Recently, I received questions about dealing with work environments that lack openness and connection, where you're expected to leave your humanity behind closed doors and simply do your job.
While I can't provide specific advice for each situation, I can offer some general ideas on balancing your humanity and your need for connection once you operate from a personal development perspective.
This blog post aims to provide a realistic view of what being present, open, and connected can really mean in real life.
Personal development and spiritual growth industries often leave out a crucial aspect: as you become more aware and connected, you'll encounter the challenges of facing other people's issues and difficulties.
Here's the deal: Some people don't recognize their problems and act on autopilot, so they might not relate to you as you hope. This can be frustrating if you believe everyone would be better off if they were only as open, present, and contactful as you. You might wonder why you feel detached and stressed despite your best efforts to connect, be calm and present, like after a workshop or session. It's because becoming more aware makes you more empathetic to others' emotions, not necessarily more compassionate. You'll pick up on their anger, sadness, joy – their ups and downs – just by being around them. This happens because personal growth and spirituality encourage openness and receptivity.
Let's talk reality. Life flow isn't all smooth sailing. It depends on where you live, who you're with, how others perceive you, and your role in society. You might think that becoming present and aware will let you change your surroundings and connect with better people (because that's what you're told in workshops and courses). However, you can't escape challenges like climate change, high living costs, death, sickness, your dysfunctional family dynamic, and societal norms no matter where you go.
Being engaged means dealing with others' issues. Being present means seeing others' struggles. Being mindful means being the more responsible and understanding one among those on autopilot. Trying to change people who don't see their problems is often futile. You can adapt or find ways to cope.
For example, meditation helps to calm you, but it also isolates you from others. Initially, breathwork helps to relax and boost energy, but it can leave you even more disregulated, open, and boundaryless in the long run. Communication techniques and setting boundaries also help you feel more in control, but these don't always work with everyone. Understanding your past trauma through therapy can lead to compassion, but you'll still face challenges and feel helpless for as long as you focus primarily on being present, open, and connected. Not because there is something wrong with you but because there is a lot wrong with our world.
And here's the truth: It's okay to not always be open and connected. You don't have to be present every single moment. Setting boundaries and keeping some distance for your mental and emotional well-being is fine, and that doesn't make you bad or "like those people" you don't want to become if you let yourself loose.
A sense of superiority in personal development and spirituality can make you feel like you have surpassed ordinary people's struggles. But they didn't go anywhere. Becoming more open means you're more open to their dysfunction, and it takes time and resources to learn how to co-exist vulnerably within a broken system. Although maturing brings awareness and understanding, it also exposes you to harsh realities. Sometimes, workshops can give you a temporary positive boost, access to magical thinking, and hope, but it doesn't last long if you are present and open to the real world.
Many find that being present makes them dislike their harsh reality, especially if they can't change it. That's normal. Nobody should like dysfunction. Being connected means dealing with difficult people. You're not always prepared for that, and that's okay.
There aren't enough coaching sessions, workshops, or personal development programs to prepare for every single life encounter. Sometimes, you have to do what works, not what's best, and find ways to cope that you only learn in the aftermath.