Socializing, Intimacy and Privacy in the Digital Age: Socializing – Part 1

Is Your Socializing Fragrant 180701

Bring the fragrance of jasmine to your social group! (Photo by Socialpictures CH on Unsplash)

You may have noticed that when there are times we want to be alone and we give it a positive value. At other times, we may feel lonely even when we are amongst family, friends, colleagues and so on. The physical situation may be the same, but the time and place that the situation of being lonely is happening is something we do not want. Then we give it a negative value. What makes for being alone and what makes for being lonely?  I hope to write about this in a series of posts in a contemplative exploration of what being alone means, in the context of socializing, intimacy and privacy that each of us may relate to and practice in different ways.

Many people inhabiting the 21st century digital world feel that being alone provides the opportunity for rejuvenation within the boundaries of privacy. They want only a certain amount of socializing. And with certain individuals of their choice, they would like the intimacy. There is a balance between intimacy and socializing, which seems to be managed by signaling privacy boundaries.  When that balance is right, we may get to the alone time we value. When that balance is skewed, we may either end up with too little of the alone time or too much of the alone time, which at some point becomes lonely time.

This may happen both over time in different phases of our life cycle, and across the spaces we inhabit. When young, we may sense the need for more socializing and less alone time. When older we may feel the need for more alone time. It may also differ from person to person the same age group, due to a myriad of reasons. Join me in this contemplative, intuitive exploration.

In this Part I post I will explore socializing and what it means in the digital age. Future posts will cover socializing in the context of different degrees of intimacy and privacy factors, how we create boundaries and manage them and how it comes together in giving us positive alone time sometimes, and leaves us feeling lonely and hungry for company at other times.

Socializing

The framework I use for this contemplative exploration is from the Advaita Vedanta perspective (and this is just touching one point of the shore of the surface of the breadth and depth of the Vedanta framework on being human): the human is considered to have 4 capabilities – physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual. In these contemplations I articulate that perspective using 21st century memes.

We socialize physically, by being present in a team meeting or on the playing field or at the coffee shop.  We cannot have the physical presence in our digital social interactions (yet – sometime in the future that may change given augmented reality and holograms and so on, they may be able to produce the sense of smell and touch, which is part of the core of our physical socializing).

During these social physical together times we interact emotionally, often times with the full range of emotions: from affectionately positively friendly to angrily upsettingly negative. Being in the same physical space and in a group, makes for moderating influence. We are more circumspect on both sides.  On the other hand, when we have emotional social interactions digitally, we may end up not being so circumspect. Losing some of our composure and expending physical energy in the process.

We socialize intellectually too: we have conversations about politics, education, health care, welfare. We have opinions based on our observations, we propose them using models we have in our minds. We defend and argue about our models. And learn and sometimes change our models (often surreptitiously, without admitting it) in the process, so we can argue better next time. Those are the steps of an intellectual process. Scientists and academics do that more formally. This type of intellectual socialization may work in a digital space, especially if we leave our emotional interactions at the door. That happens more in a physical setting, and not as much in digital settings, as we notice in the flame wars on social media sites.

As I have grown older, I find I value socializing less and intimacy (which I expect to explore in a future post) and alone time more. I manage it through setting privacy boundaries (which also I will explore in a future post in this series). I see a similar pattern both in those close to my age around me, as well as my children, as they get closer to 30. My work based socialization has become very focused individual or group based problem solving interactions, strategic and wide ranging as they may be. My socialization outside of work projects, coaching and satsanghs is down to a few select friends. My alone time is filled with long walks, meditation, chanting, reading, writing, doodling, sketching (and lately sporadically knitting a scarf).

I have reached over the 800 word limit already on this post, which apparently is the expected attention span of a digital interaction. I will continue in my next post.

Meanwhile, on a scale to 100, I would say I value socializing at 30, intimacy at 30 and alone time at 40 at this stage of my life. How about you?

