Our preferences are formed from an early age. And it can be revelatory to find out how much they were formed by who and what was around us as we grew.
Our early family experiences, the time in history and culture into which we were born, who we had as friends, what happened to us at school – all of these were powerful shapers of what we each turned out to like and dislike.
Since our likes and dislikes manifest themselves most strongly and immediately as bodily sensations it quickly becomes invisible to us that we have preferences at all, and that they are just one way of relating to the world. One out of millions of others.
And all of this is a reason why it’s a necessary developmental step, for anyone who would lead or contribute in a profound way, to be able to move beyond doing things because we like them.
It’s our likes that keep us locked in busyness – because we can’t stand the feeling of not having anything to do. It’s our likes that have us pursuing more, more, more – because we can’t tolerate being with just what we have already. It’s our likes that hold us back from saying what’s true, because we don’t like what it feels like to stand out, or to risk, or to be disapproved of. It’s our likes that keep us at the centre of things – because we can’t stand not being needed. And it’s our likes that keep us defended against the world – demanding that we experience life in just the way we want it.
Stepping fully in and genuinely contributing to others requires that we take on a bigger possibility for ourselves. Which in turn means giving up engaging with the world as if what we liked and disliked were the primary way of deciding what’s worth doing.