Americans Are Stressed About the Future. Here’s Why That’s Promising

The era of empire, white supremacy, dirty energy, and global capitalism is coming to a close.

Americans are really stressed out, according to a new poll by the American Psychological Association. That’s not news, but what’s surprising is that we are more stressed out by the future of our country (63 percent) than by the usual stressors—money (62 percent) and work (61 percent). In fact, well over half of all Americans, 59 percent, believe this is “the lowest point in our nation’s history.”

I share this worry, although I also see possibility in that number—possibility that we are finally ready to turn things around. The era of empire, white supremacy, dirty energy, and global capitalism has shown itself to be terribly destructive, and the number of people who benefit continues to shrink. The legitimacy of this system is eroding, just as apartheid did in South Africa and the empire of the USSR did. In both cases, enormously powerful systems collapsed quickly, but only after years of work.

Change at this scale is disorienting and even frightening, especially when it is hard to conceive of the outcome.

Reimagining our world

Albert Einstein said, “No problem can be solved from the same consciousness that created it.”

I believe it is also true that we can’t make the transition to a new society within the framework of the old. Or, as Audre Lorde said, “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” Obsessing over Donald Trump’s latest tweet or the misdeeds of the powerful keeps us within that old mindset, distracting us from work that might actually save us, the work of reimagining the world we want, and creating it.

I’ve come to believe that this work of reimagining is humble, small, often taps feminine energy, is fundamentally indigenous—and local.

I’ve come to believe that this work of reimagining is humble, small, often taps feminine energy, is fundamentally indigenous—and local. One way to learn what that means is to ask people who are rebuilding after a major collapse, like those now living in Puerto Rico. So I called up my colleague at PeoplesHub, Melissa Rosario, who lives in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Melissa had been building an urban center of cooperative economics, ecologically light living, and “embodied pedagogy” (healing, starting with the body). In the aftermath of the hurricanes, her work has taken on a new immediacy, she told me. Along with friends in the Puerto Rican diaspora—in Detroit, New York, and elsewhere on the U.S. mainland—she has been assembling healing supplies: herbal tinctures and syrups for respiratory and immune system health, salves for treating wounds, graphics showing acupressure points, instructions in breathing exercises and other techniques for working through trauma, emotional overwhelm, depression, and insomnia.

“We want to restore to people the sense that their body can tell them what’s wrong, that they know best what they need,” she told me.

One of the first places where she brought the medicine kits was to a group of moms, grandmothers, and children from a nearby neighborhood, who, along with Colectiva Feminista en Construcción, a feminist collective, were using an abandoned building as a gathering place. A party was in full swing when Melissa arrived: Children were making masks for Halloween, while others were dancing to music playing from battery-powered speakers.

Melissa told me that her work, and the work of other progressives, is now more immediate, more grounded in people’s needs instead of in abstractions.

Also, because internet connections and electricity are scarce, people are spending less time on their devices.

“It’s wiping away the distractions, the veils,” she said. “I feel much more clear and aligned and just present. If you’re aware, there are more possibilities. It’s thrilling, hopeful, and also exhausting!”

The joy Melissa described in the abandoned building reminds me of the joy I witnessed on my road trip when people gathered to grow and share food or create a cooperative enterprise.

Building together locally is a no-regrets strategy. It releases joy at a time when so many are stressed—just the company of others, engaged in a common purpose, satisfies a deep soul yearning. And if there’s a natural disaster, we’ll need each other to rebuild. Same thing if civilization cracks under the stresses of the climate catastrophe (or from one of the other possible disasters—global or local). If we muddle through with the old power structures intact, local power will prevent the worst abuses, relieve isolation, and increase prospects for a society that works for all.

Through this long, hard—but also joyful—work, we may indeed find more and more of our communities becoming more just and ecologically sustainable and maybe even more filled with compassion. And from this foundation, we can build a better country and a better world, rooted in authentic relationships where we live.

2 thoughts on “Americans Are Stressed About the Future. Here’s Why That’s Promising

  1. Straight Talk for the Soul in all of Us

    The most common form of mental illness today: “I have no future”

    I believe one of the most common form of mental illness today is, “I have no future.”

    Mr. Google found some useful suggestions today online. Here’s what I learned:

    1. Collect People Not Things

    Even if you are an individualist, keep an eye on cooperation and collaboration. Isolation is the easiest trap for an individualist to fall into and get stuck in.

    Are you so capable alone you never need friends and allies? What about for when you re-invent yourself later in life? Give other people a chance. Don’t isolate. Others can save you from yourself when you can’t save yourself. Be especially grateful for and appreciative of friends-allies willing to risk to tell you the truth about your own shortcomings, when you ask.

    “Little of my success today is my own. I have a circle of brilliant people who engage with me, challenge me, and help me grow. I do the same for them because a rising tide raises all boats. I work hard to make sure I bring respect and value to every encounter, whether I know the person or not. Because of this I have been blessed with many opportunities. It did not happen overnight. Today opportunities come as much from people I helped over a decade ago, as they do from recent contacts. Share your value. Give with confidence, strength, and appreciation. Then people want to engage with you and create success together even years later.”

    Q: Yes but I have lots of friends. I already can’t keep up with the friends. I have!

    A: Great. Please inventory your friends. How many tell you what you already know and what you want to hear about you? How many of your friends simply reinforce your reflection, reflect back to you what you’re doing and where you are now? How many of your friends accept you stuck where you are and enable you to remain stuck?