Where There Are Many More Losers, Very Few Winners

Corporate Pyramid by Photo by Meriç Dağlı on Unsplash 180613

The Pyramid Game: Very Few Winners (Photo by Meriç Dağlı on Unsplash)

By Jayant Kalawar

Most of us are driven to act by desires much of the time. And by fears some of the time. Some mix of the two most of the time. Sometimes we act out of habit. We have an inertia about changing how we act. Even when the driving desires and fears are no longer in us. Today I am going to talk about some consequences of acting in situations when desires do not give expected results.

Many of us have the desire to acquire and maintain a certain social status. That social status requires income, assets, acquiring of objects such as houses and cars and jewelry and clothes and college degrees. Many ands can be added. Career is one way of getting social status in the corporate (and remembers it’s only a little over a hundred years old!). The career structure is a pyramid. So people compete fiercely to get to the next level on the pyramid. It’s like playing musical chairs.

When someone else gets ahead in the pyramid, some of us feel that it was unfair. They did not get a fair shake. Those who got ahead were from the ‘in-group’. The others were favored. And so on. Factually it is likely that all that is true. When the desire to get ahead in the pyramid gets doused, many of us feel frustrated. Most of us reach this stage somewhere in their 40s and 50s. After all it is a pyramid. Only a few people can get to the top. We begin to see a few of our class mates and colleagues soar. And you know from way back that you are better than them. The frustration sometimes begins to boil over to resentment.

Getting resentful about not being able to get ahead on the career and social status pyramid sets the stage for some not very sensible actions. Such actions, born out of frustration, have consequences.

These not very sensible actions may show up as objections and snide remarks at meetings. Negative water-cooler talk is another vent. It may show up in a more passive aggressive way – in the form of internal corporate survey responses for example. We may assume those survey responses are indeed confidential and not shared. Most internal corporate surveys may be assumed to be used as barometers of where an individual is in terms of being a team player. So survey responses used for venting may have negative consequences. Perceptions in HR and senior management may turn negative. A venting team member cannot be relied upon as much.

So what can we do? Life is not fair. We learned that in kindergarten. We keep forgetting it. The odds are stacked against us, all of us, as we go up each rung in the pyramid. Those of us who are lucky, and much of it may be just luck, to get to the next rung, begin to think we are really good and better than those who did not make it there. We begin to think life is fair, so we made it there! Then when we cannot make it to the next higher rung, we are suddenly shocked that life is not fair.

So what can we do? The pyramid game is a finite game. There are many many more losers and very few winners in that game. Switch to playing the infinite game. The cosmos is infinite. We live and act in a microcosm of that cosmos. The microcosm has everything that the cosmos has. Remember the first verse of the Isha Upanishad:

Purnam-adah Purnam-idam, PurnAt Purna-mudachyate,

Purnasya Purnam-Adaya, PurnamevA Vashishyate

The switch from playing the finite pyramid game to the infinite game takes a cognitive shift within ourselves. Deconstruction out of the pyramid game to resonating with the cosmos.

So that we may begin hear the birds sing and flowers bloom, and notice the waxing and waning of the Moon.

Live to the rhythms of the universal clock within us, to sync with the cosmic cycles all around us.

And yes, it is very hard work to get there. But some of us may feel it will indeed work to get us there.

Are you one of those few?

(c) 21BanyanTree and Jayant Kalawar

Mars in Turbulent Fields: Astro-Weather Watch / Warning May 2nd to November 5th 2018

Mars Passing Through Turbulence Derek Thompson Unsplash 180518

Mars in Turbulent Fields (Photo by Derek Thomson on Unsplash)

Many of you have already noticed natural events, whether freaky storms, earth tremors or volcanic activity, since May 2nd. There is more to come, as Mars moves through turbulent fields between now and early November 2018, both in natural and human generated events with potentially negative impacts.

Here are the date ranges to watch out for such occurrences and within that some potential peak dates, when you may experience unexpected / sudden events.

Date ranges to be cautious and observe:

May 31st to June 15th (with May 31st to June 8th being peak dates for potential sudden / unexpected events to commence).

July 10th to July 28th (chances of sudden / unexpected events: July 10th to July 19th)

September 21st to September 30th (peak dates: September 21st to September 26th).

