Are My Problems First World Problems? The Internal vs External Enemy

Are my problems First World Problems?

Yes. Your problems are probably First World problems.

If you are reading this from Western Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand or Japan, and you have problems, then your problems are First World problems. More broadly, if your problems are not those that are likely to immediately hasten your death, no matter on which continent you reside, your problems are first world problems. You could live in the Second World (Russia, Eastern Europe and other various former communist countries), or the Third World (everywhere else), and if you are not going to die soon from your problems, you are experiencing a/many first world problems.

If my problems are First World problems, why do I feel so bad?

The human organism was ‘designed’ over countless millennia through the interaction with the wild environment in which we roamed. Certain behaviours were more likely to result in survival, certain behaviours were more likely to result in death (more specifically death before successful procreation). The environment was wild because we exercised a very small amount of control over it. We were a small part of our environment, certainly not the masters of it. It was in this environment we evolved. We evolved to cope with the External Enemy.

The External Enemy is anything outside of our bodies that is likely to result in death-before-procreation. A lack of adequate home is an external enemy. It might result in dying from the cold or being shunned by potential mates. Hunger is an external enemy, it makes us weak and eventually might kill us. When you are a part of the environment, and not master of the environment, the world is replete with external enemies. You are in your element coping with these enemies.

That was then, this is now. We won. The war is over (for now). The external enemies thrown at us by nature have been defeated. We now face the Internal Enemy.

The Internal Enemy is any problem that you cause for yourself. You don’t create these problems for yourself because you are bad or weak or inadequate. In fact, you yourself are a finely evolved apparatus for overcoming external enemies. You are magnificent! But you cause yourself anxiety, scanning the environment for threats, and not finding any, you turn your gaze inward. Many of your problems are the result of your problem-solving mind treating your own organism and life as a problem. That is, treating yourself as the External Enemy.

How Do I Solve the Problem of the Internal Enemy?

Remember, you and your life are not problems to be solved. But some things can help.

Admitting and embracing the fact that your problems are of the First World can help. This doesn’t mean that they are less important than many other people’s problems. Remember, unless you are about to die, your problems are First-World Problems. Here’s the thing – even most people in the ‘Third World’ are worrying about the same things as you. I’ve spent a fair bit of time in the third world and most of the people I met had the same concerns as me – failure, status, social rejection etc.

It helps to take responsibility for the parts of your problems for which you are responsible. For example, if you feel stuck in a bad job or relationship, you owe it to yourself to ask, “what is it about me that’s making me stuck”. You will need some time and mental energy to work this out. It is sometimes better not to do this alone – you can fall into despair and self-loathing. A trusted friend, a trusted spiritual/religious authority or a trusted mental health professional might help.

And then, knowing that there are things you must accept and things that you can change. Make the changes that need to be made and accept the rest!

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