Last week I heard Abraham Hicks say “teaching your child to behave is very different to teaching your child to align”.
It was the word ‘behave’ that really grabbed my attention and a couple of thoughts crossed my mind…
If we are all unique and different, why does society expect us to all behave in the same way?
What is the relationship between the way we have been taught to behave and our problems (unhappiness - self doubt - low energy - fear - low self esteem - low motivation - obsession with material wealth - lack of meaning - fear of rejection – addiction, the list goes on).
But first, what does it mean to “behave”?
to act or conduct oneself in a specified way, especially toward others;
to conduct oneself in accordance with the accepted norms of a society.
You see, I support the first definition. Undoubtedly there are a lot of positive things about living in a civilised society.
But it's definition number 2 “the accepted norms of a society“ where I believe that progress can (and indeed must) be made.
From the moment we are born, we are educated to behave in a ‘certain way’ so we fit in to a certain society and its expectations. In my opinion, there are at least seven major flaws in a society that drives its members to fit in with its “accepted norms ":
1. Behaviour is imposed - it doesn't come from inside out but from outside in. In my experience, when something is imposed, and it doesn’t align with one’s true self, sooner or later, it won’t work.
2. Control – Requiring certain behaviour is a convenient way for whoever is looking after us (parents, teachers, politicians, religious leaders) to keep us under control.
3. Cloned personalities - In order to behave in a certain way, our personality has to be shaped in that certain way. This 'certain way' is not based on our personal needs but on society’s needs. Depending on where one is born, those needs vary. The fact is that our free spirit, our true self, starts to be conditioned so we can ‘fit in’ with society and with it, the suffering starts. We lose our innate, individual and unique form of free expression.
4. Guilt – this is a subtler version of control. We are made to feel that it would be selfish not to behave in a certain way. When one is made to feel selfish, guilt will soon follow. This guilt eats away at us, and is the cause of much suffering. This is when the heart and the mind are in conflict which results in confusion.
5. Punishment and reward - Most parents, schools and later on companies have a reward system that goes something like this… the better you behave/perform, the greater the rewards you receive. We are taught that in order to receive, we have to give. But not all kinds of contributions are equally valued or recognised. Conversely, if you don’t ‘behave’, you are punished. Life becomes a transaction directly proportionate with what we give. This applies to relationships, friendships, jobs, family….We are taught that doing something for the sake of it, without an expectation of return, is not valuable. And so spontaneous acts of kindness or generosity diminish as there is no direct reward.
6. Comparison and competition – If we don’t behave in a certain way, we are compared with others, such as a sibling, a school companion, a colleague at work or anyone who is behaving in the ‘right’ way. The problem with comparison is that with time, our internal critical voice keeps comparing ourselves with other people and there will always be someone better than us to make us feel not good enough.
7. Surveillance – The truth is that we are constantly observed. Everyday becomes a ‘test’. We have to make sure that we behave in a ‘certain way’ to please society so that we are not kicked out of the system (bottom line, in jail).
If you are lucky enough to see that the programming you’ve received doesn’t serve you, and you are courageous enough to take meaningful action to do what feels right for you, these are some steps that you will probably go through.
1. Firstly, you try to ensure that you won’t hurt others around you.
2. However if it is inevitable that someone will be hurt (even though this is not the motivation for your action), your next challenge will be to overcome the sense of guilt and the idea that you are being selfish. In many cases, at this point, people quit because of the sense of conflict this creates.
3. If you are still determined to move forward and pursue your calling, the negotiation of new terms will take place. This may occur on a variety of levels (family, work place, friends), and your ability to negotiate will determine if you are still able to move forward, or if you fall back to where you were.
4. Finally, based on the outcome and the consequences of the change you bring about, you may end up wondering if it was the right decision or not. Often this evaluation is based on a comparison with others (and not an assessment of your own happiness).
This process needs courage - something that society manages to eradicate in most of us from an early age. After all, who likes to be dis-approved? Who wants to be marginalised? Who wants to ‘fail’ parents, teachers, bosses, investors etc. Who wants to feel like a loser?
Here is my assessment of what is happening today…
With the best of intentions, and the believing that following certain rules of behaviour is the way to live a happy life, what society has done through its ‘education’ process is the exact opposite. It has split us two and created a conflict between the life that society wants us to live (behaving in a certain way) and the life that we want to live (the true reason why we are in this life).
If you are not living the life that you want to live, inevitably you will start living a parallel life (as that’s your true calling, your nature), whether it’s just in your mind or a secret life that family and friends don’t know about and you would be embarrassed if they discovered.
And yes, if you were wondering, behaving in the way that others want you to behalf is how you end up living someone else’s life.
So what to do?
Like Abraham Hicks says “teaching to align” is the answer. You need to align yourself first so you can teach and encourage kids and adults to be aligned (tuned-in) with themselves.
You now have a choice: to behave in a way that is pleasing to others, or to behave in a way that enables you to be the best version of yourself, thereby inspiring others to do the same.
Contact me if you would like to explore a re-alignment in your life.
PS. Please let me know your comments below.