Besides the natural and mass human generated events, which we will all observe, each of us may experience events in specific areas of our personal and family lives depending on ascendant birth sign (using sidereal zodiac). Here are some pointers (if you want empower yourself to surf these waves, there are ways of doing it):

Aries: There may be some events relating to career and social status that impact your health, physically and emotionally.

Taurus: There is potential for some sudden events for your parents, advanced studies and good fortune in general.

Gemini: Some potential for loss of income and connections with elder siblings and mentors is seen.

Cancer: Potential for loss in career and social status may impact your spouse / partner.

Leo: You may find yourself in debt or disputes with your parents (or those in authority), obstacles in advanced studies and during some long distance travels.

Virgo: Expect some obstacles and endings in your emotional relationships and creative pursuits.

Libra: There may be some endings in personal and business partnerships.

Scorpio: Some disputes and debt situations may be seen with younger siblings, colleagues and any small business interests you may have.

Sagittarius: Some losses in your emotional relationships and creative pursuits may impact general sense of well-being for yourself and your family.

Capricorn: You may experience some personal impact due to sudden change in your financial asset, home or mother related situations.

Aquarius: You may experience some setbacks relating to small business situations, younger siblings and communication clarity.

Pisces: There may be changes in family situation that impact income and relationship with elder siblings and mentors.

Two Birds on the Tree of Life

Two Birds on the Tree of Life - allan godfrey 180429

Two Birds on the Tree of Life (Photo by Alan Godfrey on Unsplash)

By Jayant Kalawar

Many of you may know about the metaphor used in the Upanishads. Of the two birds on the tree of life.

It is a way of deconstructing ourselves, to become aware of how we function in this world.

We are the two birds. The tree of life is the cosmos we perch on.

One of the birds is the eater bird. The other is the observer bird.

The eater bird has desires and it has fears to match its desires. It desires to eat the fruits it sees on the cosmic tree. It starts by eating what is nearest to it. Then its appetite increases and it hops to other branches. Higher branches, with apparently big juicy fruit. We start by only wanting to eat, be just about warm and to sleep. Then we want to have fun. Then we want to have social status: more food, more house, more car, more degrees, more fashion statements, more show-off. Many of us want to have children. We want them to maintain and increase our social status. We do this every day and night. We are either nibbling or grasping off the cosmic tree or we are plotting and planning how to eat more and more.

The eater bird starts triggering its fears as soon as it starts desiring. What if I do not get to the fruit. What if some other eater bird grabs the fruit before I can eat it all. What if there is no more fruit on the branch I am on. What if I cannot jump to the higher branches. What if other eater birds knock me off this branch. What if they do not let me get on to another branch. What if. What if.

Those are the fears we carry with us all the time. Free floating anxieties. Many times those fears come true. It is an uncertain world out there. We, as eater birds, have very little control. We may deceive ourselves to believe that we are in control of some part of some fruit. We know we are not in control. And it reinforces our anxieties.

Many of us hear inner voices sagely telling us to stick to what we know. In our comfort zones. Those voices are our fears talking to us. They are telling us how to manage our fears down and make the most of the fruits in hand. We give it fancy names. Managing risks down. Maximizing returns. We feel good that we are sophisticated and modern. We are eater birds on the cosmic tree. Eating fruit we do not own. On which we have very little control on.

And then hopping along with the eater bird part is the observer bird. Always there, besides us. If only we were to look. It is that part of us which has an understanding of the nature of the cosmos and our part in it. When we connect and immerse ourselves in the observer bird part of us, we may be able to calm down our desires. As our desires become minimal, so do our fears. When our fears become minimal, we can sleep better. We are more energized with less.

There are primal desires that never go away. We manifest in this physical body. It comes with the desire to survive. And the other desire most of us come with is the one to procreate. So while we may be able to minimize material and social desires at a personal level, these primal desires of the eater bird need a culture that helps manage these primal desires to a minimal level, without being violent with each other. That is where the personal become social.

The cultural fabric seems to be collapsing in slow motion around us, as science and technology of the material becomes our master, ruling how we live and connect with each other under the guise of Reason. We seem to be slowly but surely becoming even more disconnected from the observer bird part of us.

