If there’s one thing I noticed while raising children, it was that the surest way to create a desire for something was to make it “off limits.” The TV show that I deemed to be inappropriate, or even just a waste of time, became the one that was most desirable. Foods that were unhealthy, in my opinion, became the most requested. Friends that I expressed reservations about kept showing up at the door. When I finally understood this trend, and tried to use “reverse psychology” by condemning oatmeal, they were way ahead of me, and agreed wholeheartedly.
Does this illustrate some universal human characteristic? I have experienced it in reverse as an adult. In my early efforts to “live a good life” and “be a good person”, I wanted to make the right choices. That wasn’t really too challenging, because knowing right from wrong was clear. One just followed the rules. The Ten Commandments was a good start, at least on the surface.
Then, floating through the sixties, it was pretty obvious to some of us that whatever “the Man” espoused was wrong, and Timothy Leary was right. He graduated from Harvard, which proved he was smart, too. In fact, by then, whatever my parents had taught me was also probably wrong. The government was obviously wrong, by supporting the military (I was in the U.S. at this time). The churches had failed to inspire, and historically had brutally destroyed dissent.
I never did notice that I was depending on everyone and everything else to tell me what not to do. And there was a long list, so of course I got real busy doing as much as possible. At this point, my reactions were just like those of my children, and in fact, horror of horrors, they probably learned that from me. Oh, no!
So, what has changed? When I finally realized that I was just as uncomfortable breaking the rules as I was following them, I knew that something wasn’t working for me. I have had, and still have, rather long and involved conversations with my Self. We chat while I garden, while I ride my bike, or while I’m driving. I have come to understand that some of the things that make me uncomfortable derive from this old and dormant belief that to live a good life I must act in accordance with, or react against, somebody’s rules. I know where I got this belief, but I no longer need it. I now know that I live in a constant flow of possibilities, all of which are valid choices. All will have consequences, some predictable, some not so much. So how to choose? I am learning to listen to my inner wisdom. Sometimes she comes in clearly, sometimes she really yells, but mostly she whispers, and I need to listen often and carefully. And if I miss the message? No worries, the opportunity will return, and keep returning, until I get it.
So have I morphed into a colourful eccentric, gaily bumping into convention without regard for others’ feelings, or emotional consequence? Can I now say in truth, “Voices in my head made me do it?” Well, not yet, and maybe not ever, but stay tuned for further developments. And join me, please.