“This country needs group therapy.”
We’ve all heard and said these words at least once in the past three years, and, to be honest, it rings very true. The pressures we’ve been through lately have not only been tremendous, but constant. Most of us haven’t been given a chance to break the vicious cycle of stress that’s been eating away at our mental (and sometimes physical) wellbeing. It doesn’t look like we will be any time soon either.
Almost none of us has had the time or chance to process what’s happened to us on a mental and emotional level, and it seems that every time we start to think we’ll have some peace of mind, another catastrophe hits us “slam” in the face. We’re all stretched ridiculously thin and the constancy of these “crashing waves” is wearing us out more than what is humanly possible.
What rubs salt into the wound is the fact that, as a nation, our only coping mechanism is to take this out on each other. We were never really “civilized” as a society and, naively, it never crossed my mind that our “savage” ways can get any worse, otherwise we’d simply be barbaric. But, as it turns out, there are many stages between “uncivilized” and “barbaric” and we as a nation are steadily heading down that road.
In a nutshell, we are now a mentally unstable nation.
If you take a few minutes to observe your surroundings, you will notice a shift in the way we as Egyptians now treat each other. Take driving, for instance. Driving has always been hazardous in Egypt, especially in Cairo, but what honestly never crossed my mind before I started observing my surroundings is that it could actually get worse! And we have succeeded in doing exactly that. We’ve all dropped a notch or two on the “civilized” scale as far as driving is concerned, many of us simply because everyone around us has and not turning into a savage means you won’t survive this harsh, concrete jungle.
“Conquering” those driving around us is a victory of some sort; perhaps symbolizing that we can overcome some kind of hurdle, even though we feel crippled. A lot of us, on the other hand, chose a different defense mechanism known as “the bubble.” We’ve wrapped ourselves tightly into a cocoon of “pleasantries” and comfort zones that shield us from the thorns of reality. And these bubbles really work, at least for a while. The problem with them is the delusion; the plastic hope that things aren’t as bad as they seem and that the future isn’t as dark as it looks.
Our relationships are also suffering gravely from this mass-stress phenomenon. Friendships are wavering as we discover how intolerant we are of other people’s opinions when they disagree with us. Before these times, we never really had to disagree about anything major, so the cracks in our personalities and relationships never had a chance to show. And, from one extreme to the other, we are now disagreeing on almost everything and all the things we are disagreeing on are core beliefs. These continuous disagreements leave very little common ground to bond over. They also make it hard for every individual person to deal with the shock of discovering them, let alone the very idea of being different and accepting it. Not only that, we are also less tolerant of each other. What perks or quirks we were able to overlook in the past now augment themselves as intolerable and insufferable flaws that make us want to sever the relationship rather than work on it.
The ways we are dealing with the pressures we’ve been going through over the past three years are the way a normal human being deals with shock. We’re lashing out at random and we’re breaking and smashing our surroundings like angry children, physically and metaphorically. I personally think that’s perfectly normal, especially that these shocks are constant and our chances to process them are scarce, if they exist at all. “Normal” may not necessarily be healthy, but then we are a species that defies health to our very core anyway. And, at least we’re letting some of it out in a way. The damages that occur in the process are sometimes worrisome though.
That being said, it is commonly believed that, in order to survive a catastrophe or a shock, you need to be able to perceive betterment; to be able to visualize that the trauma will end and that a calmer, simpler and saner reality will follow. The human mind tends to philosophize its way out of harsh realities and, at one point or the other, a kind of balance is achieved and a learning curve is developed. Seeing through the mayhem is difficult, especially when we are so deep in it. But to be completely honest, true learning never came from preaching or theory. The life lessons that resonate the most with us are the ones that leave us scarred for life. They are lessons that teach us that we really can’t have things our way and that acceptance is the only true armor against life’s cruelties.
In an attempt to philosophize this mass-aggression phenomenon that Egypt is going through, let’s try to perceive it as a learning experience; a steep, dramatic and damaging learning curve.
So, what are we learning?
We’re learning that we as Egyptians are just like any other community out there; we are filled with flaws and contradictions. We are intolerant of each other’s differences, we are quite ignorant about rights and duties, and we have a lot to learn. The constant shocks we are experiencing should eventually lead to numbness. Numbness, in turn, leads to a more rational way of thinking, and that (to me at least) is a beacon of light and hope.
If being exposed to so much shock will eventually lead us to not feeling shocked when drastic changes occur, then perhaps we will learn how to deal with them. Part of the “democracy” we are striving for is accepting the flaws and differences within us. It’s not about all of us being the same, it’s about us being different and being ok with that. It’s about knowing your weaknesses and accepting them. It’s about being able to hate without harming; to disagree without feeling the urge to convince or force the other party to change. This is how nations and cultures progress; through shock and sudden change. The realities that force themselves upon you are what humble you, and the fact that you can’t change them teaches you to accept them.
Egypt is not the only nation that has gone through such deep cultural changes; a quick look through modern history will show you that we are now where many others were before us. Yes, we are disturbed and are not at our best behavior, but this is not a lasting status. No status is everlasting; change is the only constant. This mass-depression and aggression will pass. Our intolerances will be tamed. Our levels of acceptance will grow. Our expectations and desires will be leashed.