Knowing Thyself in a Distracted World

6 min read


Just as we can understand the functioning of the society or the situation of the lives of a particular time in history by looking at the art of that particular era. Similarly, we can understand the temperature of our present world by looking at modern art forms.

The modern world finds itself expressing freely in memes, as it conveys the truth decorated with sheer humour. One such example of the present situation of the world conveyed via the meme culture are the three characters which, I’m sure you’ve encountered online- They are Doomer, Boomer and Bloomer.

The Doomer

From Reddit User LegendOfLinkArt


There is even a Wikipedia page dedicated to this character, which explains-

A doomer is someone who believes that the global problems of ecological exhaustion—such as overpopulation, climate change, and pollution–will cause the collapse of civilization and a significant human population die-off.

Basically, doomer is a nihilist. He is somebody who spends countless of hours behind the screen, contemplating about the misery of existence and despising the happy social media posts of other people. Doomer seems to have lost all hope. Perhaps because he knows the truth.

Or maybe he knows only one half of the truth?

The Boomer

KnowYourMeme.com

Now the second character is the Boomer, which Wikipedia explains as the kids born during the Baby Boomer Generation (presently 30-year-old). However, in its truest and more typical sense, it means somebody who is ignorant of all world problems including his own. He is somebody who keeps drinking Monster energy drink and spends all his days at the local bar. He is the happy-go-lucky, don’t give a damn sort of character. 

The Bloomer

The last character is the bloomer, who is well aware of the potential evil in this world and works despite the seemingly large amount of negativity surrounding him. In simpler words, he understands that a person is the sum of his own actions.

It is of no doubt that each one of us belong to either one of the characters stated above, if not, a slight variant of the same. Or in more exact terms, we oscillate between the three variants of the personalities mentioned above, all of the time.

Which one could you be?

This reason why this question is of importance is to answer one of the most crucial questions of human existence, that is, why do so many people flourish, why do so many people find themselves in the depths of despair and what can we do to ensure we don’t fall into self-pity and self-sabotage?

The 20th Century psychoanalyst Karen Horney suggested that within every individual is an innate drive to self-realisation. The development of a human being, according to her, was analogous to that of an oak tree, meaning that when a nourishing environment is provided, the acorn will undoubtedly grow into a healthy oak tree.

Karen Horney- Psychoanalyst

Every human, in this regard, tends towards self-realisation.

“You need not, and in fact cannot teach an acorn to grow into an oak tree, but when given a chance, its intrinsic potentialities will develop. Similarly, the human individual, given a chance, tends to develop…the unique alive forces of his real self; the clarity and depth of his own feelings, thoughts, wishes, interests; the ability to tap his own resources, the strength of his will power…All this will in time enable him to find his set of values and aims in life. In short, he will grow, substantially undiverted, toward self-realization.” (Karen Horney, Neurosis and Human Growth) 

Let us understand how the self of an individual is developed according to the Freudian sense and its implication on the society.

What is the self? 

SELF is what makes someone an individual. The self may not exist in reality but only exist in the abstract.

Initially, the self is dependent on somebody else’s perception, feelings and opinions. As these ideas about you are observed, you develop the process of the self. The idea of self can arise only in a relationship with other people. So, yeah, we are prone to look at ourselves through the eyes of someone else. The core essence of socialization is the development of the self.

Just Imagine yourself as a small child kept all alone in an isolated room and brought out only after a few years. You will be unable to talk or walk or do anything, as you are rather unaware of any social relationships. The absence of social relationships will affect your communication and contact. Behaviour and mentality can be developed through the process of socialization.

George Herbert Mead, American social psychologist said that-
“it is through social interaction that man becomes aware of himself, the individual comes to know about himself by ‘role playing’”.

In the womb, the child enjoys a comfortable environment. As the child is brought out into the world, he has to face the first crisis, i.e. he must breathe. Slowly he learns to give signals for his felt needs. The child merges his identity with that of his mother. This is referred to as the “oral stage” of socialization.

