Rules of nature

October 2, 2010 at 7:21 am Leave a comment

Every society has a code of conduct, or commonly recognized mores that guide its behaviour and serves to protect the public interest. But inherent in our species is also the desire to break free of the “shackles” of society and to explore new terrain, to be free like the wind and the stars. Of course the wind is no freer than the stars and the stars just as limited, in their own ways, as we humans are in our particular constellation here on earth. The wind follows certain predictable patterns, and the stars orbit the sky along a path scientists can usually predict.

When I was child I would make up rules for myself, the breaking of which would land me in trouble with myself, my surroundings and with God. I grew up in a religious household and the religious rhetoric made me fear things like hell and sin and immorality. My rules, though, were not always terribly rational. For a time, I washed my hands repeatedly until the skin started to peel away. Later, I brushed my teeth with such regularity and devotion that my gums were raw and bleeding. And because I was a child, I believed the bleeding gums were the result of too little brushing not too much of it. So I brushed harder, until my father, the psychiatrist, took me aside and pointed out my madness to me. I grew out of these particular obsessions, but other, more subtle ones, took their place.

As I became more aware of my compulsive behaviours I tried to consciously counteract them. Where once I made a point of stepping carefully over the cracks in sidewalks and roads, I later made a choice to step ONLY on cracks. This was my rebellion and I did not see that it was no rebellion at all; I was simply reversing the same pattern and repeating it.

Especially in my sexuality my strange fascination with rules and subverting them played itself out. In retrospect, it’s quite predictable. I started off terrified of my own body. I feared touching it and thought it dirty and ugly. I was convinced that if I touched myself or let anyone else touch me I would be edging one step closer to hell. As I entered my rebellious teens and turned my back on the lukewarm Christianity I was served up at church, I began to believe that sex was no sin and my body, despite my inability to make sense of it, was not ugly. It was my way of daring God to strike me down with lightning. And it was my way of saying that I did not want to live in fear, that I wanted to break free of the social pressures that were suffocating me.

It has taken me years to realize that breaking the rules simply to do their opposite is not the same as being free. Maybe it’s a first step, a necessary doorway to true freedom, but it’s by no means the destination. Freedom, real freedom, involves choice and agency and an ability to change one’s mind without imploding. In a society that continually feeds us images of fantasies realized and desires satisfied, achieving true freedom can be downright hard. We all like to think we’re above the influence inherent in ads and marketing campaigns. But let’s face it – we’re not. Advertising is about circumventing the conscious mind and awakening a want, a need in the unconscious. How do you fight that?

I believe my life goal to be awareness. As I awaken to the world around me, to the universe inside of me, the borders that keep me “trapped” inside, expand. In fact, I believe awareness is a way to see rules for what they really are: membranes. Membranes that breathe in and breathe out and that keep us protected but that can grow and fall away as we mature. Rules are not the enemy. They’re only the guide posts that protect us as we weave our way up the steep mountains of our consciousness.


Entry filed under: Mental Health. Tags: , , , .

On healing What we want

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