By Lynn Seiser
That Which Is Around Us
The environment is that which is around us and we think we are separate from.
It is interesting to begin thinking about environment from the inside out. What is that central core beyond which nothing can be defined? Starting there our environment progresses in layers. We often observe each environmental level. This observational spectator position gives us the impression that we are separate from that which we are observing. This separation gives us existential anxiety and is often the basis for very deep depression. Depression is near epidemic in our society. Perhaps this illusionary separation is the underlying cause.
Every journey starts at some beginning point. This beginning point is often arbitrary. It is simply useful in trying to explain and illustrate the point. The starting point is also often the beginning. The journey is of no distance to a goal that is already obtained. Before we thought of ourselves as an ego-identity, we were a spiritual identity. Many psychological theories do not consider this. They tend to believe that we come into this world as a blank tablet on which to be written. Perhaps the tablet is not as blank as they believe. Perhaps it is simply empty of any recognizable factors that psychology and sociology like to research, talk, and theorize about. This beginning empty place is the source of great spiritual insight. It is the goal of meditation. It is seeing beyond and behind the social and psychological masks we all wear.
As we develop, we become more externally aware. We begin to find there are other people in this world. At first we do not know they are separate from us, we think they are just an extension of us. It is like when we first discover that our hands or feet are there. We spend a great deal of time absorbed in observation and play with them. We don’t really make the distinction between them and us. We are just all in this together. In that togetherness, there are rules by which the family functions. These might not be great rules that are healthy, but they exist nonetheless. These rules have been passed down unconsciously for generations. It can be like that family heirloom no one likes, but can’t say so or get rid of. Our birth position within the family system begins to define the roles we play. Later, these roles and rules within the family begin to define us as separate from, but still a part of the family unit or system.
Usually we think of our psychological environment as internal situations. The ego-identity is formed by the roles and rules we gathered from our family or origin. They reflect more the thoughts and perceptions of our parents, who are in charge of the family environment, than of us as individuals separate from that original family programming. Our psychological environment consists of our self-image, self-concept, self-esteem, and all the other rules and roles we have been taught. What if, due to the immature developmental capabilities we have, we get it wrong? What if all the ways we define ourselves as separate from the family are faulty? As a child, we often got it wrong. The self-judgement we learned from our family was one of those errors in perceptions. We are individuals apart from, and individually a part of the family from which we came.
As we push away from the family, we push into the social environment. We often find a social environment that reflects and agrees with our familial and psychological environment. We tend to move towards things that agree with us and away from those that don’t. It is from this social environment that we choose our friends and mates. The social environment also offers us rules and roles by which to play so we will be accepted. These are seldom, like most rules and roles, directly stated or taught. Usually they are implied and we learn them through identification and imitation. These rules and roles are unconsciously played out in our local schools, communities, workplaces, churches, political parties, and within the global environment that surrounds us and from which we think we are separate. We are like actors in a play upon a stage, trying to figure out the roles and plot without a script. No one told us this was improvisational theatre. We are players and the play, but we are not the roles we play. We are often both the actors and the audience. We are a part of and apart from our social environment.
We tend to think of our environment more on the physical plane. We think we are separate from the air we breathe, but we are a part of the transference of oxygen to carbon dioxide. We think we are separate from the plants we eat, but they provide us with nourishment and transfer our carbon dioxide back to oxygen. We think we are separate from the water we drink and yet most of our physical organic composition is water. We think we are separate from the stars we watch, yet we are just another one of them. We think we are separate from the animal, insect, reptilian, or mammal kingdom, yet our behavior is often far more savage then theirs. Our physical environment surrounds us and we only think we are separate from it.
When we look to the heavens we look skyward to what is beyond our sense of vision. That which we cannot see is often considered the most spiritual. It is within the hidden mysteries of the universe that the secrets and lessons are revealed. Before we made all the judgements and distinctions about what surrounded us and left separate from it, we were at peace. Once we look far enough and see that we are all part of the same environment for each other, and all things, we become related again. We become our spiritual environment. That which always surrounds us and of which we are always a part.
Thanks for listening, for the opportunity to be of service, and for sharing this journey.
Lynn Seiser, Ph.D. is an inter-nationally-respected psychotherapist in Seal Beach, CA with more than twenty years of direct clinical experience in recovery counseling for offenders and victims of violence, trauma and abuse. He is known for his work in “holistic” recovery from addictions with an emphasis on “healthy relationships.” Lynn may be contacted at (562) 799-1371. You may check out his website at www.members.aol.com/SeiserL/index.html
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