The mismatch we experience between our bodies and the modern world is one of the most pressing challenges of our day. Our ancient, aboriginal bodies, tuned by evolution for survival in wild, outdoor environments, are forced into alien conditions that cause us immense amounts of stress, disease and unhappiness. Obesity, diabetes, heart disease, neurological disorders and depression are just the beginning. Our spirits are in turmoil, just at the time when we need creative action.
In times past, we have turned to culture to provide us with guiding narratives to help us make sense of the world and suggest a way forward. But today, our stories have broken down and no longer provide the guidance they once did. Our predicament–a biosphere and life-support system on the brink of collapse–is unprecedented. We desperately need a new story to organize our ideas, guide our choices and make us whole.
Sadly, much of what we do hear about our health and our bodies drives us in precisely the wrong direction. In his book Winning the Story Wars, author Johan Sachs describes the dominant narrative of our day as “inadequacy marketing.” The premise is simple: You, the consumer, are a powerless victim in need of rescue. You have problems and pain, but fortunately for you, we have a solution – a product or a service that can make your unhappiness disappear.
This marketing strategy is simple: Begin by creating a sense of anxiety. Find the consumer’s pain point, or if you can’t find one, create one. Obviously, many people are unhappy with the state of their bodies to begin with, but through clever manipulation and Photoshopped imagery, we can always make people feel even worse. Then, once consumers are really desperate, introduce a magic solution, a cure. The more unhappiness and fear the marketer can inspire, the greater the return on investment.
This inadequacy narrative is not only extremely destructive to individuals and culture, it isn’t even close to being true. In fact, our bodies are extremely intelligent, creative and resilient. We are excellent adapters; we are good at adjusting to new conditions and bouncing back from injury. We know how to be healthy. It’s in our nature to be full of life. The reason we fail to recognize this fact is that we scarcely ever hear stories of power, skill and resilience. Inadequacy marketing dominates the conversation and makes us weak.
And so it’s time for a new story, one that’s both empowering and consistent with the reality of the human body. This narrative will help us navigate our mismatch and find a way forward. The elements...
- You are a highly intelligent, vibrant wild animal, living in a challenging, alien environment.
- You possess an incredibly sophisticated nervous system that’s capable of vast and powerful learning.
- Your brain, body and spirit are incredibly plastic and adaptable.
- You are resilient. You can thrive under adverse conditions, especially if you find meaning in them.
- Real food will sustain you. Functional movement will make you stronger.
- Your “long body” includes your habitat and your tribe: taking care of your habitat and your tribe is in your best interest.
- The great outdoors is your native environment; go there often.
- Positive social connections will make your spirit happy.
This is the Exuberant Animal narrative, the story that animates everything that we do.