Fix You

Fix You

Very few of us feel that we need to be "fixed". Yes, we all yearn to better our appearance and our financial situation, but we rarely feel there is anything to "fix" when it comes to how we view ourselves and the larger world around us. In our minds, we equate personal freedom with wealth and social acceptance. So long as we get what we believe we are entitled to, we do not think that there is anything to "fix". But big and unrealistic expectations have unintended consequences. In any given year, about 15% of all American adults seek mental health services. Naturally, that number does not include those who don't seek, or can not afford, mental help. The plethora of psychiatric drugs we are prescribed do not actually treat us, but cover up the symptoms. What's more troubling is that many of these drugs are addictive and have a disturbing list of side effects.

Our woes are not limited to the self. We are rapidly transforming into a narcissistic and hedonistic society. If history is a lesson, then it is not difficult to predict the fate of a society constituted of narcissists and hedonists. To fix our social woes, we must first fix ourselves. And to fix ourselves, we must recognize that we need fixing. For starters, we need to stop our obsession with forms and appearances.

In Buddhism, the human being is believed to be constituted of Five Skandhas. These functions or aspects of human being are: form, sensation, perception, mental formations and consciousness. Identifying with, or clinging onto skandas is presumed to be the cause of suffering. Various Buddhist traditions interpret skandas and the "nature of self" in different ways. Unsurprisingly, these are among the hardest Buddhist teachings to understand.

The fourth skandha, "mental formations", includes all types of mental habits, thoughts, opinions, ideas, prejudices and compulsions that we carry in our minds. Our dispositions determine our perspectives, which in turn determine our actions. How we "see" something, determines how we are going to treat that thing. If we "see" a dog to be unclean, as the Ancient Greeks and Romans did, then it can no longer be our best friend. If we "see" a coworker as a threat, then we are going to treat him as a threat. If we "see" women as sex objects, then we are going to treat them as sex objects. If we unjustifiably "see" ourselves as entitled, then we are going to mistreat others. How accurately we "see" determines how much suffering we bring on, or remove from, ourselves and others...

Update: Someone mentioned that this post sounded like a sermon: Take what you want, leave the rest! I also have to mention that I am not a Buddhist, but I do find many Buddhist concepts to be very revealing and educational.

Song of the Day: Fix You - Coldplay (2005)
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