Okay so you seldom shout at your teenage son to keep his bedroom tidy. In fact you don’t voice explosive anger, never mind verbal abuse or a threat of violence to get your own way. But perhaps without even realising it, do you sometimes use less obvious methods of manipulation?
Do your attempts at influencing others amount to trying to make them think, act, or feel the way you do? How do you assess the way you manage other people in your life? Do you get your own way too often?
Many people have been shocked, frightened and angry at the breakdown of law and order that has caused great damage in some of the larger cities across England; violence against unarmed police, arson and destructive behaviour together with widespread looting and mugging which terrorised shopkeepers and residents. A lot of those going on the rampage were teenagers. How has this happened? How do we make any sense of these disgraceful scenes that have brought shame on a nation?
You have seen the young pop performers, posturing on stage, pretentious, reeking of youthful ego and full of their celebrity status. And you wonder if you could have gone up on stage yourself and done that too. Maybe not! But what about something else you do that deserves attention — great disco dancing, passing of academic tests, goal scoring on the sports field? Don’t you too deserve some admiration? Or is the meaning of life for you something very different?
Turn on the television news and there is an almost overwhelming focus on financial mess, social problems or crime. So what actually is the meaning of life? When I look around me I can’t help longing for a better kind of world. Sometimes I feel we are so used to the unsatisfactory state of things that we have given up hoping for something better.
Is idealism completely out of fashion? Have we become too cynical to have a vision of utopia? Or are we too scared of being tarnished with the same brush as the fanatical extremists who have not been slow in broadcasting their own hate filled criticism of modern life. Perhaps I’m being hopelessly idealistic but surely society could be better. How can I find my perfect society? What follows are the prejudices of an idealist.
Who doesn’t want to feel respected or liked by other people? Yet how many of us are very troubled in this area and fail to be our true selves as a result.
Appreciating one’s solitude – for example in the back of beyond – at times can be a source of refreshment and energy. Yet, sometimes being on your own does feel very lonely. Even when in a crowd or a group situation we can also feel lonely. Then our loneliness can come from feeling different from, and not belonging to the network of people with whom we associate at work, home and play. If we are not at ease with ourselves, we will be ill at ease with people we meet. We may build a wall around ourselves and not allow others to look inside it. We may doubt there is anything of value we can share with them like a sense of humour, sparkling conversation, interesting ideas, or some useful knowledge. This is a fear that others will discover what we imagine to be our limitations. So we may find ourselves thinking, “I’d rather do it myself,” “I prefer to be alone.” Because we do not mix with others, people do not get to know us and we will lack friends and close relationships. Then we will feel even lonelier.
Friendship flourishes with having something in common and thus having shared conversation and activity – experiences that give delight.