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Who’s Running the Show?
5 Telltale Statements

Nov 27, 2015

In this day and age we give a tremendous amount of attention and admiration to those of us who appear to be independent, self-starting and entrepreneurs. Our desire to be socially autonomous also reflects through what we see in our media, music and public notice. But we have to ask ourselves how feasible is it to actually be autonomous and independent? After all, we don’t live in a vacuum…or do we?

Most of us are brought up with our parents emphasizing how important it is for us not to be beholding or obligated to others for their support and favors, yet, our dynamic family training produces an emotional component that programs us to still be responsible and accountable for our family and its circumstances. The truth is that we’re taught by our parents that it’s desirable to be independent and entrepreneurial where the outside world is concerned but we still remain intimately connected and accountable to our parents and our family circumstances. The truth is double standards transfer poorly in personally chosen values. We usually tend to keep things simple by choosing one set of values or the other that appear to benefit our current circumstances. Unless we’re severely abused by our family and recognize it enough to detach from our family and further abuse, most of us usually take on and maintaining an obligation of loyalty to our parents and family while still believing in our independence in the outside world. There’s nothing wrong with having a loyalty to our family and their welfare but we usually end up unconsciously transferring our accountability to our parents to expectations of us by the outside world. On other words, we accept the outer world authority the same way we would accept our authoritative parents and we don’t even realize that we’re doing it. Hence, we allow the outer world to have a say in how we run our lives. How can this be? Because as emotional humans we seek out people and life situations that are similar to who and what we grew up with. Why? Because it feels familiar and comfortable even if it might feel abusive or hurtful. The key is, it’s familiar. The problem is, it makes us lazy. Let’s go deeper.

So now, let’s look at our interactions with the world after we’ve “grown up” and claim to be “responsible” and independent of the outer world in the decisions we make. How do we now relate to others? What and who determines how we live our lives? What values determine the choices we make? We can see very clearly where those decisions come from. All we have to do is listen to some of the statements we make about why we choose to do what we do. If you find yourself making some of the statements you find below, you can be sure that you’re still playing by the contradictory rules we were trained with as children while thinking and claiming that you’re operating independently. The more you find yourself saying the statements you find below, the more work you’ll have to do clarifying what of your decisions you’re calling independent and self-starting. Let’s look at some.

It’s the way I’ve always done things. This one’s easy. There’s no doubt as to where the rationale for your actions is coming from. This statement almost exclusively asserts that your past family involvement and training still has a profound effect on what you do and why. Look at the situation and ask yourself, if I never had the family that I had, would I behave any differently? If I then do something different from what I usually do, would I catch disapproval from anyone in my family if they were around? In family situations we usually accommodate family members, especially parents, with our deference. After all, they were the original authority and their needs had to be accommodated if we wanted to maintain their support and stay in their good graces. So, is this still happening here? If so, family expectations are, most likely, still dictating how you run your life and what values underlie your current decisions. They may not be compatible with your current life situations and level of maturity.

I don’t want to disappoint my {family, wife, husband, peers…}. It’s plain to see that there’s no independence here. You are entirely subject to the judgment of someone other than you. Their values are the ones that are determining your decisions and efforts. At the least the issue is on the surface and can easily be reconciled if you choose.

I don’t want to look like a fool. Your self-image was the first thing constructed through your interaction with your parents once you realized that everything you needed and wanted must come through them. Have you transferred the pleasing of your parents to the outside world? Is what you’re doing now is intended to stay in the good graces of friends, bosses or onlookers? Guess what. Your parents are still determining who you should be and how you should act. Ask yourself now, what are you afraid of? Labeling? Terminated benefits? Banishment from the in-crowd? Do you really need the approval and acceptance of those friends, bosses and onlookers? Why is it that you feel that they will judge you the same way your parents did? We all begin life believing that the world runs the same way as it did when we grew up. Then, we have many rude awakenings when we don’t get the desired approval or someone in the outside world doesn’t react the way we expect. That’s a sure sign that our assumptions are not in line with personally chosen values that might work better in our current situations.

