Capable Capable
Capable Capable

The roles we are asked to play

What doesn’t show up so often in the news today is the fundamental interests, principles, values and traditions that Americans continue to share. Here in America, we are educated and socially pressured to adhere to the opportunity for individual liberty and the burden of interpersonal responsibility.

The opportunity and the burden, coupled with the pressure to right-size the ego-function (for example, to become emotionally able to live with disappointment), provide us with the roles we are asked to play on the pathway to an autonomously led life. As parents, as workers, as neighbors, as consumers, as sports, music, primetime and pet lovers, we become constitutive links in the generational chain of custody of our civilization.

So, what do I mean by roles? Roles are the civilized figures that we impose on the blood-pounding, instilled-in-flesh-sinew-and-neuron immediacy of the human organism. In other words, despite the determined brute instincts to which we are heir and the provocations to which we are constantly subject, we rein in the cruel, the uncivilized, the immoral. Certainly our primal urges are natural. But over time, we traded their crass and anti-social expression for the collective endeavor to provide security, the comforts of home and hearth and roads and bridges to ease the way of the weary traveller.

When we are first introduced to these roles, we are too anxious and too self-absorbed to find them an easy fit. Their boundaries chafe. Yet, as we begin to educate ourselves and to work with mature sentiments that metabolize the immediacy and transcend mindsets common to a particular age, group or class, they may become internalized emotional resources, new and more humane pieces of our responsiveness.

Moreover, as we commit to these roles and to right-size the too pride-filled, I-am-a-special-exception-to-the rules waywardness of an intemperate ego-function, it makes sense to hold to the responsible ethos of our culture. A failure of such commitment is not simply an alternate pathway to the fulfillment of America’s promises. It represents something else. Indeed, the failure reflects a lack of common decency, a lack of the agentive and moral qualities that ground the interpersonal responsibility on which our civilization was built.

Yes, it’s the 21st century and we live in a country graced by some of humankind’s greatest accomplishments (and marred by some of its worst). Yet in this sea-to-shining-sea developed land, we call upon ourselves for a pioneering spirit: the will and the careful thinking that stand for our commitment to wrest ourselves from the unmediated experience of existence and to extend dignity, compassion and a hand to our fellow beings.

Are you interested in having more autonomy in your life?

Here's a plan of action! Examine our website. If you find it interesting, do the Retreat Workshop. If your interest continues, do our Advanced Classes. Thank you.

 Arnold Siegel is the founder of Autonomy and Life and the leader of its Retreat Workshops and Advanced Classes.