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  • Some of the reason why adult life can be  greyer and more miserable than it should  

  • be is that our earliest years are generally made  up of a prolonged and highly formative encounter  

  • with the idea of obedience. Throughout childhoodthere is little doubt that the path to maturity  

  • must involve doing a litany of substantially  unpleasant things demanded of us by figures of  

  • authority whom we cannot question. No one asks if  we would be particularly interested in learning  

  • about the angles of triangles or what a volt  really is, but we obey in any case. We give over  

  • our days and much of our evenings and weekends  to complying with an agenda elaborated for us  

  • by people whose concern with our happiness is  at best highly abstract. We put on our blue  

  • or grey jumper and sit at a desk and study the  plotline of Macbeth or the chemical properties  

  • of heliumand trust that our boredom  and distaste must be substantially wrong

  • We then become inclined to extend this attitude  into our dealings with the wider world.  

  • We assume that what we particularly want should  never be the important factor. We opt for a career  

  • on the basis thatto othersit looks like the  right thing to subscribe to. At parties we'll be  

  • able to answer the question what do you do? in  a way thatby consensusis unobjectionable  

  • or somewhat impressive. At the same time, we  learn to see freedom as both appealing and,  

  • in a way, absurd. We'll be free, we feel, when we  don't have anything else to fill our time with:  

  • on Saturday mornings or when we're retired. In the process, we become highly adept at  

  • rationalising our frustrations. We tell ourselves  that we have no option. We have to stick with a  

  • job that we resent or a marriage that has grown  stale because (we say) we need the money or our  

  • friends would be disappointed or it's the  kind of thing everyone like us has to do.  

  • We become geniuses at elaborating excuses that  make our unhappiness look necessary and sane.

  • The mid-twentieth century British psychoanalyst  Donald Winnicott encountered many patientsoften  

  • high-performing and prestigious oneswho were  in acute distress because they were, as he put it,  

  • 'too good.' They had never felt the  inner freedom and security to say no,  

  • largely because their earliest caregivers would  have viewed the expression of their authentic  

  • feelings as a threatening insurrection they had to  quash. Winnicott proposed that health could only  

  • come about from counteracting this tendency to  subordinate too quicklyand too trustinglyto  

  • the preferences of others, including people who  might claim to care a lot about us. Being 'bad' in  

  • a salutary way in Winnicott's vision wouldn't have  to mean breaking the law or becoming aggressive;  

  • it would mean finding the inner freedom to do  things others might find disconcerting on the  

  • basis that we, our authentic selveshave a sincere wish to explore them.  

  • It would be founded on a very profound  view that others can never ultimately  

  • be the best custodians of our lives, for  their instincts about what's acceptable  

  • haven't been formed on the basis of  a deep knowledge of our unique needs

  • We tend to fantasise about freedom in terms of  not having to work or of being able to take off on  

  • long trips. But if we dig into its core, freedom  really means no longer being beholden to the  

  • expectations of others. We may, quite freely, work  very hard or stay at home during the holidays. The  

  • decisive factor is our willingness to disappointto upset or to disconcert others in doing so.  

  • We don't need to relish thiswe may by nature  be inclined to get on well with as many people  

  • as possible. But we can live with the idea that  our central choices might not meet with general  

  • approval. At the party, we can risk someone  not being at all impressed by what we do,  

  • or regarding our living arrangements as unorthodox  or our opinions as odd. But we don't mind too  

  • muchbecause we've become free. Our sense of  what our life is about is no longer so confused  

  • with the notion of meeting the  expectations of others. To be free,  

  • ultimately, is to be devotedin ways that might  be strenuousto meeting our own expectations.

  • How to overcome your childhood is a book that teaches us how character is developed. The concept of emotional inheritance. The formation of our concepts of being good or bad and the impact of parental styles of love on the way we choose adult partners.

Some of the reason why adult life can be  greyer and more miserable than it should  

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B1 freedom basis substantially earliest highly authentic

How to Stop Being a 'good' Boy or Girl

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/11/25
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