posttitle = Letter to my younger self, who has just been sent to his room titleClass =title-long len =61

Letter to my younger self, who has just been sent to his room

On behalf of the universe: there’s been a mistake. You weren’t meant to be sent here, to your room.

I’m highlighting the mistaken nature of this situation because what I want to tell you is: you’re free. But I don’t want to be your rescuer, you see. In order for you to really be free of this room, in your mind not just your body, you’ll need to be free of the meaning of it, which means coming to understand why you were never meant to be sent here in the first place.

In saying you’re free, I’m not saying, “you’re good—it doesn’t matter what you did that resulted in you being sent to your room.” There’s probably some sort of conversation that needs to happen, because whatever you did affected other people in ways that you need to understand, and I think you’d want to do something different if you could understand both those impacts and also understand what prompted you to do what you did in the first place. Also, other people need to understand what impacts they had on you! All of that needs to be talked about, in order for everyone to have a good time now and in the future.

And… in saying “there’s still a further conversation that needs to happen,” I’m not saying, “you’re bad—you can’t relax or feel good until we have that further conversation.” You don’t need to stress about it. You didn’t do anything wrong. We want to have this conversation in a way that feels good for you, and for everyone.

You being in your room, aside from the temporary effect of cooling the intensity of whatever situation you were previously in, isn’t helping that conversation happen. Your mom & dad probably think it is, but that’s because they think that “think about what you did” is actually an instruction you can usefully follow. It’s not—you don’t have the toolkit you’d need to make use of that. This isn’t a personal shortcoming of yours—you’re a bright, empathic, and self-aware kid, and if given the right learning environment you could readily learn the perspective-taking & listening skills needed to understand your impacts on other people, as well as the introspective skills needed to understand what was going on in you that generated your behaviors. But that learning environment requires untangling the very mistake that I’m pointing at in this letter!

Without that… it’s understandably scary to feel like “I don’t know what I did wrong!” This is part of the impossibility of this model of behavior and behavior change. And so it makes sense that in the meantime you distract yourself with Lego or something else you can actually experience mastery around!

I want you to know that it’s not personal to you.

This situation, that I’m saying is a mistake, is not a simple accident nor a grudge someone has towards you in particular. The entire history of humanity is organized around some related mistaken ideas, and those ideas naturally result in these mistaken situations, like you being sent to your room. A few of these mistaken ideas:

  • That making people feel bad, ashamed, etc will help them change to be more kind.
  • That certain thoughts or behaviors are simply wrong and should be gotten rid of.
  • That depriving people of their needs if they do one of these so-called wrong things will help them learn a different and more workable approach.

These are subtle things that seem true because they have partial truths in them. People will indeed change in response to feeling bad or deprived, but if they lack the necessary ability to understand what’s generating their own behavior, this change won’t be workable. It’ll instead be a kind of compromise, and as I’m sure you know, compromises suck. People can’t rest knowing part of what they care about has been ignored, so they fight the compromise. This happens between people and also within people.

So you being sent you to your room is a tiny tip of this much larger iceberg. The same basic mistake is being made on much larger scales with people being sent to jails. In both cases these arbitrarily-applied consequences don’t generate the actual understanding of the real consequences and what else might be possible.

Humanity still has a lot to learn here. In the meantime what I have to offer you is this perspective that I’ve laid out here: you’re fundamentally free. You didn’t do anything wrong. There are conversations to be had to make sense of everything, but that doesn’t mean you have to feel bad until it’s all sorted out.

I wrote this partially to clarify my own thoughts—I love the idea of sending it to you but that would create weird time-travel paradoxes, since you’re a couple decades in my past. But inasmuch as your understandings are the foundation upon which mine rest, we can say that I’m sending this letter to those understandings as they exist in my present-day brain. And, as I said, this whole thing basically applies to everybody, so! To anyone who reads this and appreciates it as something they need to hear, this letter is also for you.

With love and fierce tenderness,

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About Malcolm

Constantly consciously expanding the boundaries of thoughtspace and actionspace. Creator of Intend, a system for improvisationally & creatively staying in touch with what's most important to you, and taking action towards it.


Sameer » 3 Mar 2021 » Reply

Is there a way readers can get notified when the conclusion is up, other than just refreshing this page regularly?

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