classes than in the well-off 10 percent. “But Suniya Luthar, a professor of psychology at Arizona State University who has studied distress and resilience in both well-off and disadvantaged teenagers, has found that privileged youths are among the most emotionally distressed young people in America.”
Whether Americans choose to answer yes or no to Einstein’s question determines our fundamental worldview which is composed of our beliefs, attitudes and values. We have clearly made a self-destructive choice by failing to distinguish between a healthy and a toxic narrative. We have obviously not found an effective coping strategy for dealing with our growing stress in America either.
For example, one of the ways that we “self-medicate” or distract ourselves from our existential anxiety is our social media devices. Smartphones can both increase stress and provide an ever-present avoidance strategy. Stephen Iken, a psychiatrist and the regional medical director for Rogers Behavioral Health, runs several teenage-anxiety outpatient programs. “‘I don’t think we realize how much it’s affecting our moods and personalities,’ he said. ‘Social media is a tool, but it’s becoming this thing that we can’t live without but that’s making us crazy.’”
What our species needs—for what is clearly a global problem—is an effective coping strategy which will enable a healthy response when our deeply conditioned beliefs are triggered and produce deep-seated fears. That strategy is called The Point of Power Practice. For a detailed description see the link below.
Insight # 11: Choosing a worldview that creates anxiety results in an identity that believes stressful competition is the only way to survive.
- Denizet-Lewis, Benoit. “The Kids Who Can’t.” The New York Times Magazine. October 15, 2017, pages 40-42.