From the moment we arrive in the world, we have to learn to fit in with the family and social situation into which we were born.
Learning how to behave, and how not to behave, who to be and who not to be, is a necessary and inescapable part of our early development. But it also has an enormous cost – our separation from our own instincts. In all our fitting in with what others require of us we lose touch with our capacity to trust ourselves and to know what is genuinely good for us. And we lose touch with that which is essentially, uniquely ours to bring, that which will bring us most vibrantly to life, and perhaps make a contribution to everyone around us.
And so if learning to fit in – becoming socialised into our family and culture – is a necessary part of our early development, finding ourselves and taking up our place in the world is a necessary part of our adult development. And this involves finding out all the ways we’ve become alienated from ourselves, from our basic goodness, and from our deep capacity to distinguish what is called for in, and from, our lives.
It probably takes waking up to the basic facts of our lives to begin to take this as seriously as we need to – that life is very short, filled with uncertainty, and cannot be controlled. And that there’s nobody to take responsibility for our brief stay here but ourselves.
Perhaps once we begin to get a feel of all of this, we can begin the urgent work of seeing through the layers of expectation and conformity which we took on in order to navigate our early years and, gradually, uncover our essential selves once again.