The term self-discovery causes most people to squirm. Most people associate self-discovery with new age types who wear goatees and skullcaps with Rasta stripes on them. Most people who want to get in touch with their inner child find controlled substances to be the best transportation devices when used in conjunction with Arthur Janov’s Primal Scream Therapy. Most people associate self-discovery with people getting nude and judging all their fellow nude participants in asexual, spiritual, and beautiful ways. It doesn’t have to be this way.
We’ve all watched cable presentations document some forty something, in swaddling, trying to spiritually relive a moment in time that they believe was stolen from them by circumstance. We see these people as violating “normal” maturation methods and immature individuals that want people to see them in a manner no one has looked at them before. Most people view the term self-discovery as self-indulgence for the self-indulgent. Most people have had the term self-discovery bastardized so often that the term makes them squirm when they hear it.
My grandfather’s generation, the WWII generation, held stoic silence as a key to happiness. They didn’t speak of the events of their lives for the simple reason that they didn’t want to relive the horrors visited upon them. The characterization of this generation is that its members learned to forget more life than subsequent generations will ever know. If that’s true, we could add that they know, perhaps better than we do, that sometimes forgetting is a key to a sound mind.
Others would tell you that the WWII generation exhibited a degree of humility that has been lost on subsequent generations. The final attribute that I’ve heard attributed to those who don’t speak of their lives is that the generation before them told them not to speak of their concerns so often that it was ingrained. To the WWII generation, talking about the pressing matters of their lives equates to complaining about them, and they believe it’s self-indulgent to do so.
The result for those of us that sat on the knees of the WWII generation is that we didn’t know anything substantial about them, until they passed away. How many times have we heard a member of my generation say: “If I had only known this person while they were still alive, I could’ve had such a much better relationship with them.” My grandfather wanted to be the best grandfather ever, and he did so by being there for me. I defined our relationship, and he would acquiesce to all of my needs and wants. When my grandmother would tell him to tell me some of his stories, he would say, “He doesn’t want to hear about that,” and I didn’t. Yet, I didn’t learn how proud he was to be an American, regardless the atrocities he saw committed in her name. I didn’t learn what his parents had to go through as immigrants and what they did to survive and thrive after the depression. I knew him as my grandfather, and I remember him doing everything he could to make me laugh and love every minute I spent around him, but I didn’t learn the essence of the man until he passed away.
When we see our generation’s “self-discovery” types go on daytime talk shows, and Facebook, to reveal every intimate detail of their lives, we cringe. We think our forebears may have been onto something with this whole humility through silence. The alternatives are nothing short of embarrassing.
There is a middle ground. There is a way to let loved ones know the nature of our existence without going overboard and getting sappy. We don’t have to weep when we tell tale of our overbearing father, or the bully who tormented us in high school, or our feelings in general. There is a way to pass along that which we’ve learned in life to those sitting on our knees who are dying to learn what we know. The consequence of doing otherwise is that everything we learned in life will die on the vine, and our knee-sitters will be prone to make the same mistakes we did.
The non-emotional, reflective person can learn who they are by pulling the onion layers away to discover their true core. Is it important to learn who we are by dissecting our past and learning who we are by dissecting the information of who we were? I think it is, but as with anything else moderation is the key. Should you sit in a circle and open up to a support group? Most of us will not do what, but we can relive our past, through the knee-sitters, and teach them some things that are so distant that we forgot about them.
When they’re sitting on our knee, we can live our life vicariously through them, by recounting the life we’ve lived. Will they learn enough to avoid making similar incidents in life, probably not, but they can use our knowledge in conjunction with their own experiences to make their lives a little better.
Self-discovery is what new agers call it, and these new agers engage in self-discovery by getting in touch with their inner-child. Their sentences always start with the ‘I’ word, and they expect you to smile with a sigh when they openly reflect. Do you love yourself as you are? Do you think about whether or not you love yourself? You may either have too much time on your hands, or you may be suffering from an acute case of what medical science calls self-indulgence, and it doesn’t have to be that way.