One of the more existential realizations I remember having as a youth was that, in fact, nobody was in charge. That everything was run by a bunch of monkeys, was how I dramatically phrased it at the time. It’s a strange realization to have, especially when we are all trained to believe in the authority of parents, and teachers, and bosses. When we’re young it’s evolutionarily advantageous to give authority over to these figures–they can take care of us better than we can take care of ourselves. Then, at some point, when we have gained the skills to either match or exceed the judgment and self-care abilities of these authority figures when it comes to our own lives, it becomes disadvantageous to continue relying on others for our own self-management.
But how do we let go of such a self-reinforced worldview? As long as we rely on others to take care of ourselves, we continue to need others to take care of ourselves. Hence the rocky adjustment period of college, give or take a decade or so depending on your personal circumstances.
The circumstances of the shift in worldview, however, have consequences of their own. They may leave you feeling burned–distrustful of ever again placing any dependence on anyone. Or, it may merely be a symbolic change that hides the fact that you’re still dependent on the care of others.
It might also leave certain areas of life woefully vulnerable. We may be independent in spirit, but be terrible at managing our own money. Or we may not have what it takes to keep a living space livable. Or it might leave some social skills highly unrefined. And we have two options: improve those skills, or continue to adjust our worldview to account for our weaknesses. Maybe we don’t feel like learning how to keep a clean living space, and instead learn to take pride in it. Or maybe we haven’t learned how to be in a relationship, and decide that we’re jaded and cynical about the state of coupling.
Being in charge of ourselves leaves us with a huge responsibility to come up with strategies to either fix, or cover up, weak spots.
It’s even easier to see when you think about this in others. For example, our parents, teachers, and bosses. The default authority figures. They have the same challenges, after all. And they excel at their “being-in-chargedness” to the extent that they are able to manage their weak spots without trying to cover them up or justify them with worldview shifts.
As soon as we can see these faults in others, we must turn on ourselves and examine how we ourselves are managing our weaknesses. How are we doing at being in charge of ourselves? How are we doing at being in charge of others (to the extent that we’re authority figures of our own right).
I think a lot of grief in social situations can be examined in this context.
- Is someone in charge of something that they don’t want to be in charge of?
- Is someone not in charge of something that they want to be in charge of?
- Is there confusion about who is in charge of something?
- Are you and others managing the weak spots of their in charge areas with competence?
- Is someone feeling under-appreciated for the effort required to be in charge of something?