SOCIETY / THE WORLD OF SOCIOLOGY
As will be obvious from the above primary awareness relates to one’s self. Once established the very closely associated but inevitably secondary phenomenon is awareness relating to the world around one, the world of non-self, society and prevailing culture has to be awakened. This ‘other’ world is one that in general we often ill-judge often underestimating it and misinterpreting its influence power and ability to disrupt our lives.
Understanding the immense influence of society on one’s life is not as easy as one might imagine. It is fascinating to understand that we are not educated about those rules about society. It is unclear as to how we are expected to learn them. When it comes to sociology in contra-distinction to psychology it does seem that we learn more quickly from bad events than good. In life it appears that antagonism is the more effective teacher and just perhaps it is that life that is our most effective teacher.
In very few societies in the world is there any formal training on the subject. Those who learn quickest are those who live in the streets or in other words in situations where adversity is paramount. The obvious corollary is that if you do not reside there then these seemingly obvious and apparently self-evident rules of society may not be as easily learned or as quickly acquired. When one has not lived on the streets, “street-smarts” may be difficult to pick up.
Everyone reacts to others. The study of this is sociology. Simply stated it is the study of human beings and how they interact within social groups. It looks at societal behaviour and what causes groups to change. It looks at both the reasons for human behavioural change and the resultant consequences of those behaviours within particular groups.
Anxiety is treated by many as if it is some independent discrete entity in which the sufferer exists entirely independent of the surrounding environment. This is of course completely untrue. It further isolates what is already an alienated situation. Anxiety is one of the most alienating illnesses that exist. It however does exist within a sociological framework. People with anxiety do need to deal with partners, families, workmates and others that inhabit their world. Educating and treating people about anxiety in a way that suggests that it is simply an individual problem that can be helped mainly by self-motivation or self-flourishing is in my view unhelpful. Without a clear understanding of the sociological sphere encompassing the anxious person such treatment adds only to the entrenchment of that person’s anxiety, social disposition and suffering.
In anxiety there are certain sociological manifestations that affect people adversely. Sometimes the sufferer is painfully aware of this and rarely is blissfully unaware of it. Sufferers often simply become aware that they are avoided or discriminated against in subtle ways. They are left out of particular work activities and certain work-related social activities. Fellow-workers avoid them. They are considered to be unmotivated disinterested and often passed over for promotion. Sometimes anxiety can make people socially phobic, irritable or exhausted which does not help as by contagion they affect others negatively. The most common symptom that anxious people suffer from is avoidance seen as amotivation or procrastination, an excessive need for reassurance which comes over as an irritating lack of confidence and an apparent ignorance of social norms and mores seen as a lack of social skills or emotional awareness. These features do not endear them to people in their social sphere. Quite often in work environments there is little understanding of or empathy for the person’s anxiety disorder. They find themselves to their bewilderment ostracised, accused of not being a team player or of simply not fitting in; being an outsider. Their intrinsic social anxiety often makes it impossible for them to correct this perception and in work situations they quite often end up being terminated or resigning as they cannot tolerate the inevitable isolation. In personal relationships they are seen as difficult, excessively serious or not interested in being amusing or having fun. They are often involved in serially failing relationships. In family environments they are simply seen as uncommitted, lazy or non-communicative. Children often react to their parent’s anxiety with puzzled confusion. If they are particularly sensitive themselves they sometimes erroneously conclude that they themselves are the problem as their parent is so clearly dissatisfied with them. They try harder to no avail and this in time naturally creates unhelpful effects with regard to their perception of their self and their self-esteem.
Society rarely deals benignly with those who flout their conventions. Society is an unforgiving beast. As Camus alludes to so perspicaciously in L’etranger, “In our society any man who does not cry at his mother’s funeral is liable to be condemned to death”.
This remains a stark social reality and is ignored at one’s peril. The delicately poised dance of engagement between self and society has certain rules. It is therefore imperative to understand these rules. It is fascinating to note how many of us do not. Accurate perception of the other requires a distinct clarity of perception from one's self.
Unfortunately when the very organ of perception the self is itself dis-eased by anxious consideration then it is clear that many perceptions are misperceptions and many interpretations misinterpretations. If we then act on these the results are often confusing at best and catastrophic at worst.
What is necessary for learning these rules is the development of knowledge about what makes up one's self and enhanced awareness of what makes up the society culture and environment in which one lives. In other words one needs to become aware of one's own personal and supremely relevant sociological world.