THE FIRST STEPS
By Roland Watson
I'm now going to review a number of things that you have to be aware of to fight off negative social influences. You might think of them as prerequisites, to successfully engaging in the battle. And, to begin, you have to know that you are imprisoned, before you can break free.
Take a look at yourself in the mirror. Who are you? How did you get your face? In what way has it changed from when you were a child?
More broadly, and recalling the great Talking Heads song, Once in a lifetime, ask yourself: "How did I get here?"
What things have happened in your life that you wished had not? Why did they happen? Who else was involved, and how? How would things be different for you now if they had not occurred?
Secondly, it took a long time to form you into the person that you are. What this means is that it is also going to take some time to change this.
The struggle against form is never-ending. And, if you are only starting now, you have a lot of catching up to do. Some influences are so powerful that they take years to reverse.
For the worst influences, such as abuse that you might have suffered as a child, the only way you can escape them is to become a new person. You have to leave the sources of the abuse behind, literally move away from them so they cannot hurt you anymore, and then work for years to create a new life and through this a new identity.
You need to make new friends and develop new interests - completely reinvent yourself. And, through this new identity, this new self, you will be able to escape from those people who wanted to hold you back, if not destroy you.
Through becoming a new person, you will also change your brain. While you might need to take anti-depressants for a year or two, to restore a natural neurotransmitter chemical balance, after time this medicinal need will end. You brain will adapt and change in response to your new experiences, friends and happiness. Even with the very worst types of abuse, you can create a new happy balance in your life, and in your brain.
Thirdly, and as all of this implies, you will have to overcome any timidity that you have, including any predisposition against action.
The hardest step is in fact the first. As many abused women have discovered, it can be extremely difficult to leave the men who are the source of the abuse, and not only because they don't want to let you go. In these types of situations, you should listen to your friends and counselors. Let them help you. You will have to accept - and act on - one simple fact. It will never get better if you don't find your courage and break free.
Fourthly, you will have to fight the behavioral form in every situation that you encounter. It is not only the worst influences that you want to oppose.
And fifthly, and related to this, you will need to become sensitive to the fact that literally anything can be a form.
To illustrate this, I'm going to mention a few arcane - and not so arcane - examples of the influences that shape who we are. For the first, I want to again credit William Daniel Drake's essay, A Commentary on the Being Electric.
In it, he noted the obscure consequences of our physical orientation forward, including the fact that the most highly evolved part of our brain is the frontal lobe. Most of our perceptions and many of our ideas are unconsciously oriented forward as well. We tend to ignore what is behind us, including the past.
Secondly, there is the extent to which we ignore our dreams. Our dreams are trying to tell us things, about ourself and our life. How many people listen to them?
Next, there is the form of time itself, including the consequences of wearing a watch - our ancestors didn't; of how your day becomes structured as you grow older; and of how you feel guilty if you are not doing something that you are supposed to, at a particular time. There's also the form, which used to be commonplace, of not knowing your birthday - the day that you were born.
Another form is the fact, and this is a quote from Dr. Ratey's, A User's Guide to the Brain, that "it is only in the last century that a sizeable percentage of various populations has been able to read and write." In the series of articles on evolution, I will argue that this is one of the most powerful, and positive, forms of all. Humans are evolving, principally because we have learned how to write, and because standardized education in reading and writing is now available to most of the world's children.
Another arcane form is the way in which a child is born: naturally, with the mother not receiving medication for pain and without the use of instruments; with medication and the use of forceps and other instruments; and via caesarean; and also if the birth is premature or full-term.
An important day to day form, with many different consequences, is how much time you spend living and working on your feet and outside, in the natural environment, exposed to the sun and the rain, versus sitting inside a building of some type.
Common, and unquestionably negative forms, include the fact that in much of the world people still make judgments based on skin color; and that women are viewed as property, as possessions, and not as free individuals.
For your senses, an unusual form is how your taste buds, the different tastes that you enjoy, are shaped by your culture. Another is the varying sensitivity to which people in different cultures react to a casual touch.
An odd form is how you might feel compelled to live up to your name, or nickname.
For personal relationships, there is the idea that you can prove that you love someone, by buying them something. Another is how two people who love each other should get married, and have children.
Then there is the form of how having children, even with the joy and happiness that they bring, also restricts your options for the future. Being a parent shifts your focus towards stability, security, a sedentary life, and the accumulation of property, and away from diverse, dynamic, adventurous lifestyles.
This is also an example of a form that has become institutionalized. The effects of our devotion to the procreation instinct accumulate across and shape the overall nature of society, including its purpose, structure and style.
Related to this is the fact that sedentary societies consume far more natural resources than nomadic ones.
And, in an idea from A History of Western Philosophy, by Bertrand Russell, there is the fact that while the "hereditary principle," for the most part, has been rejected as it applies to political power, it remains widely accepted for economic power.
Democracy - usually - rejects political dynasties - the idea that children are entitled to the government positions held by their parents. But, we accept that billionaires can pass on the vast majority of their wealth to their children.
There is an inconsistency here. In the real world political power grants economic power, and economic power grants political. By allowing the transference of great economic power from one generation to the next, we are sabotaging our democratic aspirations. Even in established democracies, political power is unquestionably still perpetuated, and inherited.
A final arcane form is that people on their own are suspect. This is a social defense mechanism, but what we need to understand is that in most cases, unless there is a weapon and clear criminal intent, it is not directed at the solitary individual. Rather, it applies to the group's members, to keep them from associating with nonmembers, particularly with free-of-form individuals, with nonconformists.
In conclusion, what I've also tried to show with this set of examples is that many different forms are linked.
Form as determinism
Another prerequisite in the fight is that you need to recognize that form is determinism: a means by which you are personally forced to be a particular way. Every source and type of form is a specific example of determinism, a specific impediment to free will. However, when eliminated, each represents a new outlet for personal expression.
As one example of this, "victimization" arguments reflect a type of determinism. The premise of victimization is that we do not have free will. Hence, we cannot overcome the hurdles that we face in life, and are victims. But, this is also society's way of apologizing for its form, to people who are being held down. It allows us to be its "victims."
Finally, in the battle against form you must prioritize your efforts. You should start by fighting what you dislike the most, about your life, yourself, and your conditioning. You should also concentrate on the forms that affect your most powerful needs, and, your oldest forms, those of your childhood.
In the next article, I will examine the weapons that you have available in the fight against behavioral form, and also how you can increase your sensitivity to it.