A very wise and beautiful friend of mine said to me the other day, "When are you going to stop listening to the voice of your father and start listening to the voice of God?" In context, she intended, "When are you going to stop following the script written for you years ago by someone else based on their needs, and start listening to the intuitive voice of your immediate, authentic self?" More to the point, she was asking, "When are you going to start trusting yourself, and, by association, trusting me?"
When we talk about socialization and acculturation, we are talking about the instructions that we are given that inform our assumptions, expectations and ideas about the way the world works. These instructions can come from anywhere - parents, teachers, religious traditions, coaches, peers, etc. What these instructions -- and their attendant voices -- do is to form, and inform, what we might call, "The Committee".
The Committee is that collection of voices in our head -- those rule-bound assumptions, expectations and ideas -- that drive both our social perception and our behavior. More importantly, those voices drive our self-perception, which, in turn, informs our notions of how we need to operate in the world. Very often, the way that we actually do operate in the world is based on survival.
We tend to develop coping mechanisms and templates of response that are intended to protect us, as well as propel us, through our childhood. There comes a point, however, when these coping mechanism and templates of response no longer serve us. The key is recognizing when these things are no longer useful and must change. The challenge is recognizing when these things are no longer useful and must change. That's not a typo -- as we noted in a previous entry, old habits are hard to break. This is because, without the benefit of reflection and introspection, those habits subjectively continue to make sense, despite almost any evidence of their abject insensibility.
If I believe, based on my interpretation of the Committee's instructions, that I am not worthy of love unless I am perfect, - a butterfly, rather than a caterpillar -- then I am going to operate with the expectation that I am rejectable in the face of not being perfect. I will, then, do everything in my power to shape the perceptions of others so that they receive me as perfect.
This effort is nothing more than a variation on the notion of not getting rejected by the tribe so that we don't end up dying alone in the forest. It is a primal urge for belonging, informed by that primal need to survive. The distortion comes in the manner in which we play out that need, and we enact that distortion through the greatest tool that we, as a species, have available to us - language.
How do we do that? We lie. We subvert, we deflect, we re-purpose, we hem, we haw, we shimmy, we spin, we dance; we lie. We lie to ourselves, and about ourselves and, in the process, we lie to others. But - surprise - in an effort to gain the trust, love and acceptance of those others, we end up alienating them by, in our inauthenticity, doing nothing more than fostering anxiety and suspicion.
If we can bring ourselves to face ourselves and, in doing so, recognize that we are valuable and deserving of the love and relationship that we so desperately seek simply by showing up, well, then, problem solved. It's the recognizing that we are ‘valuable and deserving of love and, therefore, acceptable' part that's a bit of a slog, but it is necessary work because it speaks directly to the notion of trusting ourselves -- trusting that we are, indeed, more than we the Committee tells us.
Examining who we are and recognizing our value as people - not as the roles that we play in society or the neighborhood that we live in or the car that we drive - brings us to a state of authenticity that allows us to expose ourselves in the most intimate way, come what may. It allows us to foster a trust of who we are and, in turn, foster a trust of others, and their acceptance of us for who we are, no matter what.
You see, there is one rule that every Committee shares, and it is the one rule that is actually useful - the people who truly love and accept you will love and accept you no matter what and they will not abandon you under any circumstances. Anybody else is probably not someone whom who want to hang out with.
Love trumps everything. Trust me.
© 2009 Michael J. Formica, All Rights Reserved