It’s the “right” thing to do. The question is, where did this idea of “right” come from? Is it what you were taught? Is it what your elders expect of you? Are you still carrying the needs and wants of those who raised you? Are you still fearing their disapproval and punishment? Many of us still look at life this way even though our parents might have been long gone.

If I don’t do it, no one else will. This is a tricky one. Early on your parents wanted you to feel obligated to them without the direct connection of them being viewed as the authority. They will have claimed that it’s not the way that they would have done it but that an authority larger than them (their parents, god, teachers, pastors, congressmen) dictate how things should be. It’s “not their fault.” As a result, you “can’t” be angry at your parents for demanding your submission. They stay in the clear while the “outside world” larger authority or the proverbial “they” takes the heat. So you now approach the world, encounter a situation that in your parent’s eyes would require “fixing” and feel that the “they” or the “larger authority” your parents claimed is watching you too. If you don’t perform, you know that “they” will see you as without honor and not “good enough.” It will also give you an ego boost if you do perform when “no one else will.”

There are many situations that we encounter that we just naturally assume that there is a “proper” way to do things. But often the “proper” way includes stipulations and requirements dictated by our parents making them feel comfortable and in charge of the home environment. There’s nothing wrong with accommodating our parents’ wishes requirements when we are young, especially, since a lot of those requirements deal with our safety and welfare. But when we get older, a lot of those requirements no longer have as much of a bearing on our safety since when we’re older we have usually learned to take care of ourselves and have had enough experience to realize when a situation might be unsafe or detrimental to us. Simple things we hear when we’re younger may stick with us like, “Don’t talk to strangers” or “Don’t walk home alone.” This will invariably plant an unconscious fear of new people and situations and make us hesitant to talk to new and interesting people or begin new endeavors previously unknown to our parents.

We should also note that our parents, especially as they get older, still have many of their own issues as many of us will as we age. Humans usually don’t changed unless forced to. Much of our parents’ encouragement for us in doing things the way they did when they were younger is an unconscious need for them to feel a continuity in their way of life which often and conveniently avoids confronting the oncoming need to consider their own longevity and usefulness to the younger generations as they get older. Many people still fear leaving this plane of life.

The life approaches and philosophies that our parents lived by are appropriate for their generation since most of their generation was brought up in the same era and under the same circumstances. Additionally, a lot of their cautions to us are based on not only the fears and situations they’ve encountered but what their parents may have taught them based on what they felt, feared and experienced. Not only is it the sins of the father that are transferred to the younger generations but their fears, loves and cautions also. This can be emotionally detrimental, especially, since each succeeding generation coming into power develops ways of perceiving and doing things commensurate with ongoing change and their need to accommodate life’s new and exciting circumstances.

So what’s the best way to determine if your decisions are based on a history or training that is no longer applicable to your present circumstances? First, ask yourself, “Is it truly your responsibility to handle what you’re currently encountering? Who will it appease? You or someone else?” Second, what will you personally lose or who will say what about you if you don’t handle it the way that is expected? Will you lose face if you don’t do it their way? If you gave up the “benefit” of their approval, will it work out better for you in the long run? Will it teach them something if you do? After all, we never stop learning, even if its something we don't care to know or admit.

The thing with awareness is that each situation in life must be dealt with as if we’re seeing it for the first time. The sage says, “See the world with the eyes of a child.” That does not imply childishness or an exaggerated innocence but with a freshness, a newness free of preconceived ideas and limitations.

To some of you it may appear as if I’m supporting anarchy. But the pendulum of our need to acquiesce to the peace and security of others has ended up where we are now essentially dumbing ourselves down so others won’t feel bad about themselves. The pendulum has swung way too far into the land of deference and accommodation. It is my belief that we have become so oversensitive to the needs of others and the avoidance of potentially insulting others that we have royally sabotaged the larger extent of our own opportunities for our growth, life and our pursuit of happiness. Perhaps it’s time to halt the incessant and metastasizing march of selflessness and altruism and allow our own heart and intuition to take more of a front seat relative to where our own desires and goals are concerned….

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