On herd dreams and loss of identity

Browsing virtually any remotely social website or blog, I can’t help but notice the never-ending boasting fest. The photos of envy-inspiring travels, perfect bodies, dreamy partners doing all the right things, a splendour of expensive jewellery, cosmetics, clothes and apartments. A competition of whose life is more perfect, more carefree, more dreamlike is never-ending. Just looking at all those smiling faces on beautiful tropical beaches can inspire an uncomfortable, jealousy-stricken train of thoughts: why is my life not like this? Why is everyone better off than me? Am I doing something wrong?

It’s a dangerous thing these days as it has become so easy to share your “retouched” life with virtually anyone in the world with a click of a mouse. The things we see are obviously not a fair reflection of anyone’s life. Naturally, people are much less prone to share the darker sides of their daily existence with a wider audience. Sometimes, they deliberately emphasize the cool looking sides to fill in an inner gap of dissatisfaction by inspiring jealousy in others. All of this aside, the plainness and repetitiveness of it all strikes me as it seems no one else is noticing it. When have we all started to share exactly the same dreams?

Perhaps it’s just human nature which we all share that is to desire certain feelings of freedom or excitement. Either way, with such a wide spectrum of personalities, talents and life experiences, how can it be that we all want to travel to exotic places, eat in fancy restaurants and have money flowing into our accounts while lying on the beach and working on our laptops – work meaning editing photos of our perfect bodies and branded clothes and posting them on Instagram/blogs etc.?

I feel that sometimes we get so lost in the images fed to us from every side that our subconsciousness is starting to acknowledge them as our own desires. More often than not, we don’t even consider whether that lone travel across continents would make us so happy and fit with our character and emotional needs. We treat those things as dreams but if someone actually stood in front of us and offered us the opportunity to go ahead and do it, right at this moment, maybe what we would find would be rather anxiety, panic and loneliness.

Acknowledging your uniqueness, I encourage you to stop and think of what you, personally, want out of your life. What are your dreams and desires? Don’t be fooled by the family, friends, acquaintances or bloggers pressing their own ideals on you. Just because for other people having children or buying a house is a life goal, doesn’t mean it would make you happy or fulfilled as well. Think about what you really see yourself doing that would give you true, identity-defining pleasure but also a certain degree of safety and comfort appropriate to your own needs. Imagine yourself doing that and observe how it makes you feel. Do you only enjoy your hobby because you do it for yourself, freely and without any pressure or would you really see yourself and enjoy doing it professionally, every day until the end of your life? Just because someone swears on an office job being a living hell, doesn’t mean that it cannot bring you joy or satisfaction.

Enjoy the beautiful vastness of choices that life offers and make your own crafted just for you. This life is yours. You are the sailor on this boat and you get to choose the direction. So what that other ships are cheerfully heading west? If deep inside you know you’re drawn east, just go for it and never look back.


4 thoughts on “On herd dreams and loss of identity

  1. Magdalena,
    Your post reminded me of a scene in Hermann Broch’s novel “The Death of Virgil.”
    “Thus towered the citadel, irresistible and seductive, amid a surf of torches, the sole significant goal of the irresistibly attracted, crowding, snorting herd-mass, the longed for goal of their excessive craving for direction, but for this very reason it was also the embodiment of a terrifying, gloom-showering, undiscoverably enigmatic power, incomprehensible for the individual animal, incomprehensible for the individual man, oh so incomprehensible that the question as to the meaning and source of the overpowering attraction imprisoned in the fiery house and shining out from it, throbbed in almost every one of them, in dread of an answer, in hope of an answer, and although no one was able to offer the true one, yet the most modest and inadequate gave such promise of being able to confirm their hope of salvaging consciousness, of salvaging humanity and the soul that it seemed worthy of proud utterance-; “Wine,” the call went up, “Free wine,” and the call ‘The Prateorians,’ and ‘The Caesar is to speak.’ and suddenly someone announced in a gasping voice: ‘They have started to distribute the money.'” Thus the citadel cast its seduction upon them, thus they spurred on themselves and each other lest the great seduction should become dubious to them…

    The quote is rather long, as Broch is not a writer who allows for short pithy summaries, but it does give a sense of the dreadful attraction of the herd-mentality with its plethora of images, and the equally dreadful fear that all these images will prove, ultimately, to be empty and worthless. Paradoxically that fear of emptiness pushes us into a kind lascivious frenzy; we desperately want something to be true, but around the oblivion of wine and the false consolations of lucre we cast ourselves into the herd and are divested of our own true being.

    • Thank you for sharing your thoughts! The quote indeed fits here perfectly. Surely, not only the images but also substances such as alcohol or sugar or promises of financial reward can cloud our judgement and prevent us from discovering what truly defines us as individuals.

  2. Brilliant! I liked how you said that “we get so lost in the images fed to us.” You provide some excellent advice on you you can do what you want to do. This is an idea I’ve explored as part of a philosophy of enjoyment as well.

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