Compliance is, mostly, a good thing. It allows for cohesion. Over-compliance, however, risks hiding things. My son was distressed the other day and couldn’t get hold of me. He apparently said “I never want to see Dad again”. My heart sank when I heard that. But, I am learning the value of the freedom to express ourselves, especially when we’re young. Rumi imagined a field “out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing”, it’s an especially good place for us to meet in times of struggle. There are moments when there is no right feeling or wrong feeling to be had. When the expression of that feeling, rightly or wrongly, is the truest thing.
Under the lockdown compliance, our homes are the distilleries of these truths. Therapy is, to a great extent, the pursuit of truths. Not a forensic kind of truth. Not the kind a lie detector might reveal. In fact, whenever lie detectors are suggested in a couple’s therapy, I know it’s the beginning of the end. It’s an indication that the very foundations of trust have already been demolished. Therapeutic truths are different truths. They are an embodied sense that this feels right for me. This is what we need to feel authentically ourselves. And, when we get a sense of these truths, radical change usually follows. The truth, however, takes time to make itself known. First, we have to get over the anxiety this will cause us. Radical change can be traumatic.
We are encouraged from youth to comply with expectations of us. Often, we find ourselves having to choose and behave in ways that meet the needs of a parent. An overly vulnerable mother or a particularly angry father might have us playing out a role that helps “keep the peace”. Winnicott believed that this contributed to the development of a “false self”; a persona that we put out there into the world in order to comply with the demands of our environment.
We learn a capacity to behave according to the demands of the needs of others, first our parents and siblings and, later, society as a whole. However, this role we learn to play gradually overshadows a more spontaneous expressions of our authentic needs and feelings. Eventually we risk losing touch with them altogether. This loss can contribute to inevitable feelings of emptiness and isolation. We can spend a lifetime avoiding this chasm. Then comes lockdown. Spend enough time with yourself and your own authenticity will start a rebellion somewhere deep inside you. The things you didn’t want to say or feel, will slowly find expression. There is no wrong or right feeling but the inevitable expression will bring you closer to some people and further from others. Trust this, there is truth in it.