The challenge is not just at a personal level. It is even more so at a social level. And it is global. Start with a contemplation: what will the world be like to really act out that we desire minimally and flourish as observers of the cosmos. Step back, from time to time, from being an eater bird, and be the part that is naturally you: the quiet observer.

Have a great week.

© 21BanyanTree.com and Jayant Kalawar

Energy Boost from the Sun in Aries: April 14th to May 15th 2018

Sun in Aries 2018 Photo by Tanishq Tiwari on Unsplash

Glow in the High Energy of Sun in Aries (Photo by Tanishq Tiwari on Unsplash)

By Jayant Kalawar

When the Sun transits through Aries between mid-April and mid-May, most of us sense a boost of energy in different areas of life, depending on your ascendant birth sign (using sidereal, not tropical zodiac). If you are in touch with your energy flows through your inner work, this is something you will sense. You will be able to channel this burst of energy appropriately to heal yourself and others around you.

This year though, Mercury is still hanging around in Pisces (where it has been going back and forth since early March) and will be there until May 9th. Mercury in Pisces makes for generally less than effective communications for most of us. This is exacerbated for Aries (may cause some losses, increased expenses), Libra (mis-communications may lead to disputes) and Leo (may cause challenges in career and social status). Those situations may likely be resolved after May 9th.

Also, there will be one other major movement in the next few weeks. Mars will be moving into Capricorn on May 3rd and will be hanging its hat there until November 6th. In Capricorn Mars is energized and is generally positive for most signs, provided we channel its energies appropriately (so Leo ascendants may sense great energy flows which make them competitive at work and help win in disputes. Make sure to manage it with the long run in mind, not just the short run wins i.e. do not burn bridges for immediate applause, bring people along with you). This year Mars will be heading into rather rough astro weather in the June-July time frame, with the Moon’s orbit disturbing the Sun-Earth gravitational field (yes the July solar and lunar eclipses are just one measure of this disturbance). Mars energies will be weakened considerably. Many of us are likely to feel the stress of this sudden drop in energy levels in different ways. Those with Gemini, Leo and Aquarius ascendants need to be especially aware: prioritize and focus to conserve energies, to get through positively in the June-July period. I may write more about this next month.

To end on a positive note, currently, between April 13th to 20th, there is a Venus-Jupiter alignment going on, which is giving positive energies to many of us. May be a nice time to enjoy art and culture (Venus) and a general sense of well-being, blessed by expansive energies of Jupiter.

(c) Jayant Kalawar and 21BanyanTree.com

The 2018 Piscean Month – March 14th to April 13th – is a mixed bag

Pisces by Jeremy Thomas Unsplash 180317

Do you see Pisces in the sky? (Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash)

I am late posting my ruminations for the Piscean month of March 14th to April 13th when the Sun is seen to transit in zodiac of Pisces on the sky map. I was busy with coaching and writing. Also, this is mixed bag of planetary transits, so I cannot take short cuts, have to speak to each sign and talk to the positives and challenges. So that took some time.

Before I dive in, did you read about the solar magnetic storm that was to pass by Earth from September 14th to 18th? Most of you know that there are regular space weather bulletins issued by the US National Weather Service.

Overall, in the Piscean month this year, Gemini, Cancer, Libra, Sagittarius, and Aquarius are relatively more positive. Aries, Taurus, Leo, Virgo, Scorpio, Capricorn and Pisces may have somewhat more challenges, in varying degrees.

The mixed bag comes from three events we notice in the sky:

First is Mercury’s transit in Pisces through this month, giving us more emotional and less analytical / logical vibrations. At the same time Venus is transiting Pisces until March 25th. Venus adds positively to the emotional energies. So the next week or so is great time to bond with your mother, for example. And, only coincidentally, many of us are celebrating Chaitra Navratri during this time, connecting with the Mother, LalitAmbA, through puja, chanting and meditation. It is a meditative time (see my meditative-contemplative suggestion at the end of the post).

Second is that Mercury, Venus and Sun energies reach us through the disturbed nodal axis zone created by the last solar and lunar eclipses in February 2018. That disturbed zone is still quite potent and will dissipate only after the first week of April. This causes confusions, which add to the already emotionally charged month. This will be experienced more by some signs than others and I point that out below.

