As you progress through life and take on more responsibilities it becomes ever more important to have a personal core which defines the key aspects of who you are as a person: your beliefs, what you like and don’t like, what you wish for and don’t wish for, your interpersonal style and maturity level, your overall ability to handle frustration and difficulty, and your capacity for stopping to relax or to reflect.
Without this personal core, we may be alright living our lives for a while before we eventually experience some sort of ‘midlife crisis’ or some other kind of emotional cataclysm which may even involve self-sabotaging behaviors that our subconscious minds put forth as the answer to the problem of having no true core.
And if we happen to have people or organizations relying on us, it becomes ever more dangerous to go along coreless as we find ourselves faced with more and more complex decisions the further along we go.
Examples include: politicians who paint themselves into ideological corners based upon what they think the public wants to hear and what they will vote for rather than what they themselves truly believe, sports figures who try to be role models for kids but who have yet to become true adults themselves, entertainers who are pressured to get high ratings for the station no matter what the cost to their own personal or professional integrity, and even we parents who want to be ‘friends’ with our kids while trying to bypass any well defined adult role as teacher and guide for them.
The outcomes of each of the above examples hinges upon whether or not the person involved has made a deliberate effort in their lives to define for themselves a personal core. And that’s because we are made much less effective, and sometimes even downright dangerous, the weaker or more nonexistent our core.
I don’t think that we as a society do a particularly good job of identifying a personal core in ourselves, nor do I think that we do a good job of teaching our children how do it.
In fact, I think that just the opposite is true: the more interconnected we become and as the internet and the media become one with each other and with us, the more we will learn to pay more attention to following the current trends and less to what’s actually happening inside of us. Tomorrow’s leaders and overachievers have continued to evolve in the direction of learning how to study specifically for and to perform extraordinarily well on standardized tests, and of creating heuristics out of their educations; they may very well come out of their eventual Ivy League alma maters almost entirely ignorant of who they really are as people and without much introspection at all—truly vulnerable to any and all outside pressures and expectations at the expense of any semblance of a personal core that they may or may not have.
Instead, generalized anxiety is on the rise, as is divorce, as well as a more general inter-and-intrapersonal disconnect.
At each of our personal cores are the fundamental components identified long ago by Sigmund Freud—namely our capacity to work and to love; I would also add the other central variables of what we truly like, don’t like, want, and don’t want.
My own take on all of this is that we should be using this life not just to live in continual reactivity to what is outside of ourselves; we also need to use life to learn about ourselves based upon our work and our relationships, our true likes and dislikes—in other words, based upon the lives we live.
As we live our lives we need to keep in mind that there is an actual person inside of us and a process that’s supposed to be going on there. We need to consider that life is an opportunity to learn more about that person as we go through the process of observing our reactions to other people, to ideas, to work, and to our relationships.
And we should be noting these things as we go along, honing our personal core.
Anthony Ferraioli, M.D.
Author, Don’t Get Married! (Unless You Understand A Few Things First)
Cobwebs and Ugly Wallpaper