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Why Do Modern Humans Feel So Empty?

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Modern society seems to be filled with more and more feelings of hopelessness, emptiness, and meaninglessness. I feel this is both sad and a good feedback mechanism.

In my view, this is a symptom of the ongoing shift in consciousness (also now called the metacrisis) which I’ve outlined prior in this article (which is making a resurgence lately.)

Currently, we have amazing technological advancements, a better quality of life for many, and more access to good things, yet emptiness felt by most.

Why?

In my mind, this feeling of emptiness can be traced to a multifaceted array of societal, psychological, and existential factors that collectively shape the modern human experience.

Before I get into them I want to state that evolution and social change can be complex. Just because we evolve and change doesn’t mean we should feel disoriented by it.

There can be TOO MUCH change, but we also can have so little capacity and resilience in our mind, body and spirit that even small changes seem unbearable.

I believe what we are going through is not just rapid and disorienting change but it’s also happening as we collectively witness a decline in capacity and resilience, making all of it seem much more challenging.

The decline in our capacity and resilience also creates worse and worse decisions because we are driven by survival physiology, further feeding into disorienting feelings.

On this note, my upcoming course focused on building capacity and resilience within the mind, body, and spirit is coming soon. It brings together my interdisciplinary focus on the healing arts (nervous system work), social change and consciousness. Jump on our e-mail list here to be informed of its release.

Onward!

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Isolation & Lack of Community

Traditional community structures, such as neighborhoods, extended families, and local organizations, have weakened in modern society. This decline in communal bonds has led to a sense of isolation and a lack of belonging.

Growing up, I spent a good chunk of my Sundays with a big Italian family (20+ people) for lunch. This ended as life got busier and people had less time. Since, family doesn’t feel as connected.

Additionally, the transient nature of modern life, with frequent moves and job changes, makes it difficult to form lasting relationships and a sense of community with people. Plus there’s less depth of relationship.

Technological advancements, while having connected us globally in incredible ways, often foster superficial relationships and diminish deep and meaningful connections. This is seen in the fact that people can be so horrible to one another online and feel nothing of it.

Social media and digital communication can replace face-to-face interactions with fleeting, impersonal exchanges, leaving many feeling isolated.

Further, urbanization has made disconnection even worse. In large, crowded cities, personal interactions can feel transactional and distant, further contributing to feelings of loneliness and alienation. In fact, big cities, regardless of size, tend to be the most lonely places and contribute greatly to the loneliness epidemic.

Materialism, Consumer Culture & Capital Game Theory

Consider the fact that social media companies, food companies and other major industries have a fiduciary responsibility to their shareholders. This means that legally the leaders of these companies must make the most amount of money for their shareholders as possible.

This motivates them to do what has been proven to be effective in creating long term customers, high lifetime value from customers, and company growth: lean into addiction.

Companies have spilled millions of dollars in learning how to create the right combination of fat, sugar and carbs in food to inspire addiction. They have created algorithms to game people’s attention, bias’ and emotions so they become addicted to social media.

All of this addiction has hijacked people’s dopamine receptors, creating fickle spikes in dopamine that keep people wanting more and more and more, with little long term value or meaning.

This plays right into consumerism as well, embedding the notion that happiness is derived from material possessions. This creates a relentless cycle of desire and disappointment, as material goods fail to provide lasting satisfaction.

The emphasis on acquiring wealth and possessions often leads individuals to work long hours in jobs they find unfulfilling, driven by the need to sustain a consumer lifestyle aka… ”Mo money mo problems.”

In the end, between capitalistic game incentives and a focus on material success over personal fulfillment, a sense of emptiness and dissatisfaction grows.

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Social Media Overuse

Social media has connected me to amazing people, but I keep it at a distance. I spend maybe 1 hour a week on social media because of how toxic it feels.

Building off the previous example, social media platforms are constantly vying for your attention and will harm your brain in order to get it… after all, their leaders are beholden to shareholders, not your health.

Their relentless plans to hijack your dopamine receptors make everything else in life feel less desirable and good over time.

On top of that, social media often presents a curated, idealized version of life, leading to unrealistic expectations and perpetual comparison. Constant exposure to others’ apparent successes and happiness can create feelings of inadequacy and dissatisfaction with one’s own life.

While it can be a great connector and way to find information, in many cases the use of social media is unconscious and too great, making its cons outweigh its pros for the vast majority of people.

Lack of Meaning & Purpose – “Chase Success Instead”

As this disorientation builds up we can begin to feel a lack of meaning and purpose.

Why are we doing the things we do? What do I make of my passions if they aren’t profitable? How much time is there to do things I love when I have to work constantly? Should I be trying to keep up with everyone else?

Modern society is heavily focused on the individual, a true sign of a consciousness built of separation and competition. This is virtually the opposite of indigenous worldviews which values community and connection. In modernity, ‘community and connection’ is a catchphrase of politicians with no real application.

As a result, the very nature of our biology which states that humans thrive in connection, groups, meaning, and contribution is left unsupported as we collectively obsess over individual goals and wealth accumulation.

Further, many personal development gurus out there are pushing 6 and 7 figure incomes and incredible success in order for you to live your potential. Why is it that human potential is defined by money? Sounds like old story bullshit to me. Yet it prevails.

We’ve come to value all the things that we’re taught are important, yet they aren’t what the dying say are the biggest regrets of their lives as we learned from The 5 Regrets of The Dying.

1. “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

2. “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.”