Third, is the transit of Mars close to Saturn, reaching the same exact longitude on April 2nd-3rd 2018. The effect of this Mars-Saturn conjunction will begin experienced from March 23rd to April 10th, with peak on April 2nd-3rd. This is a complex experience, and each of us will observe it from different angles in our lives. I give broad directional flavor below by signs, but that is really hand waving – it requires you to get a sense of your birth chart and the role that Saturn and Mars play there, to better appreciate this conjunction.

Ok, here we go.

Aries: You may experience some temporary losses and separations in different areas of your life. On the positive side, you may get some gains in your passive income e.g. investment income, pensions, rents.

Taurus: This may turn out to be stressful month on the professional front, as well as health, work and home areas. Step back, conserve energy, focus on what is required and do it well. Sometimes stress makes you come out a champion, when managed well.

Gemini: Overall a positive month, when fortune shines and blessings flow. Some temporary stress is seen in home, children and creative areas. Be careful with your communication and how you present yourself.

Cancer: A very mixed month. Many positive uplifting things happening in home, creativity and general sense of well-being, punctuated by some passing sudden confusions. Between March 23rd and April 9th, you may see some obstructions to your career goals. Slow down, step back and then actively work towards overcoming the obstacles by collaborating with your partner(s) and seeking help from people you trust.

Leo: Fortune is likely to shine on work you do this month with your personal and business partners. On the other hand, expect and manage obstructions in career matters, communication issues and health.

Virgo: On the positive side, a general sense of well-being is pervasive. You may get to be quite emotional in your communication – slow-down in your speech and writing and try to veer to being thoughtful and silent. Hard work and showing the excellence of your work will be more beneficial than talking about it. Your physical and emotional health may be under stress especially between March 23rd and April 9th. Be careful about operating mechanical machinery, including cars, as you may be prone to injury during this time.

Libra: On the positive side, you may work closely with your partner(s) in the areas of creative projects, romance and children. Health and work place matters are likely to be stressed. The usual slow down rule applies.

Scorpio: There is potential for positive results this month, when you connect creativity, children and romance in your career area, with thoughtful communication. There may be some sudden confusions which you may have to be on the watch for. There may be some passing disputes and disturbances in home matters.

Sagittarius: A generally positive month, with some passing disturbances in passive income, career matters and luck. Connecting creativity, children and romance to new initiatives may lead to success in this period.

Capricorn: Career matters likely to move in a positive direction, with some hiccups since fortune may not favor at this time. You may experience some passing obstructions in your communications and in interactions with younger siblings, friends and colleagues. You may continue to experience a sense of loss this month (this feeling may pervade until early 2020), exacerbated due to loss in home related matters.

Aquarius: An otherwise positive month may be marred by some recurring confusions arising out of communications and also your interactions with personal and business partners. Be thoughtful. Taking a leadership position with younger friends and colleagues to drive entrepreneurial initiatives likely to lead to success now.

Pisces: The continuing challenges in the career area are likely to show up as a general free floating sense of malaise this month. This is an emotionally challenging month, which may be reflected in physical health too. Communications and overall relationship with partner(s) are likely to be under strain.

Let’s turn this month of mixed possibilities into one of abundance of the Devi’s blessings this Chaitra Navratri through meditative-dance!

Cosmic Musical Symphony: Venus and Mercury move on to Pisces March 2nd 2018

Venus and Mercury Playing Musical Chairs March 2018

Venus and Mercury In Cosmic Musical Symphony (Photo by Jonatan Pie on Unsplash)

Venus and Mercury will move to Pisces on March 2nd. Venus will be seen in Pisces until March 25th. Mercury will be seen in Pisces for much longer: until May 8th.

The effect of this movement is likely to be relatively positive in March for Gemini, Cancer, Virgo, Sagittarius and Capricorn.

Those with the following ascendants may wish to be a little more attentive in certain areas in March:

Aries: Some potential for disputes and / or health issue with your personal and business partners.

Taurus: Some impact may be seen on your creativity, children and romantic endeavors.

