Spiritual questions and answers


Trap of contemporary values?


Are you in any danger of falling into a trap? There is a risk that commonly held fallacies that exist beneath the surface of the mass media will trap our minds. Could any worldly illusions trap and bind you into an unhealthy state of mind? One from which you might wish to escape?

The mass media frequently exposes us to viewpoints that reflect contemporary values of society to do with for example consumerism, celebrity, work, and sex.

It is easy to unthinkingly fall in line with these images and sentiments. They convey messages about what one must do, should believe, and need to have. You may have a sense there is something missing in such views. They imply having possessions, being well known, attractive, or successful are all important.

Trap of consumerism

Advertising often works by stimulating desire where none was there before – for smarter clothes, the latest electronic goods, impressive cars, and exotic holidays.

Often we buy things and then justify the purchase afterwards.

It takes seconds to make a purchasing decision, and dopamine (the feel good neurochemical) rises in the presence of shiny new objects. Emotions rule, the credit card is swiped, dopamine recedes and buyer’s remorse sets in.” (Emily Worden small business strategist)

It is as if we cannot be happy without buying something. Then we rationalise the purchase “I had to have it. I should not have passed it up.

Albert Ellis the founder of REBT (a form of cognitive therapy) pointed out a danger in what words we use. He wrote that words like ‘must’, suggest what he calls a ‘core irrational belief’. One that justifies what we demand. I would say in this case perhaps a demand for more and more things to make us feel good.  Are you trapped into believing the fallacy that only possessions can make you happy? I would say that as one starts to feel empty and discontented then one wonders just how rational the belief actually is.

Trap of competition

In today’s world there is a growing expectation that one should take work home from the office or go out of your way to achieve set occupational goals. However, the warning signs of stress might oblige us to slow down a little. Then many ask themselves about their life-work balance and wonder if things shouldn’t be better.

Do you ever say to yourself “I need to get this done. I have to give up family time for work.”  Again the words used suggest a core irrational belief. It is as if you assume that living a rushed hectic pace of life in achieving success defines your value.

Trap of sexual standards

The British tabloid popular press usually contains colour pictures often showing glamorous people. It seems that only bodily beauty provides one’s worth. The reader can get sucked into the thought “I need to look great and more attractive than other people.” “I only want to mate with the best looking person.” The words “need to” give the game away as a core irrational belief. The thought is triggered by a demand for approval.

In these newspapers we also find gossip about the private lives of celebrities often in relation to an illicit sexual relationship. It is almost as if the reader shares the pleasure. Something similar I believe is found in some television drama where characters engage in sexual relations that involve betraying their spouse.  The message sent out is that it’s okay to secretly have an extramarital fling (as long as you don’t get caught out). Even this last proviso seems to have gone by the board as the character seems to say “I need to do what I want” Infidelity appears to derive from another demand – one for affection and excitement – a demand that supersedes all others.

Trap of technology

Our lives have become more and more dependent on technology – for convenience within the home, healthcare, transport, leisure and work. What would we do without the washing machine, car, and internet?

The scientists who discovered electrical circuitry, wonder drugs, and computers are the new prophets of the future. Their work is based solely on examining the material world of physics and chemistry and applying logical analysis.

So much so that they and also we could easily be taken in by the idea that what they study is the only basis of reality. That there is nothing meaningful in life beyond what science can study – no supernatural forces, no higher power that transcends the world of nature, no higher truth that defines right and wrong, no source of life and goodness that can give us guidance, understanding and hope. All this feeds the illusion that “to get anywhere we can only rely on ourselves

Escaping from the trap

It is one thing to put into words these and other mistaken attitudes found in contemporary media. Attitudes which trap us into one way of living our lives. However, it is another to know how to escape their grasp.

Looking for alternatives is fairly easy. The trouble is you soon find yourself awash with a bewildering number of teachings and ideas on offer. If happiness doesn’t come from possessions, or good looks, or success, just where does it come from. If we can’t rely on ourselves to make the future better, just who or what can we depend upon?

According to Harry Moody (researcher in the field of ageing) even if you simply realise what’s important in life and begin to start searching, that effort alone will go a long way towards finding inner hope and renewed energy.

The first step then is to spot the traps. The second is to find an alternative way of thinking that is true for you.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Jesus Christ)

Copyright 2017 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems