If anyone told me years ago that my true life purpose was to find ways to bring people together by helping to remove the fear of true intimacy, I would have laughed.
My interest in psychology and my love of relationship science grew out of my need to learn and to heal from a very toxic childhood — not because I thought it was my “life purpose” when I was 18. I was angry for a long time in my younger years but my spiritual journey has taught me that we often have things we need to teach others based on healing from our own experiences.
There is serious wisdom hiding in the deepest depths of our souls. Personal development is not always a fun endeavor, but it is very much worth it.
I’ve seen first hand how people can change and overcome trauma and rebuild their lives. It has been an honor to be part of these people’s journeys and it’s a joy to help people find ways to connect with others.
Most often, this is achieved through the brave work of exploring our emotions.
As I’ve moved the focus of my practice from divorce to dating and from traditional psychotherapy to matchmaking and coaching, I’ve come to see that there really has been an increase in depression and anxiety as we age. It can be hard when you work in supportive professions to see if what is being reported in the media is accurate.
Regardless, I think the consensus is in. What my field are seeing in our offices and through telepsychology is, indeed, a very real increase. People are profoundly disappointed with our lives. We feel empty and yet can’t figure out what the problem is. We are angry, confused and lonely. Bad things do happen.
We are suffering from anxiety and depression — but our suffering is not the fault of anxiety and depression. They are just the messengers.
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Why We Look For Relationships When It All Falls Apart
What is, however, not being addressed is the underlying reason for the ubiquitous increase in mental illness.
When these negative emotions kick in, many people try to resolve their issues by finding a date. Tinder and other dating apps have exacerbated this desire, leading to chronic swiping and confirmation bias about what we already think of ourselves. I’ve had so many clients report that they’ve trolled someone on Tinder after a bad break up that I now just routinely ask how they use online dating following a breakup.
In fact, there’s emerging research to indicate that people who predominantly use online dating in this manner have higher rates of insecurity than people who meet their partners in real life.
It makes sense to me — if we believe we are unlovable, we will desperately seek data to help us conclude we are indeed worthy of love.
In our search for relief from our emotional turmoil, many people find distraction through constant dating and constant swiping. And it’s no one’s fault. Our culture continues to place a lot of pressure on people to “get out there” and date to find a relationship.
Few are mindful enough to realize that when they are in this place of turmoil, they are inviting in the exact experiences needed to heal their heart but are simply not ready for the healing process to begin. Most people do not realize just how much healing is necessary to reach a place of true self-love, which forms the foundation on which we can meet the right people.
Dating, therefore, becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that can do more harm than good. It very frequently exacerbates the underlying insecurity that we are trying to heal.
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Seeing Relationships as Opportunities For Self-Care
When we repeat bad experiences over and over again, we believe we are being punished. We believe something is wrong with us. We believe we are broken or need to be fixed. None of this is true. What we need to do is learn from these experiences. However, that’s where the problem begins.
Being open to learning requires that your mind and body are prepared to integrate the lessons into your thought processes using a lot of self-compassion. When we are in a place of emotional turmoil, it’s not exactly the time for new learning to take place. Yet, we continue to, unknowingly, invite these lessons into our lives — often leading to extreme cases of burnout and exhaustion without doing anything to calm our nervous systems. We then just blame everyone else for being an “emotionally unavailable” jerk.
These so-called toxic relationships are nothing more than opportunities to heal the negative effects of bad past experiences or experiences that have been handed down from our families.
The narcissist shows up to help you find your voice — which is impossible to do when your mind and body are exhausted — so it leads us to victimization. Anxious people show up to teach you to have more compassion for your own anxiety, which you miss because you are too tired from your own journey to be able to help someone else and then you label them as crazy. People in a dark place with “toxic” emotions, show up as a reminder that you need to do more work on yourself — and yet we often run away and blame them for having a “mental health issue.”
We judge addicts. We judge trauma survivors. We judge the person who ghosted, breadcrumbed or in any other way didn’t live up to our expectations. We all participate in exacerbating the cycle of toxic relationships simply because we have not hit the pause button long enough to take our self-care seriously enough.
Then we walk into a therapist’s office and want them to just take the pain away in less than 3 sessions. It really does not work that way, unfortunately.
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Millennials reportedly spend up to 10 hours per week online dating. Yet, many show up for consultations or in the office’s of my colleagues complaining that they have no time for yoga, meditation, relaxation, going into nature, to change their diet or find another form of exercise.
They won’t go on a healing retreat or travel to explore another way of life. Our mindless way of living is the underlying reason why so many are reaching out for support to cope with anxiety and depression. We don’t feel like we have any control — and the root cause is fear.
We have the time to heal and face our fears but we actually don’t realize that is what we need to do (again why none of this is your fault). We are looking for a quick fix when the reality is that we need to take better care of ourselves and learn from our experiences.
As a society, we can continue to “treat” anxiety and depression as a medical condition that we need to get rid of. Or we can begin to listen to the wisdom in the symptoms and work to remove the underlying cause.
This likely means taking a step back from online dating and social media to create the space necessary to focus on our own self-care and prepare for the healing journey we really need to take.
Such a conscious decision is not easy, but when you are ready to make it, it really does signal that you are ready to take emotional responsibility and to learn from your life experiences.
Your relationships, including the toxic ones, will be your greatest teacher if you are brave enough to walk that path.
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The Rise of Emotional Sensitivity and Why This is All So Hard
The next generation has access to levels of sensitivity that is profoundly different than the ‘Baby Boomer’ generation. This is both good and bad news.
While most of us can see the benefits of such sensitivities, the dark side means that this generation will need to work very hard on learning the skills necessary to manage them(which is not being taught in schools). They will be greatly impacted by the environment and the type of people around them.
They will also likely be more impacted by the use of technology. Being incubated in an environment of constant fear can cause the nervous system of a sensitive person to go haywire. It can increase the fear we feel not only for our own emotions but the emotions of everyone else.
Fear is, therefore, not only the reason for the increase in anxiety and depression, but it is also the antidote to such symptoms. Facing our fears of individual and collective emotions is what is need to get out of the epidemic of anxiety and depression.
Becoming conscious of this will give people the tools they need to better care for their own lives. Sensitivities that go unchecked will lead to the perpetuation of the toxic relationship cycle where people simply project and blame others for their suffering and move on to repeat the cycle.
For sensitive people, this is a huge health risk that can bring chronic stress disorders and further symptoms of anxiety and depression.
What we are seeing now is really only the tip of the iceberg — but the good news is that these emotional sensitivities will motivate many people to learn more about their emotions and learn how to handle their gifts.
It is in this work that we all get to make the world a better place one emotion at a time. And perhaps, when we are all ready, we can make the world a better place by being more mindful of the way we use technology — one date at a time.
‘There can be no transforming of darkness into light and of apathy into movement without emotions.’— Carl Jung
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Previously published on Medium.com.
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