Leo: Potential impact on career, interactions with younger colleagues, siblings, new initiatives and personal partners.

Libra: Potential for stress and health issues. May be appropriate time for quiet long meditative retreat.

Scorpio: Some impact on interactions with mentors and elder siblings and some losses on investment income.

Aquarius: There is some potential for changes / endings if you have plans for long distance travel or advanced studies, or attending spiritual programs – new options will open up. Be attentive to possibility of impact on relationships with personal partners.

Pisces: Potential for some endings with some personal and business partners. Open new ways of doing things.

Delicious Desire: Making Sense of the ‘Nutella Riots’ in France

Hazelnut Nutella Riots

Delicious Desire (Source: Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash)

On the morning of January 26th 2018, BBC News reported rioting after a chain of supermarkets in France announced a deep discount on Nutella:

A discount on Nutella has led to violent scenes in a chain of French supermarkets, as shoppers jostled to grab a bargain on the sweet spread.Intermarché supermarkets offered a 70% discount on Nutella, bringing the price down from €4.50 (£3.90) to €1.40.But police were called when people began fighting and pushing one another.”They are like animals. A woman had her hair pulled, an elderly lady took a box on her head, another had a bloody hand,” one customer told French media.

It was surprising to read of this behavior in a country that is extolled worldwide for its superior cuisine, wines and desserts, not to mention a culture that is based on acting out the principles of civilized, secular science. The video, embedded in the news, shows healthy, well dressed and not starving individuals of Northern European extraction, (not newly arrived unwashed immigrants), who came to blows over the price of a processed food like Nutella.

In this instance, we can rule out desire arising out of biological hunger as a driver. Also, an attachment to tradition and heritage as a dynamic, was not in play here. Addiction to sugar and chocolate? Perhaps, especially when it is deeply discounted by 70%.   This may well be the trope for the 21st century consumer, programmed as we are by advertising and marketing memes to look for discounts and consume brand name processed foods, that make us acquire desires in the current socio-cultural milieu.

Desires and Fears

At any moment, our actions are driven by a combination of our personal desires and fears that are constantly interacting with the fears and desires of others around us.  In the microcosm, as we saw in the Nutella ‘riots’, desires play out as acquiring a commercially processed food at a low cost, on one hand, with the fear of losing out on the deep discount, on the other,

Then, there is the ladder of fall, when apparently civilized adult humans lose their capacity for judgement.   Modern biology tells us that humans use their forebrain to make judgements, and the capacity to make sound judgements kicks in fully by the age of 26. If this is true and the Nutella ‘rioters’ were, from the video, apparently much older, what went askew with their judgement capacity?

The Downward Spiral

My ancient tradition tells me that when desires are not met, we lose the capacity of judgement. The ladder of fall is described in these following steps:

  • When our energies attach themselves to an object that identifies our well-being, the desire arises to acquire, control and consume that object [Nutella].
  • When these desires are not met as expected (more on expectations in a later blog post), it leads to frustration [not getting our hands on the deeply discounted Nutella].
  • Frustration [of desire being unfulfilled] leads to anger.
  • Anger leads to loss of judgement [apparent loss of access to forebrain capability].
  • Loss of judgement leads to violence. This was in ample evidence in the video in the linked article.

What we see, in the relatively less hurtful and harmful microcosm of the ‘Nutella riots’, can happen to any of us individually, and amplified into group dynamics: desires not met to our expectations, rising frustration not resolved, mounting anger looking for action, culminating in indiscriminate violence and hurt.

Does this feel familiar to you, in your immediate surroundings and in the country you are living in, as well?

(Some of you may have recognized that I am referencing the Bhagavad Gita, chapter 2, verses 62-63, when I reference the downward spiral from my ancient traditions above).

 

 

Parenting Your Child in the Age of STEM

Coping Strategy in Age of STEM

Parents who connect with me under the 21BanyanTree often come for advice on how to manage the challenges of raising children these days. One common theme revolves around the intense competition in schools and growing anxiety about academics and helping their child navigate digital social interactions.  Mothers and fathers express feeling helpless and this sense of helplessness creates an anxiety spiral in the family.

