In the early years as a psychotherapist helping people create happiness and successful relationships, I often wondered why so many people struggled with unhappiness, loneliness, depression, and even serious health issues caused by stress and anxiety. No matter how hard they worked in therapy, most clients couldn’t shake the feeling of stress or unhappiness. Even those who were successful in achieving a measure of happiness couldn’t hang onto the feeling for more than a few weeks.
Today, I know that most, if not all, unhappiness has its roots buried in the fertile soil of an unconscious childhood belief called the “illusion of separateness.” Born in early childhood, the unconscious illusion of separateness is beyond doubt one of the most harmful beliefs held in the consciousness of most lonely, unhappy people.
The Illusion of Separateness Creates Greed, Loneliness, and Unhappiness
If happiness is our goal, the most important transformation in consciousness that we can learn to embrace, is letting go of the unconscious belief that our “self” is separate from the rest of creation. It is more important than achieving growth in human consciousness through an emptiness of ego, or growth in self-awareness, or even the evolution and transformation of one’s childhood primitive ego. Years of work as a psychotherapist has taught me that the illusion of separateness is the unconscious belief most responsible for the creation of conflict, violence, unhappiness, and suffering in the world today.
Creating The Illusion of Separateness In Childhood
As children we work hard to develop a sense of self-identity; a sense of “self” that’s separate and apart from our friends and family. This illusion of separateness becomes so much a part of our unconscious self-identity, we rarely question the validity of this unconscious worldview as adults. We wonder why we feel lonely, unhappy, and isolated from those around us. It’s not uncommon to assume there is something wrong with us. It rarely dawns on us that our unconscious childhood illusion of separateness created in early childhood might be the source of the suffering we so often experience in our adult lives.
The Illusion of Separateness In Adulthood
The unconscious illusion of separateness that drives our feelings of isolation from others causes us to:
- Medicate ourselves to alleviate our feelings of depression, loneliness, and sadness.
- Be overly judgmental of others despite the desire to be an empathic and compassionate person.
- Have an unconscious tendency to be competitive and self-focused when asked to compassionately share our gifts and resources with others.
- Experience an uncomfortable gap between who we would like to be, and who we too often really are in our relationships with others.
- Struggle with feelings of inadequacy and shame in our relationships with others; the feeling that we must be flawed in some very basic way.
- Get trapped in a downward spiral of self-criticism that only adds to our sense of depression and unhappiness.
If this sounds too bleak and negative, consider that antidepressant medications are one of the most prescribed drugs in our country. In 2010, more than 253.6 million prescriptions were filled for antidepressants. It’s estimated that over 25% of the population will experience a major depressant episode at some point in their lives.
As a therapist, it has been my experience that loneliness and the unhappiness created by the childhood illusion of separateness is a significant factor in most depressant episodes. Loneliness and the unhappiness it creates is not only a major source of depression; it has been proven to be more dangerous to our health and survival than smoking, obesity, or poverty.
We Are Interconnected and Interdependent: Not Separate.
We humans are social animals. Our sense of happiness is directly linked to both our level of connectedness with others, and the sense of belongingness we experience in the communities we are part of; family, work, and neighborhood.
We are interconnected and interdependent with all of creation not only for the happiness that comes with “belonging”, but to ensure our survival as individuals… and our survival as a species.
Given our unconscious illusion of separateness, our modern obsession with electronic communication devices that isolate us from others, and the overall lack of social connection with neighbors in our community, it’s no wonder we feel disconnected from one another. In my childhood, nobody called ahead to see if they could visit, they just knocked on the door and asked if it was a good time for coffee or a visit. On a summer evening, instead of watching television, it was common for folks to sit on their front porch and chat with their neighbors. It was a rare house in the neighborhood that didn’t have a garden in the backyard. Small town farm communities were common. People harvested together, built homes together, and swapped produce. Communities and family were the centers of social life.
Today, our economic model of capitalism shapes our work lives into categories of us vs. them. We are conditioned in the workplace to be competitive in our thinking and our behaviors. A never-ending focus on “what’s in it for me”. It’s no wonder we bring these values and worldviews into our family and community lives. We not only embrace the unconscious childhood illusion of separateness, but we are also conditioned in the workplace to value recognition, money, power, and “getting ahead” over relationship.
Getting ahead and success become the core values that define our lives. Sending texts, or reading email becomes more important than the conversation we are having with the person sitting across the dinner table. Instead of baseball games in the empty lot down on the corner, our children play war games against invisible opponents on their tablets and computers.
As I said at the beginning of this article, I believe the illusion of separateness is beyond doubt, one of the most harmful beliefs commonly held in the collective human consciousness of humanity. More than any other belief, it is pushing humanity into an ever-increasing darkness.
We need to awaken our human consciousness to the reality of our interconnection and interdependence with not only others but with all of creation. We are interdependent and interconnected stardust. I am convinced our survival, not just our happiness, is going to depend on how quickly we bring the light of a collective spiritual awakening from individual “i” to a collective “we” into the world … or stated differently, from a greed-based, self-focused whats-in-it-for “me”, to an awakened consciousness focused on mutual benefit and what’s-in-it-for “us”.
This transformation in human consciousness, or spiritual awakening, will change the world as we know it. But the change will be for the better. In a world of “mutual benefit”, greed would have no meaning. It would cease to exist. If we resist the change that mutual benefit could bring into human civilization, and continue on the path humanity is currently traveling, the world as we know it will change… but not for the better.
It’s time we embraced the reality that we are not separate from the rest of reality. We are evolution in action. We are “becoming”. Our future as a species on this planet will depend on how we choose to evolve and transform our collective human consciousness. It’s our call. Our choice.
Which worldview will you choose? Continued greed and competition… or mutual benefit and cooperation?
You and I are the “somebody else” that the rest of the world is waiting for.
So if not you and I, then who? If not now, then when?