Hello everybody, welcome to episode 161 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino. Today’s episode, my friends, is not for the faint of heart. We have a heavy question at hand that sort of flirts with the idea of world peace that we all can’t help but have, and how it feels more distant now than ever for the woman who sent this question in on how we do (or do not) live in harmony. Let’s see if we can help her wade through this both personally and globally. Buckle up…
QUESTION: “There is so much pain and fear which is calling out more hate and inequalities. I meditate, I try to stay positive but I lose the ability to see the good in humans. Good people will always exist but I have the feeling they’re becoming more rare. Wars and hate always existed but not in a period where egocentricity and technology was so important. Countries fight for resources as they become rare and people just lose their mind in electronic social devices. Why can't humans live together in harmony even with different beliefs?“
How Harmony Falls Apart
Significant question, that’s for sure. Thank you for sending this one in.
It’s obviously very important subject matter you’re bringing up both for yourself and society as a whole. I think that there’s a tremendous link between what you’ve said about losing the ability to see the good in humans and this plea for all of us to live together in harmony – different beliefs and all.
Here’s how the idea of harmony quickly falls apart, and the part that people like you and I – “well-intentioned” people – play in making it break down.
We see something happen that we quickly recognize as being bad, terrible. Call it the hate and the inequality that you mention.
We witness things like these unfold we immediately reflect on how much of a threat they are; a threat to us, a threat to our loved ones, our community, and to the idea of harmony across the world.
Because we feel threatened and, at first glance, we feel that this thing we’re watching happen is bad, we now have a negative reaction to it.
We’d prefer it not to happen. In doing so, opposition is accentuated and we step further away from harmony, because we aren’t accepting these things that we feel prevent harmony.
The Full Spectrum of Humanity
Follow me here: it might make sense to reject something that opposes harmony, but if harmony requires no rejection, then we can’t even reject that which opposes harmony in order to have harmony.
We like to associate harmony with only these soft and fuzzy feelings; everyone gets along and accepts one another, regardless of our differences. But humans are made up of much more than that.
We’re hardwired to recognize threats and separate good from bad as a means of survival. In doing so, we can’t help but to create feelings of jealousy, vengeance, irritability, and so on. So if humans can’t help but to do this, then these feelings need to be accepted if harmony is to be expected.
Until that happens, we’re not accepting the full spectrum of what it means to be a human and therefore we are preventing harmony.
Live in Harmony: Accept the Root Causes
Just as these feelings need to be accepted, the actions that they are the root cause of need to be accepted as well. This is especially difficult, because feelings like these that go untended to (which is often the case given everything we’ve talked about so far) regularly lead to large scale terror.
And if you look at acts of terrorism as an example, responding defensively right away is how lives are saved as soon as possible.
Look at it this way, and sorry if it sounds gory: if someone in your neighborhood is going on a killing spree, they’re not going to learn much or change their ways if you shoot them to stop them. You need to do that in order to save lives quickly.
The only thing that will likely change the killer is if they’re met with understanding, listened to, and given an opportunity to be supported in the struggle they have that influences them to go on a killing spree. But if you catch this guy in the middle of your neighborhood, a quick therapy session in the middle of the street probably isn’t your safest bet in that moment.
So while a reactive, defensive response is necessary for the short-term, in still distances us from the core issues underneath that is provoking the killing.
Is It Too Late to Create Harmony?
If you look at it this way and use this example to reflect even larger scale terrorism, it may be too late to create harmony, if it were even possible in the first place (which I don’t really think it is).
The only way to try to combat that and speed harmony up would be willing to make massive sacrifice and let people die while taking the time to get to the root of all the trauma causing this destruction.
But massive sacrifice right now will never happen because it means short-term loss. Short-term loss is bad for our feelings, and feelings run the world.
So again, we quickly determine what is bad and good, and the more severe the stake are, the less likely we are to look at the gray area, or what’s underneath. In this process, much of humanity is rejected and harmony is put off even more. Not to mention that we spread these ideas of bad and good like wildfire.
We share them with our friends and children to protect them. And because these are arousing, psychologically stimulating concepts, they’re then shared again by those who we share them with.
How to Live in Harmony: Conclusion
In this whole fray, fear and sensitivity rises, people are victimized for having even one attribute in common with any idea, action or other person deemed as threatening.
They then go on the defensive as integrity is put into question, and they spread their own ideas or their defensiveness leads them to do things that others would classically see as bad and you have a massive cycle of disharmony that’s firing on all cylinders at all times.
That is why humanity can’t live together in harmony, and why your (our) perfectly natural response to question the decency of some people only pushes it farther away.
So the best you can look to do for yourself is to spread harmony to those around you, look after your loved ones in this way, and hope that the harmony you spread becomes infectious.
You mentioned meditation and a general effort to stay positive – that’ll help.
But if you want to go a level deeper, keep this episode in mind when you’re looking at someone who you consider to be a bad person. Consider the ripple effects of you not seeing the good in these people. Ask what may be underneath the unacceptable behavior they’re exhibiting and question whether the bad you see is really bad, or instead perhaps misunderstood or not yet nurtured parts of who they are.
As they say, “hurt people, hurt people.”
I told you: not an easy one today, but important nonetheless. I hope everyone has some good takeaways today and saw opportunities to better gauge the judgments they cast.
And to the asker, I thank you again and of course hope that you got what you were looking for. Or at least got something that was helpful. I could see how this episode may have been unpleasant at times, especially during that silly neighborhood murder spree segment.
Everyone, if you’ve got a question you need some help with, you know we’re here to support you forever and always. Email your question to us at advice AT oldpodcast.com
We’re gonna wrap things up for now. Thanks for being here today, all. I appreciate all of you, episode in and episode out. Can’t wait for the next one. I’ll see you guys there.