The starting point of the anxiety spiral begins with worry about test scores, especially in STEM-related coursework, and the need for the child to excel in this area for future success.  The other concern, given the increase in online bullying, is how children might be interacting with each other on social media. Even the most educated, professional and well-meaning parent finds control slipping away as the child enters high school.

Why has this feeling of parental helplessness become pervasive and what can we do to get out of the anxiety spiral?

Self-help books suggest breathing and problem-solving techniques, and to focus on the positives, to influence and reduce your child’s anxiety.  These techniques work for some and not everyone.  The 21BanyanTree Coaching practice takes a different tack.  Our technique focusses on helping identify specific patterns of desires and fears, common to most parents, and the triggers that kick-start the individual anxiety spiral. Only when these are patterns of desires and fears are identified, through the self-discovery process, can you learn to control and influence the triggers of anxiety.  There are no cookie-cutter solutions.

For simplicity, let’s consider one area of desire and fear that is common among many parents right now: specifically, the desire to maintain a particular level of social status, and the fear that their child may not have the earning power to match the desired social status.

The Desire for Social Status: Modern consumer societies encourage the individual to attain and maintain a level of physical and social ‘well-being’ signaled by what we own and consume, our educational qualification and profession, and so on. For some, a bank balance and stock value (aka net worth) is integral to the social status portfolio, for others origin-country and skin color or even accents signal social status. In many ways, we are habituated to monitor status signals, and any loss in our personal social status portfolio becomes a cause for anxiety.

Parents who desire a social status portfolio for their children may pressure them to take coursework [for e.g., several APs] to get into top-tier or near top-tier schools. Regardless of their interest or passion, children are encouraged to become doctors, engineers, investment bankers or tech entrepreneurs – professions and businesses that are viewed as providing the earning power to maintain the desired social status. Any indication of a decrease in the future social status portfolio, like lower grades that jeopardizes getting into the Honors or AP track, sends parental anxiety into a tail-spin.  To get the child ‘on track’, parents react with intense tutoring and restricted hours of play and down-time to control the environment.

The fear, corresponding to this desire, is that the child who cannot make it onto the STEM ramp will become a misfit, unable to succeed and make a living in a society that is rapidly becoming powered by AI.

To be fair, not all parents strongly desire or are compelled to motivate their child to acquire social status portfolios. Yet, even here, we’ve observed children become anxious and influenced by signals in schools [ranking by STEM education; eliminating or reducing coursework like art, or educing recess and play time, in favor of STEM classes], and peers on digital social media.

The problem underlying this current dynamic is driven by political, social and cultural considerations and cannot be solved individually in the short-term. What can parents do at the personal level, in addition to providing all the resources required to get onto the STEM ramp, to help themselves and their child in this environment?

Self-discovery:  Everyone has deeply embedded patterns of desires and fears, many we are not aware of and that we continually act upon.  Each pattern of desires and fears arises from our social, economic and cultural background.  The process of self-discovery begins with recognizing and acknowledging our social, economic and cultural selves.

One way is to visualize that we are all living in a dense socio-economic-cultural city of karmas that we’ve built on our collective sentient desires and fears accumulated over time.  In this city are hubs of karmas: the positive hubs shower us with peace, joy and calm, the negative hubs are painful, while others neutral.

To navigate this city of karmas, we first need to become aware of who we are and how we got here – that is how the city got built – before we can understand how our karmas affect us.

Self-discovery begins with the discovery of stories embedded in the three layers- biological, socio-economic and cultural, and personal –  that make up our individual configuration of desires and fears from birth.  When we become aware of our nature, of who we are in the karmic city, can we begin to manage our fears and desires.

There are many options available to managing anxieties arising around raising your child at this particular time. Medications are one and talk therapy is another.

The third option is guided self-discovery with a focus on uncovering the patterns of desires and fears that have most of us in the grip of the anxiety spiral.

At 21BanyanTree we focus on your unique story to help you discover your strengths and competencies as parents, and as individuals to disentangle yourself from the anxiety spiral.  We help you become the parent who can help your child navigate this apparently increasingly uncertain and ambiguous world.