Now the child takes some degree of care for himself. He contributes by means of expression and helps to integrate the system by giving love. This is the second stage of socialisation also known as the “anal stage”.

Once the child is all grown up, he or she wants to identify themselves on the basis of their sexual orientation. According to Sigmund Freud, boys develop Oedipus complex (loves mum and develops jealousy towards dad) and the girls develop Electra complex (loves dad and develops jealousy towards mum). The most important characteristic feature of this phase is, we start identifying ourselves with our gangs, our tribes.

This stage of socialization is a crucial transitional stage in human development, that is, “the adolescent stage”. The individual starts developing strong attraction towards their opposite sex. This period is of psychological storm and various forms of social stress and anxiety start taking place. (We start taking up cigarettes/doing drugs. Why? First of all, to be accepted among our peers and the idea that it will make us look “cool”. Secondly, we get bad habits just out of boredom).

During adulthood, the individual starts becoming stable. They gain some specific skills pertaining to his/her roles in the society. If he/she has to develop new skills and change his attitudes, it may be a difficult process for them as one becomes accustomed to the ideas of the self that they have accumulated so far.

Consider yourself getting married at the right age, it is easy to accept and accommodate yourself for the change in the social role and also to mould easily with your spouse, whereas for the couples marrying relatively late, face difficulty in adjusting to the new roles.

The last stage of socialization is the second childishness stage. Almost everything influences the last segment of an individual’s life, be it divorce, retirement, health impairment, death of a life partner and dependency. The individual and social system interact with each other in a refined social environment, motivating a person to acquire the right values and the right character.

In today’s modern day world, one can easily be swayed away with all the materialistic pleasures and instant gratification, and it can easily be concluded that the discovery of self is a must for the development of self. There are numerous cases where the discovery has to be tracked back to the roots itself, only then can the growth and development of self occur. Only then can a person understand his or her identity entirely.

Unfortunately, for some individuals, the growth and development of their self is hindered by the abuse, abandonment, neglect and rejection, or other forms of childhood trauma. The child undergoing these circumstances isn’t able to understand that the parents are facing personal problems but rather concludes that the world is unsafe. This conclusion of the child, according to Horney, develops into “basic anxiety” and starts affecting the personality of the child. As the child starts growing up, they learn to live with it despite the fears, which, unconsciously shape the overall personality of the child, which Horney calls, “unconscious neurotic trends”.

It is said that identity is our most valuable possession and we must protect it. As unique individuals with differences, it is essential for us to shield our individuality. These days, many of the youngsters and adults too run away from their individuality, all of this following a simple norm- to fit in the crowd. Not one person wants to change their course of flow, no one wants to swim against the tide. The fear of standing out has overtaken ones confidence to believe in themselves. This is one of the major reasons for losing oneself in the rapid modernization taking place. There are no thoughts or actions of differences in communities and groups, all of these have stale lives of mimicry which saddens me to the core.

Of course, the road to self-knowledge isn’t laden with roses and it requires sheer will and courage to do so. However, it is of utmost importance to develop the self and one can only do so by going down the painful path of the past and throwing light to darkened corners of their minds and to make peace with it. Not just to unleash ourselves from the unconscious neurotic trends developed in our childhood and trauma of our pasts but to nurture the seed of growth that is all within us. To flourish as the giant oak tree, giving out into the world. with all that it is capable of.

Photo by Roman Averin on Unsplash

Building an identity from scratch is a major task to take, but it is crucial nonetheless. With a little change in our habits by taking these baby steps, all of us can strive for immense success. Define your identity on your own and own it.

Be a bloomer. 

Footnotes:


Books referred
1. Neurosis & Human Growth – The Struggle Toward Self–Realization
2. George Herbert Mead’s Concept of Society: A Critical Reconstruction

Your thoughts?