If we grow up and don’t develop identification with the self, we will create substitutes for the parents we originally identified with. Often we will find, not an individual, but a national, religious or political group. It’s possible we will find a minority group to identify with so we can rebel against the majority.
Conformity results from this need to identify with someone who is more powerful. This can also show up as nonconformity, especially if one makes too big a point of it. Ironically, a rebelling minority will believe that they are free, what with their appearing to defy conformity and all. But any time we have this stringent need to prove something, we can be sure there are flaws underneath. Truly free people don’t need to make a big show of it. There is no need to be militant about things.
Causes are another magnet that people may identify with. But no matter how good the actual cause may be, it can be harmful to use it as a substitute for identification with the self. The problem is not that one embraces a worthy cause. For certainly, this can be done from a place of inner freedom. But if it’s done to give us something to lean on because inside we are still a weak child, our motivation will be off.
The point here isn’t to separate ourselves from all ideas, groups, loyalties or causes. That would be isolation and in fact even irresponsible as a member of society. But there’s a huge difference between embracing something out of healthy convictions so that we gain sustenance from our inner resources, and tapping a worthy cause to replace a dry well inside ourselves.
When we talked about self-alienation, we were talking about an effect. Failure to identify with oneself is the cause. This is indicated any time we find ourselves feeling emotionally dependent on someone else. It’s also there whenever we fear that others won’t give us what we need and expect. This might be financial help, approval, love or acceptance.
Of course there is a natural need for human interdependence. But this doesn’t make us feel anxious, as though our lifeblood comes from outside ourselves. That’s neither natural nor necessary. And it weakens a person, rather than strengthening them.
Listen and learn more.