3. “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.”

4. “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.”

5. “I wish that I had let myself be happier.”

Without a shared sense of purpose, individuals may feel lost and adrift, searching for meaning in a world that feels unnatural and foreign deep down.

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Rapid Change & Uncertainty

As I outlined in my last piece Human Society Is Changing Too Fast For Our Brains To Keep Up – Here’s What You Can Do, our world is indeed changing very quickly. So much so that our brains cannot keep up.

This is rapid change is occurring as a result of technological advancement, capitalism, and what I will call highly stressed humans.

The first two are obvious drivers, but human stress puts us in a state of fidgetyness, and anxiety, always looking outward to fix, change and solve without getting to the root of anything. This keeps us moving at a breakneck speed and lacking wisdom.

Economic and social instability ensues, coupled with the overwhelming amount of information and choices before us, decision fatigue and a sense of being overwhelmed emerge.

We often feel directionlessness and unstable, not knowing where we fit into the ever-shifting landscape. The antidote is to slow down, but the incentive to do so isn’t obvious.

Loss of Connection to Nature

Living in cities is associated with increased mental health issues, stress, isolation and loneliness. There are many reasons for this but the lack of nature is a big part of it. I imagine the same goes for most suburbs as well.

Urban living often results in a disconnection from nature. The odd part is if you have not spent long periods entrenched in nature, it’s hard to know what you’re missing out on and how much this is affecting your health and wellbeing.

Stress, a busy mind, a buzzing in your body, an inability to focus – these become our baseline much more easily when we are out of touch with nature.

On top of that, in cities and suburbs, many people spend the majority of their time indoors, leading sedentary lifestyles that further contribute to poor mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health, potentially leading to feelings of emptiness.

10 years ago I did what I always wanted to do: I moved to the country. Living in nature called to me growing up, but I grew up in urban and suburban areas. Nonetheless, as a kid, I spent thousands of hours outside, being in as natural an environment as I could. I didn’t know why, I just loved it.

Now living on 25 acres surrounded by grass and trees, it’s bizarre to go into city environments as it doesn’t feel conducive to human thrivability. I can BE there just fine for a day at a time, but something certainly feels off. Thus I’m incredibly grateful to have the experience I have.

Interestingly, some folks feel they aren’t ‘nature people.’ But I’m not so sure that’s true. They are human after all. Instead, I wonder if people who primarily live in highly controlled environments may go to nature and stress the entire time because there are a few bugs or bits of dirt. Are they not nature people or are they so disconnected from nature that only clincal levels of cleanliness feel safe?

Check out – Living Close To Trees Comes With A Number Of Health Benefits

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Transhumanism

I wanted to add this as a reminder of the piece about resilience and capacity within humans individually and collectively. I believe that as we unwisely venture so far from our nature and lose our resilience and capacity in favour of our modern ways of living, we look for ways to keep up.

Part of this is constant stimulants like caffeine and intense breathwork for performance, but at the extreme, it’s brain implants and surpassing our human-ness. I believe transhumanism is partly birthed from a deep disconnection from ourselves with a lust to keep up with the illness of our modern ways.

I believe there is a healthy way to venture beyond Earth and to move into incredible human potential and advanced societies. But it requires wisdom, and understanding of human thrivability and a value system that puts nature, humans, and beingness above capitalistic endeavor.

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What We Can Do About It

The way back to a joyous, meaningful and thriving existence doesn’t require the entire world to change first. In fact, in many ways, it begins with each of us focusing on what we can do to find meaning and joy.

Firstly, looking at our existing world with disdain and judgement is not going to help much. In our work, the idea of neutrality refers to being an observing of what is happening, being curious and noticing if any feelings arise from what we observe. The key is processing any feelings and taking wisdom to make a change in the future. This way we don’t get stuck in circles of judgement about the moment.

Next, think of doing the opposite of what is being pointed out in the examples above.

How can you reconnect back with nature more often? If you live in a city, can you spend more time around trees, put your hands in the soil, and bare feet on the ground? What would it be like to do this 30 minutes a day?

How about social media, why are you on it? What does it truly do for you? Can you limit your time on it? Can you decide what you like and want to see vs an algorithm telling you? The goal of social media platforms is to make everything seem important and make you think that if you don’t engage with it you’re missing out. Break that cycle by limiting your time on it.

Nurture connection, family, friends, fun, and rest. Take a good look at the goals you set for yourself and determine whether you truly want them or whether they’re just someone else’s story. There is nothing wrong with making money, that’s not the point here, but when we forgo our own wellness, desires, and things that help us thrive just to make more and more, we should not be surprised when we feel empty.

That said, we must balance all of this in a world currently built on poor premises, this is a balancing act.

As a reminder, my upcoming course on capacity and resilience building within the mind, body, and spirit is coming soon. I built it from my interdisciplinary training and perspective on the healing arts (spiritual & nervous system work), social change and consciousness. Jump on our e-mail list here to be informed of its release.

In short, this course focuses on nervous system regulation and why it’s the foundation for navigating the shift in consciousness and finding peace in life.


Have you taken my 5 Days of YOU Challenge yet?

The challenge helps you slow down in life and gets you focused on getting to know yourself. You’ll also learn some basic nervous system health exercises. Check it out below.

→ The 5 Days of YOU Challenge: A free course containing the exact set of exercises I used to find ease, get my clarity and creativity back, and help regulate my nervous system. Join 180,000+ challenge takers.

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