Thursday, 2 August 2007

Radical transformation

So I once wrote an essay here about the possible detrimental side-effects on the psyche of modern technological recording/documenting devices.

A few days ago, Timmy and I were having a conversation about music writing and the struggle to escape the 'please your teachers' mentality, the struggle to transform into a mentality where you strive to become yourself and please yourself without outside approval. Tim suggested that people have trouble making that transition because they are conditioned to please others in school and at home all through their childhood.

And a very radical idea occurred to me. I thought about the fact that, in the 19th century, all kinds of now-unethical methods were used in school and in the home to discipline and educate children. These children, though, managed (for the most part) to turn out to be fairly responsible, intelligent, self-directed adults. How can this be? What has changed between then and now?

My answer is psychology. 19th century society did not think about the effects of childhood discipline on the adult. The adult is not a direct outgrowth of the child. Now, however, we assume that everything we experience as children affects us as adults. We assume that our personalities are formed early on in our lives, that it resists change as we move into adulthood. But what if this theory is not exactly correct? We know that humans have imperfect memories - that our brains easily forget or misremember the past, even ourselves as we were in the past. What if we have been conditioned against allowing ourselves to forget, allowing ourselves to make a cognitive break with our past?

Certainly the modern prevalence of photo albums, family videos, and keepsakes/souvenirs tend to preserve our memories and keep them authentic, tend to remind us of our past, how we were in the past. What would happen if we stopped believing in the effects of our childhood on our current selves? Could that improve our chances of growing up, becoming self-directed, understanding who we are and who we want to be?

It's a radical idea.

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