Have you ever stopped to think about how much choice we have nowadays? For example, there are 500+ channels on my TV, and if there’s ‘nothing on’ I can immediately choose something else on demand from the many stream services on offer. Or perhaps I can go to YouTube and watch exactly what I want, when I want it (not without getting extremely anxious as I wait for 5 seconds before I can desperately click on ‘Skip Ad’).
It’s all very different from the time when we only had 3 channels on TV, and the internet was a distant science fiction dream. In those days, if there was something we didn’t like being aired, we just had to sit through it and wait for the next show. I even learned to enjoy things that I didn’t like before, just because I had to endure them in the first place.
I worry that things like target advertising (where they only show you what might be of your interest) are both reflection and contributor to our diminished attention span. What about the things I don’t yet know whether I like or don’t like? If we only get to see what is of our interest, how can we discover new exciting things in life? The modern age frantic focus on what’s hot, interesting and desirable, moving from one thing to the other and chucking out everything else resembles the dynamics that are in place in the Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), as an exacerbation of a manic search for instant gratification.
As nowadays we can just pick and choose pretty much anything, I can’t help but think that all this choice have diminished our capacity to endure what we don’t like, to tolerate frustration and just get on with things. As a result, we see people reacting with absolute shock and horror to the somewhat normal conflicts of life, as if they should never have to face anything else but good and happy feelings. So being sad, anxious, depressed, unmotivated or anguished is experienced as an anomaly that needs to be gotten rid of. Normal ‘facts of life’ then become persecutors against this illusion we create for ourselves, that we should all be happy and only doing the things that make us feel good.
As a psychotherapist in London I have the privilege of coming across an amazing diversity of people, which puts me in touch with all sorts of life stories. And this experience has taught me that, one way or another, we all will be confronted with the reality we so much try to avoid, thus having to face the facts of life, challenging things like separation, illnesses, jealousy and envy, greed and betrayal, insecurities and uncertainties. And then we have to choose whether to accept and face this facet of reality, or to remain in the fantasy that things ‘shouldn’t be this way’.
Life is what it is, and there is no cure for it. Life brings amazing, interesting and exciting experiences, but also a lot of boring, negative, difficult and annoying things. And somehow it all makes more sense if we stop trying to madly ‘switch channels’ in an effort to only see what we like, and instead take life for what it is and learn from each experience.
Allan Gois – Psychotherapist in London – Psicologo Brasileiro em Londres