I was hanging out with some folks that I hang out with and one gentleman mentioned that someone had told him that he approaches life like "sleeping with the lights on."
I knew exactly what he meant when he said it. He was expressing the idea that some of us do life with an adversarial approach, that we always maintain a heightened awareness of our surroundings, wondering what next thing is going to come around the corner to throw us off guard or bring about our destruction.
The problem with sleeping with the lights on is that you never really get good sleep. It's an exhausting way to live. And I'm exhausted.
Here's the kicker according to Ken Gergen in the book Relational Being. If we did not understand the world in terms of separated individuals, neither failure or blame would belong to any ONE.
But how do we escape the trap of the bounded self when we are under the constant barrage of self-esteem and self-help discourses? When twitter and Facebook provide a steady stream of inspirational messages to make us better individuals. Not to mention all the performance coaches, motivational speakers, websites, and dare I say therapists, produced by our culture in an effort to strengthen our sense of self.
And what about the the dark side to all this self strengthening? How do we navigate its demand that you enter the world of comparison. Which as Gergen points out, can go in one of two directions, either avoiding information about others good qualities, which would make me feel inferior, or begin to search for the others shortcomings, in the hope of lifting my position. A lose/lose situation if there ever was one.
So what is the solution? Gergen believes that it's in relationship, not in the abandonment of the tradition of the individual self, but in the human power to create alternatives that retain the joy of individual accomplishment, romantic love, leadership, etc., without embracing separation or alienation.
That's a very tall order Mr. Gergen.
The best way to predict the future is to invent it. - Alan Kay