All my life I have struggled with authority. Parents, grandparents, teachers, seniors, bosses, self-help teachers, and Gurus. I sought their acceptance and security. And then, after some time I found their authority unfair and oppressive. I have seen this pattern repeat innumerable times. This time I decided to write about it so that the next time I am tempted to bestow authority on someone I read this article as a warning.
It is easy to understand why this happened. I did not experience my primary caregivers as a child. My father abandoned the family. My mother abdicated my upbringing to my grandparents. My grandparents delegated it to a boarding school. I was told that I am fortunate to get such a privileged education. And I believed that. It never occurred to me, until much later, that I was deprived of a vital ingredient for healthy growth. Love.
As a student, I tried hard to please my teachers by getting good marks, prizes and following the rules. I was a sincere student who did well in studies and sports. The presence of authority in a boarding school is inescapable. Everything was decided by the authority that was not my own. Wake up time, sleep time, eat time, study time, playtime. Most of my authority was spent in keeping up with the demands of authority. It seeped into my bones.
As an employee, I tried hard to please my superiors. I followed the company policies and wore formal trousers, shirt, and tie, to look like the innumerable workforce that descended at Nariman Point each morning. I also hung my company identity card around my neck to make my uniform complete. I was part of the young happening crowd that worked hard and partied harder. It was intoxicating until I lost my job in the economic recession of 2008.
As a seeker, I tried hard to please my coach, counselor, and Guru. I have had many of them. In my quest for truth, I have submitted myself to many therapies and spiritual practices. In the name of personal growth, I tried hard to evolve under the guidance and protective umbrella of benevolent authority. It was helpful. Until my self-expression felt throttled by following an external dictum. And so the pattern continued. Project authority. Dismantle authority.
Having spent a lifetime battling authority, I have learned something. Perhaps this learning is relevant for all of us, as none of us can escape relating to authority figures. Each of us may have our own pattern of behavior, but very few are conscious of it.
We are all born dependent. Our needs for survival are met by others who have the power to fulfill or deny those needs. Be it food, clothing, shelter; or love, respect, and acceptance. Given our circumstances, we find our unique ways of getting our needs met. Often we do so by compromising our natural self-expression. For example, you like chocolate ice cream and everyone around you likes vanilla. It is quite likely you will opt for vanilla to gain the acceptance of others. After some time you may even forget your natural preference.
I opted to become a Chartered Accountant. I am not good with numbers. On the contrary, numbers make me miserable. Why did I choose it then? Because I had no idea what I wanted. No one ever asked me what I wanted. No one ever asked me what I felt. No one ever asked me what I liked, or disliked. Usually, this role is played by our parents who are attentive to our personal needs. But quite often parents are driven by their own need to conform and impose principles stemming from their own insecurities.
When we make choices that are not in alignment with our uniqueness, we are likely to hit a roadblock. This may be disenchantment with work or relationships. Our deepest self does not respond to logical and strategic choices but to that which makes our hearts sing. It responds to curiosity, service, and love. Values that cannot be measured or used to climb the social ladder.
In order to find our Truth, we have to find our Inner Authority.
“How does one find that?” you ask
By giving up the need to control the future. Our entire life is an endeavor at being secure. Secure in love, secure at work, and secure in resources. We are constantly using our thinking minds to make decisions to secure ourselves. Till the time we do this, we will always be insecure. True security lies in Surrender. Living life from the Awareness of each moment. With honesty and integrity.
It does not mean we stop thinking. We would not be able to, even if we wanted to. It means we stop believing that our thinking mind can protect us from future hurt, pain, or betrayal. We base our choices not on overthinking but on listening to what our Awareness is communicating to us. By cultivating a faith that each moment is an end in itself, not a means to achieve some future outcome.
When we do that we reclaim our authority from the world outside. We make friends with our spontaneity and self-expression. We realize freedom was always there. We had forsaken it for the sake of security. When we overextend our stay with authority, it turns toxic. The responsibility then lies with us to venture into the unknown with only Awareness and Surrender as our only companions.
Very few of us take that courageous step. Most of us are pushed into the unknown by circumstances that are beyond our control. When I have been pushed, the initial fall is scary and painful. But when I learn to fly it is exhilarating and liberating.
“Under the shade of a banyan tree only a bush will grow.” says an Indian proverb. If we want to find our inner authority we have to step out into the scorching sun of the Unknown.