Mel Schwartz, LCSW

#090 Toxic Individualism

It’s time for the 90th episode of The Possibility Podcast with Mel Schwartz! Join me as I discuss the dangers of toxic individualism to our relationships, our culture, and even the planet.

Listen to find out how we can maintain and preserve our empathy and compassion for one another.

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Transcript of The Possibility Podcast with Mel Schwartz #089

Hello, everybody and welcome to The Possibility Podcast. I’m your host Mel Schwartz. I practice psychotherapy and marriage counseling, and I am the author of the book The Possibility Principle, the inspiration and the companion to this podcast. I’ll be introducing you to new ways of thinking, a new philosophy and a new game plan for life and all of the infinite possibilities that await you.

I’m going to be speaking to you today about what happens when individualism becomes extreme or toxic, a term known as toxic individualism.

I was reading an article in The New York Times recently about a new book from Terrance Real, a very insightful and provocative couples therapist, and he use the term toxic individualism, which spoke to me profoundly. I speak about the excesses of individualism and how they were destructive not only to our relationship but to our planet as a whole.

Let’s take a step back. As you know I’ve shared the principal from quantum physics that reality is one inseparable whole. We need to look at the benefits to be derived from this sense of wholeness, inseparability, or what I refer to as quantum entanglement, the quantum reality that two particles are indeed not separate but are part of the same whole.

Well from the illusion of separation, whereby we are separate and distinct from one another, we compete, we argue, we fall into conflict, we make war, but let’s take a look at the nature of relationship, familial relationship or romantic or loving relationships. Romantic relationships typically begin with a sense of us, it’s a union, we are falling in love with each other we feel like one, we refer to each other is my other half, which has limitations which you’ve heard me speak about in other episodes. But this sense of oneness is a quantum entanglement, it is the foundation for love, and out of this sense of oneness we relate empathy is a natural derivative and certainly compassion caring for each other tending to each other but what happens over time in romantic relationships or in family relationships or in the times and friendships?

We retreat from the sense of oneness. When we retreat from oneness, it becomes you and me. We become two separate entities and then we default into this cultural inclination that we need to win, we need to be right, I have to be right you have to be wrong, if I have to win you have to lose, and relationships begin to sour, they lose their basic essence of enhancing our lives because of love, because of affinity, because of a kindred nature. So what starts as a union what starts as us breaks down into individual conflict. Again, because we’re not caring for one another, we’re not caring for us, we’re caring for myself for yourself it becomes a me me me focus.

Now of course there are exceptions in relationships whereby codependence or people-pleasing qualities are not healthy on an individual basis. So many people have the question or the concern about if I exist in the state of oneness am I going to lose my individual self. My individual sense of self. No. Your individual sense of self can be enhanced it can thrive when you are in the sense of one with the other and the sense of one with yourself.

I’d love to show you my appreciation for your subscribing to and rating this podcast by offering you a gift to one of the following: The power of Mind, a live talk that I gave, or one of my digital ebooks: Creating Authentic Self Esteem, Overcoming Anxiety, or Raising Resilient Children, and lastly, Cultivating Resilient Relationships. Once you have subscribed please send an email to Mel at Mel Schwartz dot com and just let me know which gift you prefer. Thanks.

Think about an orchestra in concert with one another. Each musician is playing their separate instrument there’s an individual quality but they’re in concert with the entire orchestra, or a ballet or dance troupe. Each performer clearly is focused on their own individual movement but they realize that there is symmetry with a whole. Or even a competitive sport like basketball be comprised of five individuals on the same team on the floor at the same time but when they’re winning, their acting in concert with one another and as one team. It does not need to break down into your needs and my needs.

In virtually every couple’s relationship that I encounter or work on professionally, when I see the separation in to oneness, the argument about your needs my needs, who’s right and who’s wrong. completely destructive but we need to do is either develop and inculcate a sense of oneness or refine the oneness that we once had. What drives us out of one this again is the illusion of separation which is driven by thought. The way we communicate will either enhance a sense of oneness or diminish it or destroy that sense of oneness.

