Being spontaneous – being autonomous

It’s harder to be spontaneous than one thinks. It’s harder to be autonomous. This is partly because there’s often pressure to be a certain way. I’ve been discovering how deeply embedded compliance is and how invariably I find myself agreeing to things that I later realise are against my best interests. Usually it feels uncomfortable or I begin to see what I have done. What I can later realise, but only if I become or are made aware of it, is that I have fallen into an old trap of ‘pleasing a parent’ – in my case ‘pleasing mother’. But it happens with all sorts of people  – men and women, family, friends and professionally… this is because old habits die hard.  Of course it’s not possible to really please people as there are always other mixed feelings going on, or the other person wants the impossible. For children cannot satisfy their parents’ own emotional deficits. In fact it puts the child into an impossible position almost a double-bind when they are asked to parent their own parent and in so doing sacrifice themselves. Here’s the thing – we carry on all these old ways of trying to gain approval and this is despite knowing the futility. In another wonderful poem by Mary Oliver called The Journey she writes about this.

In the first part of the poem she writes of this dawning awareness and then:

‘You knew what you had to do,

though the wind pried

with its  stiff fingers

at the very foundations …’

Here’s the heart of the experience:

‘and there was a new voice 

which you slowly

recognized as your own, 

that kept you company

as you strode deeper and deeper

into the world

determined to do

the only thing you could do –

determined to save

the only life you could save’

This is the breakthrough  – you can see the whole poem at either of these