Robert J. Burrowes
One of the more subtle manifestations of the intimate link between
(unconscious) human emotions and behaviour is illustrated by the simple
concept of choice and how this is so often reduced to a dichotomy
between two bad options. In such circumstances, most people choose
whatever they consider to be ‘the lesser evil’.
But how often are there only two options, even if they appear ‘good’ and
‘bad’? Frankly, I cannot think of one circumstance in which my choices
are limited to two, however good or bad they appear to be.
Why does this belief in just two options arise?
When we are born, our evolutionary inheritance includes a phenomenally
powerful capacity to feel a complex range of emotions. However, because
what sociologists refer to as ‘socialization’ (a process by which babies
and children are supposedly taught the ways of their society) is
actually a process of terrorizing babies and children into suppressing
their awareness of these emotions so that they can be forced to conform
to societal ‘norms’ (no matter how dysfunctional), the disastrous
outcomes of ‘socialization’ are obscured. If you wish to read more about
the terrorization of children, you can do so in ‘Why Violence?‘ and
‘Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice‘.
This terrorizing of babies and children takes many forms but one of the
most common ways it occurs is through simply telling a child what they
must do under threat of punishment for non-compliance which all parents,
teachers, religious figures and other adults do routinely. This
imperative to obey will always run counter to the child’s own Self-will.
Why is this? Because every single human baby is genetically programmed
to follow their own Self-will, not to obey the will of another.
This individual Self-will is generated by the integrated sense of how to
behave in response to the mental and physical feedback – including
feelings, thoughts, memory, conscience, sensory perception (sight,
smell, sound, touch, taste), truth register, intuition… – which each
person receives and which their mind processes and integrates to
crystallise the precisely appropriate behaviour in any given
But once a child is routinely terrorized into submitting to the will of
another – no matter how benign either the person giving the instruction
or the instruction itself – they lose trust and faith in their own
capacity to decide on a course of action and undertake it powerfully.
They are now adrift without clear internal guidance and, as they grow
up, they are now readily vulnerable to the ‘persuasion’ of others
whether it be the opinion of someone else, the advice of an ‘expert’ or
the inanity of an advertisement for a commercial product.
Adrift from their own unique and powerful internal mental processor –
with its emotional, intellectual, sensory, intuitive, memory, conscience
and other components – they are the victim of their own fear of being
disobedient, wrong, in the minority, isolated … if they follow their own
Unconsciously, the child feels trapped. They are terrified to do what
they want without permission (which is routinely denied) but
unconsciously angry about this (because they have been scared out of
being openly angry at their parents and teachers) which usually
manifests as something powerless such as resentment.
What does the child do in this circumstance? Obey the parent/teacher or
attempt to follow their own Self-will and risk (and probably receive)
punishment for doing so? What is the ‘good’ option here? Or is the child
faced with a choice between two evils and must try to choose the
‘lesser’ one? In the words of Anita McKone: ‘It feels like you must
either put up with abuse or die.’
Routine abuse of the child in this manner by their parents, teachers and
other adults throughout their early life leaves virtually all adults
with an unconscious belief that life is a series of choices between
‘lesser evils’ with an occasional ‘good’ choice allowed in limited
circumstances. We might choose our meal, the color and style of our
clothing, what film to watch and other such trivia. But what of anything
important? No way!
Most people end up believing that there are only ever two choices on
anything that matters and neither is particularly desirable.
Unconsciously, they feel trapped and it makes no sense when they are
told that they have many options from which to choose. This is not their
experience and it just feels untrue. They will endlessly choose the
lesser evil of two bad options on virtually everything that matters in
their life and accept the trinket ‘goods’ they are allowed to choose,
such as the nature of their hairstyle.
Long before adulthood, the child accepts a lifepath of conformity to the
most mundane human existence imaginable: school, work, the occasional
holiday, illness and death. A life never lived.
In essence, the terrorized child, now an adult, never looks beyond the
choices given, even when both are ‘bad’ or one is trivially ‘good’.
Most people have no sense of their own Self-will in the profound sense,
no faith in where this Self-will might take them if followed and, if
they could/can feel it, no courage to do what their Self-will tells
The tragedy of virtually every human life is that they never seek out
what was taken from them as a child: the Self-will that would guide them
unerringly to seek out and become everything they were born to be. They
are so full of fear, self-hatred and powerlessness as a result of the
violence they suffered as a child, that they endlessly settle for ‘the
lesser evil’ on anything important and settle for trinkets in the form
of ‘good’: the choice of ice-cream flavour, the color of their socks,
the novel to read, the holiday destination.
Is there a way out? Yes, but it requires you to feel your fear, anger,
sadness and other feelings at what has happened to you until you are
powerful enough to reject both/all ‘bad’ options and to refuse the
trinkets that parody ‘good’. And to ask ‘What do I want?’ It is only by
consciously and deliberately rejecting all ‘lesser evil’ options that
the magnificent array of incredible opportunities which you have never
contemplated/discovered will open before you to choose as you wish.
And that is why it is so difficult. You must have the courage to cut
off, without the option of turning back, all options that do not give
you what you need. This is because what matters is not whether you get
what you need in the short term, but whether you live your truth, no
matter how difficult this might be in the immediate sense.
It is the fear of burning all bridges that holds us back because, as a
child, we were too scared to walk out on those who told us, one way or
another, that we had no choice but to suffer their abuse or die.
But the more bridges you burn, the more magnificent will be the vista of
undreamt opportunities that will open before you. And you will wonder
why you never considered/saw them before. Imagine if everyone had the
courage to burn the bridges of fear and to set out on their own unique
And to experience the sheer joy of living powerfully in every moment of
But our own personal effort does not need to exclude the possibility of
making it easier for others in future too. So if you would like to
participate in the ongoing effort to create a world in which living
powerfully is more possible for each of us, you are welcome to consider
signing the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World‘.
If people are not afraid of violence, they are genuinely free to seek
their true path.
Biodata: Robert J. Burrowes has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist since 1981. He is the author of ‘Why Violence?‘ His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org his website is at http://robertjburrowes.wordpress.com
Robert J. Burrowes
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