Think about your communications and your thoughts. How do you express your hurts, your needs, your desires, your hopes, do blame the other? If you do we’re going to default into that divide your needs and my needs and we’re not looking at our needs. How can you communicate this differently?

Well you can communicate it thoughtfully not in a punitive way not in an accusatory way, not in saying you don’t get it you fail me you disappoint me, but in saying you know I have some needs or hopes or desires is just not feeling satisfied.

Now that may sound awkward; we don’t speak to each other that way, but that’s the way we do need to speak. We need to be able to say when I ask you to do this for me and you didn’t do it let me tell you how it made me feel.

Can you see the difference between that and saying you never listen to me you only care about yourself. If we’re going to speak in the accusatory waitress speaking from the framework of oneness not a sense of we. So thought and communication are very very primary and trying to regroup and come back into a sense of oneness. Be thoughtful pause think about how can I say this to the other person how can I say this to my lover and my spouse my partner my friend my son my sibling? How can I communicate from a place of oneness? We’re one family we are one couple we need to be in concert with each other.

Again to default into right or wrong is a lose-lose. What does a win win? A win win enables you to express your feelings your wants you disappointments, but to do it in the way where you’re not blaming the other.

You know in a relationship it is easy to say I love you but it is more challenging to act lovingly. To act lovingly you have to care how the other person feels. Stop in the middle of an argument or a conflict and ask do you care how I feel; if you love one another you must care how you feel and then realize as well that from oneness when you tend to the other can you nurture the other instead of trying to defeat them when you can tend to the other person you’re actually tending to yourself because the other person feels nourished and nurtuted. Then they are in the position to come back and share some of that positive energy with you.

By the way this toxic individualism goes far beyond relationships. The decimating and destruction of the planet, ecological disasters, comes from oneness. The oneness of greed to more more more for myself is destructive to the environment is destructive to the health of the planet, is destructive to the health of the individual. So always stop and ask yourself, how to I come back into oneness?

But for today we are speaking mostly about toxic individualism and how that impacts relationships. Think of it this way: if you need to win if you need to conquer if you need to come out on top if you would you want and what you need is more important than what the other person needs that is a lose-lose equation. It is destructive to relationships, platonic relationships and romantic relationships.

Turn your relationship back into a state of we: what do we need to do to thrive to respect each other to value each other. If you’re having a hard time releasing your individual needs reframe them and ask yourself what is so important about this individual needs that I’m prepared to sabotage my relationship? What is compelling me in this way and that individualistic need, and what makes me more important than the other? What makes me more important than arguably everyone else I have a relationship with? There’s an insecurity underlying that neediness. Once you can find that insecurity and tend to it and heal it you much more able to come into a sense of oneness with the other.

We don’t lose our individualism. You are individual you are unique and you are vitally vitally important and beautiful. You want to enhance that quality by merging with the other and valuing their beauty their individuality their uniqueness. Come together into a sense of we, into a sense of us, or a few more than two people into a sense of collaboration and team. Collaborate do not compete.

An excess or toxic individualism ruins the harmony of relationships with one another and with so much more than two individuals. Moreover when we operate from excess individualism we suffer from isolation we’re not truly relating to or in harmony for connected not only with one another but with nature and with the universe as a whole. Too much individualism removes us from genuine human experience of interrelationship that enables us to thrive.

Be really cautious about toxic individualism. It won’t serve you in any way and it will cut you off from those that you might love.

Well, until next time, be well, be present, be healthy, and think about the other as important as you think about yourself.

I hope you enjoyed this episode of The Possibility Podcast and I welcome your feedback on this or any episode. Please send me an email at Mel at Mel Schwartz dot com or leave a comment in the show notes for this episode at Mel at Mel Schwartz dot com.

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