We all need to make some contact with other people in order to develop our potential as unique beings. To take one example, we would never learn to talk in an easy way unless we are not hearing talk going on around us and to us What gets in the way to our understanding of ourselves is the fear of being isolated through the difficulty in making friends. Wherever there is a group of people of which we are one, this group will have its own ideas about how we should lead our lives. Since we are all individuals, we are all different from each other, with different skills and needs. Since from birth we take a long time to grow to maturity, we go through many different stages to help us to use words and communicate in order to build up a number of rules for ourselves which satisfy our individual needs.
The danger is that in this process, we inevitably pick up other people’s habits that do not suit our own requirements. Freud was the first to make it clear that more trouble is caused by this than by anything else. The big question to which each one of us needs to find an answer is “How can I develop my skills to the full in the way that will give me a worthwhile life and at the same time play my part in making a contribution to the society I live in?”
It took me a long time, most of my long life, to work this out for myself. Since my late ‘teens I have read as much as I could in the area of English literature, philosophy and psychology to find answers about how I could improve my conversation skills without realising that that was what I was doing.
I finally solved the problem of my growing search to learn in what ways I am different from everyone else.
What we do naturally we take for granted, therefore we think that it is easy and everyone can do it. This is a big mistake. For example, one of the greatest errors we make in trying to understand other people is to believe that we all like the same things. Although I have tried to explain to many people that we need to respect these differences, they continue to say “Oh well. Everyone knows that”. They only think they do.
It is hard not to treat parental examples as the truth. It is inevitable that we take in all sorts of beliefs from the cultures in which we live. But we do not have to follow them. Our most powerful need is to think for ourselves. To do that, we must have the freedom to be able to learn what we want, not what our parents want for us. A great many of us do not anyway near achieve our potentials. I am one of the lucky ones.
My main advantage was that I was a first child, born nine months after my parent’s marriage. It was nearly three years before my sister was born, so I had their full interest when I needed it when they were not working. They left me to my own devices. Of course as a child I did not understand what the word ‘love’ meant. I was loved and encouraged most of all by their astonishment at how quickly I learned.
They rarely asked me questions or gave me orders. This is very unusual. From an early age I arranged my own life in choosing what I wanted to do from the wealth of material in my unconscious mind.
My father said of me when I was three, “Jean is sensible”. They expected me to get on with my life without help. As a result I had no impulse to have tantrums or to rebel. Many parents think they have to ‘bring children up’ and ‘teach them right from wrong’. What a waste of time! We all have different ideas about that! Children thrive best with a minimum of guidance of the right kind in an environment of loving care. Going to school was therefore a big disappointment.