    Who are you cultivating who can reflect new parts of you, new useful views of you, outside your own box, from outside your own limited horizons?

    Q: Yes but I want friends. who support me.

    A: This is natural; we all want like-minded friends.

    However friends who support you in your negative addictions are not friends. of your growth and healthy, gradual transformation. Who supports you looking beyond where you are stuck? These friends become increasingly useful after age 50, when a tide of our old habits tends to flow back in and can overwhelm the progress we made in earlier stages of our present biography.

    Q: I only want friends who support me where I am now.

    A: Fine with me; up to you what kinds of friends you have. Would you consider having only friends who reinforce your existing old habits? If you prefer this, how will you do much growing or transforming? What balance of support and straight talk for your higher good is workable for you?

    2. Identify what You Love to Do. Persist until you match it with profitable, practical economic activity

    Whatever you love to do, a way to do it, so it generates income, exists. Exactly how is not always clear. Innovation and imagination is often required. The more imagination-innovation required, the more labor required to make doing what you love profitable.

    If you approach this like a puzzle and like play, there can be wonderful joy in figuring out how to generate money from what you love to do. If you keep the process fun, you are more likely to invent a way to make money from what you love to do. How inventive are you? How imaginative are you? Which of your allies-friends supports you moving to re-invent yourself? Who can assist?

    3. Gain through Giving and Gratitude

    Giving, gratitude and abundance are all primarily Inside Games, part of the Inner Game of Life.

    Why? Because all three (and more besides) are soul qualities, positive qualities you access thru your own eternal-immortal soul aspect. Giving, gratitude and abundance do NOT and cannot come primarily from the external world?

    Why? Because how successfully we play our Inner Game of Life has more effect on our Outer Game of Life appearance to ourselves and others.

    The converse is also true: The outer appearance of our Life has less influence on how giving, grateful and abundant we feel when we lie down to sleep at night. How giving, grateful and abundant we feel then, is primarily the reward of playing the Inner Games of Life successfully.

    4. Invest Your Ego in Your capacity to grow and transform

    If you are on no path of self-mastery whatsoever, you can skip this part.

    One thing masterful persons do is being mindful when they act as if they are wearing the T-shirt, “Who dies with the most toys, wins.”

    Masterful persons take off this T-shirt, as often as necessary. They focus on what they are BECOMING more than WHO THEY WERE in the past.

    Masterful persons understand, to some degree, the only constant in human experience is change. If we are not consciously setting new goals, the other direction our creativity can flow, is into defending against change. Where is your creativity going?

    5. Be Responsive to Your Own Future Self

    If you have an image of your Positive Future Self, she can be your best friend, a reference point for making choices and decisions today. Is my choice today aligned with my Positive Future Self–or not?

    How can I make my Positive Future Self happy today?

    A wonderful way to be happy NOW is making your Future Self happy. What can you do today for your Future Self?

    Will my Future Self be happy to clean up this mess later; or, will my Future Self be happier if I clean it up today so tomorrow there’s more spaciousness?

    If you have a Positive Future Self to invest in, applying yourself today so your Future Self has more room to expand, explore and create, is the opposite of “manyana, I can do it tomorrow.”

    Q: Yes but I have NO Positive Future Self to invest in.

    A: How is this working for you? Were you expecting your spouse, your job, your children, your friends., to provide a New You to invest in? If so, how’s that working for you? If this is working, congratulations.

    Q: Why is it so challenging for me to focus on imagining and setting goals for my own Positive Future Self?

    A: In the affluent West, we insulate ourselves from death, in all its appearances. We forget: For our immortal-eternal soul aspect, there is no such thing as “status quo.” In our soul aspect, we are like a ball thrown into the air. Either the ball is going up or it’s going down. Either we are going up or we are going down.

    The happy status quo state we think will be there “once I marry this person,” “once I make this much money,” “once I get my promotion,” “once I retire,” can be achieved, it can arrive in our Outer Game of Life. However–it will change; it won’t be permanent. As immortal-eternal learners, like a thrown ball, if we are not curving up, pretty soon we will be curving down.

    Q: I feel like I’m curving down. What can I do?

    A: Spend more time imagining and considering your Positive Future Self. What goals does she have? What can you do today to make her happier? If nothing comes to mind, what distractions, incompletions, unnecessary obligations can you remove so your Future Self can move, grow and transform less impeded?

    “Feeling too lazy to wash the dishes? Think about your future self. She would probably be happy to walk into a clean kitchen the next morning. Don’t want to deal with some email correspondence? Then your future self will have to. Open up space for her to do more important things. Flossing? Yes, please. Your future self would love to have healthy teeth. Exercise? …your future self will have much more energy. Meal prep for the coming week on Sunday? Yup. Your future self can then enjoy healthy meals and a more open schedule through the week.”

    Q: When should I start building my Future Me?

    A: The only possible time to build a Positive Future You is NOW. There is no other time in which she can be envisioned and supported with goals.

    The healthy seeds you plant today, if you nurture them with time, attention and creativity–sprout and blossom for your happy Future Self.

    Conversely, the messes you make today, your Future Self has to clean up. Every choice you make now is an investment in the vitality and happiness; or, the burdening of your Future Self.

    To Learn More

    The following two articles were useful to me for their organization and several ideas:

    Don’t Fix the Present, Create the Future (written 2013)

    How You’re Building Your Future Self Today by MILENA RANGELOV
    = = = =
    Author, Health Intuitive, Bruce Dickson online:


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