To obey or not to obey

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To obey or not to obey?

To obey or not to obey; follow instincts and intuitions or follow patterns, automatisms and behavior models?

“When we are children, adults have a dominant influence over us. They prepare us to live in a world which we might find difficult to understand. Some accept their authority and obey without question, while others rebel and refuse to do as told – or often even as suggested. Both types of children behave according to a developing habit – as time passes and they grow up, this habit becomes stronger. What are the pros and cons of these two opposite reactions to dominant influence?

Instinct and Intuition

Ada’s Story

Ada is a middle-aged lady, well integrated into her environment; she has achieved a seemingly peaceful life. She

Emily - Aurora Mazzoldi -acrylic on canvas - page To obey or not to obey
Emily – Aurora Mazzoldi -acrylic on canvas

was taught to obey rules and show respect for her parents, and she always followed their advice. After graduating and starting a family, she spent many years continuing to satisfy the needs, desires, and expectations of family and friends. Nowadays, she often spends what little free time she has on the phone or online, trying to maintain contacts and friendships – even though she has no genuine interest in taking these relationships any further.

In the evening, after putting the children to bed, she finally relaxes with her husband in front of the T.V., but she is too tired and distracted to want to exchange more than a few words with him.

Yet, she is an exemplary woman, accepted and appreciated by many people, and respected by all.

 

Is she really satisfied with her choices? Does she listen to her instinct, or does she set it aside to chase a dream of social approval? And, above all, to what extent is she aware of doing this?

Judging by how she lives her life, everything seems to suggest that Ada allows other people and events to decide for her. If this is true, it is highly possible that she may be deeply dissatisfied with the way she is living, the burdens on her shoulders, and the limitations she has set herself. She might even feel tempted at some point to blow it all up and start over, to create the life she truly wants – or, at least perhaps find a space of her own, into which nobody can poke their nose and in which she can finally do what she wants to.

But how is it possible to find your own space when you are right now in such a constricted situation? And if she could get the space she wanted, would she then feel guilty about it? In cases like this, it often seems far more convenient to avoid questioning yourself and reviewing your choices. Besides, isn’t it important in life to learn how to adapt?

To a certain extent, it is. But, there has to be a limit; the continuous excuse of adapting can lead to giving up the habit of choosing, and being distracted from one’s goals. In reality, we allow other people or events to make our decisions for us – and how are other people or events expected to know or interpret our unique desires? To what extent are they likely to choose exactly what we had hoped for?

We can now see that Ada goes through life neglecting her instincts (she does not listen to the deeper, truer part of herself, which yearns to express itself differently in life), in order to conform to certain social patterns and expectations. We do not know to what extent this really satisfies her, but we can certainly guess that this is not the ideal solution to her problems.

Eva’s Story

Eva, instead, has chosen not to conform to rules and expectations, and to ignore what others try to tell her to do.

Jane - Aurora Mazzoldi - acrylic on canvas
Jane – Aurora Mazzoldi – acrylic on canvas

She often reacts violently to any situation which might control, condition or limit her, and she strongly opposes those who can readily provide what she desires, because this is inconsistent with her role as a strong, smart woman who knows what is what. She lives alone, is fiercely independent, and has achieved a level of success, building a suitable career in her chosen field.

 

Eva seems very different from Ada. She appears to be a determined woman, who makes her choices independently.  But, judging by her story, can we honestly say that she acts according to her instinct? Her choices might just as well be neither free nor dictated by instinct, but reactive.

In Eva’s case, being reactive means that her choices don’t follow her own goals or desires, but an impulse to do automatically the very opposite to what other people do, or suggest what she does. Logically, if we always do the opposite on principle, then we are not deciding based on what we like, what interests us, or what is conducive to reaching our goals. Our behavior becomes automatic – a mere consequence of the decisions of others. We could even say that, in the choices she makes, Eva responds like a child, sticking out her tongue at every request or suggestion.  Ada, conversely and to the contrary, reminds us of the little girl who always lowers her head.

examine situations

Neither of them objectively examines their situation. Both impose standardized reactions on themselves, in direct response to the decisions and behavior of others: Ada passively accepts things, while Eva reacts by opposing herself to them. It may seem that they live in a completely different (even opposite) way to one another, but each still acts within the social patterns they are now trapped in.

Although, as we have seen, it is necessary to keep these patterns in mind, both seem to rely overly heavily on them when deciding; whilst one endures, the other fights. And, although it is at first glance in a different way and with different results, both Ada and Eva are only concerned with the events and patterns of daily life in which they have found their way.

Both seem to feel okay with their structured dynamic, but is it really so? Both are well-established in their society, and have attained reasonable material wellbeing.

But, in their hearts, are they really satisfied? How would each act if they had only their instinct to listen to?

 

From “The Power of Targeted Choices – 11 Steps to Better Living” by Luis Pisoni and Aurora Mazzoldi – pages. 22-27