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19 Traits, Abraham Maslow, autonomy, bob mondello, david brooks, donald van de mark, independence, joseph campbell, knowing yourself, muriel maffre, the good among the great, unaffected April 25, 2011
Hollywood has produced a crop of hit movies about mind control. Bob Mondello’s excellent April 15th piece on NPR’s All Things Considered, Movies That Mess with Your Mind, is a great review of four recent hits about struggling to control one’s mind and life: Inception, The Adjustment Bureau, Limitless and Source Code.
The gist of each plot is that contemporary men and women are losing control of their very selves; and further, that there are insidious and pervasive others who control us. In our highly connected, media-soaked lives, it’s easy to think that this is a new phenomenon. It’s not.
The late great psychologist, Abraham Maslow, wrote that the vast majority of people “do not make up their own minds… They are pawns to be moved by others rather than self-moving, self-determining individuals. Therefore, they are apt to feel helpless, weak, and totally determined. They are prey for predators, flabby whiners rather than self-determining, responsible persons.”
Ouch! It’s bad enough that we’re “pawns to be moved by others,” but Maslow has to throw in that we’re “flabby whiners” too. (No wonder the hottest consumer product these days is the new girdle, Spanx.) Setting aside America’s weight problem, how is it that most of us are pawns, to be moved about by others?
I believe strongly that the reason is that most of us are pawns is that we lack personality trait number 4 of the most admirable, creative and joyous people: to be unaffected. It’s not surprising that we’re strongly affected by others. David Brooks writes beautifully about all the psychological reasons in his best seller, The Social Animal. So how can you become more unaffected? (Or less affected?) The trick is to seek and surround yourself with those who are less affected, and that will help you be more yourself.
Before exploring this further, I should define unaffected. In my book, I titled my chapter on this trait “Tune Out Trends and Traffickers.” Being unaffected means being yourself in spite of what others may expect you to be. It’s part of being autonomous–the first and fundamental trait of admirable, creative and joyous individuals. Autonomy means being independent of others and being self-sufficient emotionally and even financially. A subtle element to being autonomous is being “unaffected” by others, by the media, by current attitudes or the Zeitgeist–so that your individual personality shines through clearly. Being resistant to trends and the shaping influence of others is how you gain independence and something very valuable to others–authenticity. Being “true” is what great actors and dancers seek. It’s courageous, humbling, hard work, but the payoff is nearly boundless appeal.
Knowing Yourself Can Help Your Performance
At the tender age of sixteen, the great French ballerina, Muriel Maffre, was told that she was too tall, and that she was “a beautiful plant but you can not dance.” Maffre turned inward and focused on her own meaning as much as technique, what she calls “a quality of intention” for each and every movement. From within, she created a life and career “by really developing something that was completely in tune with who I was and cultivating that out.”That’s a perfect rendition of the value of self-discovery and an unaffected and self-directed life. And what irony; by forcing Maffre to find more than physical perfection, her early critics diverted her toward her singular talent–communicating ideas, emotions, and, most profoundly, who she is. Authenticity is so powerful on stage because, as she says, “It’s you! It’s the truth. It’s who you are for real.”
How to Be More You
One great way to live in your truth is to shed the many affectations that are poured over us by media and marketers. Head out to the park, the beach, lake or any place without sales pitches. Shut off the media. Tune out your judgmental relatives… and even your own chattering mind.
As the great Joseph Campbell said, “”You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.” That something may just be finding your path in life.
How do you tune out the world to focus on what’s important to you? Please share your tips and ideas in the comments.
Cheers from Sonoma,
Donald Van de Mark
To order The Good Among the Great, called, “an essential read for those wanting to improve themselves and the world” (Library Journal), click here.