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January 2004 (Updated by the 15th)



recommended Books



by Jessica Kuzmier

     One of the things that strike me as ironic is the idea of someone tell you exactly what to do to find your authentic self.

     It seems somewhat oxymoronic to get a book that is basically Twelve Easy Steps to autonomy. Just follow these instructions, and you'll be on your way to Your True Self. What's the difference of following their instructions, or the instructions of your nosy neighbor that thinks you should send your kids to this private school instead of the public school that is supposedly going to mess up your kids for life? You're still following someone else's voice. For that matter, hooking up with the self-help guru of the day isn't really following your own voice either, unless you really think this person is someone you truly admire. Even then, media-spawned heroes tend to form a subculture with its own set of rules. Newer and different than what good old-fashioned mainstream spouts, perhaps, but groups to find your authentic self have group rules just like any other group. If you want to try something on your own and the group doesn't think that will bring autonomy, you might be accused of "not asking for help" or "trying to do things alone when today we have each other". Again, not much different than the neighborhood complaining that your grass is too long for town codes or being kicked out of the high school clique because you talked to someone who was "out".

     One time I picked up one of these books that were going to tell me how to be me, even I never met this person before in my life and probably never will. She had little daily activities, one for each day of the year, designed to lead me back to the sunshine of my soul amidst the smog of civilization. I was to buy funny hats which were going to bring out the song in me, according to her. I don't wear hats, except when it's cold outside. Not because some societal conspiracy told me not to if I wanted to be a Good Girl. I just don't like them. Not that I have anything against them, mind you. I just don't want to wear them on my head. I could just see what would happen if I were in a support group based on this book (of which they do exist). You need to wear hats, to find the girl within. Or the fashion queen within. Or some other oddball within that I was squashing with the two-by-four of my resistance. The fact that I don't want to be bothered with it doesn't count. Just my reluctance to scoop within the depths of my soul by refusing to wear a tiara.

     Which is the ultimate problem with reading guidelines on how to be you. Usually, they are based on some general consensus that some therapist has conglomerated over time based on the people he knows, or in the case of the non-therapist, she's writing about all the stuff she did in order to find the Path to her True Self. Maybe they worked great for her. But people aren't one-size-fits-all. Just look at any street. People aren't even one-size-fits-all physically. Why would they be one-size-fits-all mentally or spiritually?

     Even general concepts like love and validation, which most would agree that the majority of humanity want to achieve, can cause some misfiring. What one person sees as love can be seen to another person as taking a wrecking ball to society. Just take a look at the liberal versus conservative conundrum. Some liberals say they are the compassionate ones, give some empirical evidence to prove their point, and then claim the conservative view is lacking in feeling. Then listen to a group of conservatives say the same thing in reverse. These groups can't agree on what makes up love, though they believe that love is important. Obviously, they have a common ground to work with, but they have to understand that because of their individual differences, each approaches this commonality in a different way. Validation, another "universal" concept, can also run into this web. Perhaps it is true that all six billion humans wish to be validated. But a loner would need validation in a different way than a social butterfly. The autonomy lies in how each person gets his needs met while integrating into society in a positive way. It might be a universality that each person needs to give to society as well. But she needs to discover who she is so she can give in a way that is genuine to her temperament and personality, or else she probably isn't giving anything at all.

     People are guides, not gods. In claiming autonomy, you are free to reject any or all of their suggestions. Which is what they are, no matter how much they tell you about "life laws" or "agreements". Even the ever-popular Dr. Phil, who I do enjoy watching myself, says not to substitute your judgment for his. No one truly knows what specifics a person needs at a given time. The roadmap to your self is in your self, not a book or someone else's ingenuity.

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