The Individual & The Group
I remember back when I was growing up in grade school. I wanted to fit in so bad.
Luckily, I grew up at a Catholic School so the class size was smaller and we knew everyone. Even further, we were in a town of less than 3,000 so with 20 or so in a class it wasn’t difficult to find a group of friends.
Then high school comes around and things get a little more intense. Everyone is maturing, girls are becoming more attractive, and sports are getting more competitive.
Wanting to fit in with everyone as an introvert who was (not knowing at the time) needing autonomy and self-reliance, this fit was like a square peg in a round hole.
And this continued chasm of chaos continued. “Trying” to fit into a the world and small groups yet not accepting myself at the deepest level. But this is one of the major causes of my continued depression years ago.
This realization started to become more clear yesterday when I noticed some people with bleak attitudes and faces. I wondered why this was.
To me, it didn’t appear so clear right away.
But after the day was over and I went on nightly walk I started talking out loud. Without having pen and paper I began to record my thoughts.
People want to be accepted by the group and do anything to accomplish this. But the result is a non-acceptance of themselves. This choice to be accepted by the group and subsequent non-acceptance of the gift of their own light is a choice against.
It’s a choice against autonomy, self-reliance, and freedom.
The group now has their voice.
This is a choice we make if we choose to be identify with a group. The group speaks for us and we can always go back with what the group’s ideas are. It simplifies everything and becomes our fall back.
It makes sense. If we are to live a healthy and happy life we must have deep, meaningful relationships.
Why wouldn’t we join a group?
However, the problem comes when we fail to realize that joining most groups turns into poor replacements for solitude and the cultivation of characteristics necessary to live the happy and healthy life we aspire to possess.
We forego the disciplined path only we can walk. This path cannot be walked as a group; in fact it is in the opposite direction of our path.
There is nothing wrong with a group, though. It is in the individual’s power to live autonomously in mind, body, and spirit. And like anything, each group is going to have positive and negative qualities. Both types of groups give opportunities for lessons for the right individual; the individual who gleans lessons from every interaction and event.
This is rare, however. Most people go through life on the path of education like Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi described in his book Flow. He writes most people go through school for the achievement of some external reward and do this for 12+ years. After this long process of focus entirely on external rewards and motivations, these people stop educating themselves due to their relationship with “education.”
They never developed a internal operating system of education and learning. This halts the process of learning and subsequently, flow or optimal experience. When I see this in others it is a shame because we are gifted this opportunity each day to cultivate self-learning and worldly learning.
But I get it. Because I was there for a portion of my life. One of the greatest lessons I learned was to focus more on myself (mastery and learning) than my schooling or job. By doing this, I’ve become an infinitely better student and employee.
The individual who foregoes his individuality for the group and becomes a sheep may never come back from this decision. It is incredibly difficult to break habits and patterns of behaviors, especially thought patterns. When the group overtakes our thinking (regardless of the positive or negative) it removes our own lines of questioning. These lines of questioning are imperative for a self-reliant, autonomous individual to investigate his or her own experience.
So what can we do? Do we go into the woods and never speak to anyone again?
The answer doesn’t lie in complete solitude. It doesn’t involve never hanging out with a “group.”
But it does involve the awareness of what groups are doing to us.
It does involve entering solitude each day to cultivate the power within us; the power we forget we possess.
Self-reliance begins with a choice. This choice is scary and pushes people towards the safety of the group.
The 3% of you that struggle and continue to get up to walk down the darkest part of the forest are the warriors among us.
Keep walking this dark path. It is uniquely yours. Don’t allow yourself to go years and years following someone else’s path or worse, a group’s path.
If you don’t have a highest aim identified you can be sure you are working for someone else’s. This is a form of slavery.
Choose freedom from the group.
And when we choose these core values a funny thing happens.
We become better people.
We treat people like our brothers and sisters; like ourselves.
We begin to realize we are all the same and that hurting you is hurting myself.
We smile and acknowledge everyone because they deserve it.
And when we aren’t acknowledged back we don’t take offense because everything is practice.
Finally, to understand ourselves is to understand all. And to understand all is to forgive all.