When we are growing up and being socialized, we learn how to adapt. This adapting involves three practices that many of us become proficient in – resisting, clinging and conforming. We adopt these behaviors to create relationships, to get through learning experiences, and to find our way to make a living in the world.
Unfortunately these very same practices that help us grow and make our way in the world when we are younger can stifle our fulfillment, peace and joy later in life. It takes awareness and persistence to break those limiting patterns. And the pay-off is huge!
When we are young we are simply alive. We eat, sleep and release. Then we add play and learning. As we age, we are taught how to resist our natural inclinations in order to become socially acceptable, like going to the bathroom, throwing a temper tantrum when we want something, and playing outside when it’s dinnertime. We were taught to resist these inner impulses and instead conform to the “rules” of our home life. Resisting helps create environments to live in that allow for the collective “peace and orderliness”. This is a good thing.
Once you have learned how to be a “good” citizen (I use the phrase loosely), resisting your inner impulses automatically hurts you in many ways. Deep within your being, your innate wisdom knows what you want and need to create a life of adventure – of peace and joy. Unfortunately, if you become too disconnected from that inner impulse, habitually resisting the inner voice, you create a life of ongoing stress and tension. Your inner voice and impulse is not gone, it simply gets ignored, argued with or dismissed as unworthy of attention. For a fulfilling life, you must become strongly reconnected with your inner wisdom and guidance again.
This isn’t a guarantee that you will never experience stress and tension again. You will, but you learn to use it as a motivating energy to self-create a fulfilling life. Sure, there may be hard work, challenges and more growth when you follow that inner wisdom. But you also experience excitement, passion and joy! And inner peace becomes a steady state deep within- because you no longer resist what is pulsing through your body as Your Truth.
Clinging is a form of extreme attachment. Attachment is a good thing because it helps us feel safe at a time when we need others to keep us alive and safe - literally. Think of how helpless a baby and a young child are! We all need trusted others to help us until we can do life more independently. Healthy attachments are formed when we feel connected in ways that allow us to flourish and thrive in the world. Forming healthy attachments requires healthy individuals who know how to let go and allow others what they need to have fulfilling experiences.
Clinging becomes habitual when we lack an inner sense of confidence and security. We aren’t confident that we can go get what we need for fulfillment and live a vibrant life regardless of the relationships we are in today. Relationships may contribute to our happiness and joy, but they are not the sole factor in feeling secure and excited about life. Healthy attachments are helpful, clinging hurts us.
Clinging to anything establishes an inner habit – and eventually a belief - that leaves you feeling like a victim to the very thing you are clinging to for dear life! If that “life preserver” goes, you are sunk. We become free and relaxed when we release our attachments to having to have anything, or having to having anything a certain way. We recognize that we are powerless over any “thing” - and we welcome it. Non-attachment is a spiritual practice in many faiths. Learning how to let go - not cling - is preparation for the big finish – death. Not preparing for the end sets us up for incredible suffering. A favorite teacher used to say to me, “ungrip”, when I was mentally struggling, or wanting to control an outcome of a situation.
Learning not to cling, grip or control allows us to find a security deep within and a faith beyond our individual experience.
Being socialized means we conform to the rules of the environments within which we are raised. Those with a rebellious streak are often unconsciously controlled by their environment through the need to NOT conform. Conforming is a good thing when it allows us to feel a part of a community and enjoy the experience of nurturing and growing collectively.
The trouble with conforming, especially unconsciously, is that it controls your behavior and disconnects you from your inner wisdom, the wisdom that wants you to continue evolving throughout your entire life, finding new tribes and new environments to express the ever-emerging you.