Episode 49: Quick Bite on Battling Socialization

Chris Wells & Emma Nicholson

Release date: December 19, 2023

In episode 49, Chris and Emma delve into the topic of socialization. We discussed how our understanding of socialization has evolved and how it plays a role in personal growth. We emphasized the deliberate nature of multilevel development and that individuals must actively and consciously engage in the process. Simply going through life on autopilot or relying on automatic responses and behaviors is not enough. We must be intentional and self-created in our individual approaches to personal growth.

We shared insights on the fluid nature of socialization and how it intertwines with the development of dynamisms in our lives. We reflected on the impact of socialization on personal growth and the challenges one must face. Sometimes, the heart does not want to let go of certain beliefs, even if the mind cognitively understands that they may not be beneficial. This emotional attachment to certain beliefs can be a challenge to overcome in the journey of personal growth.

We emphasized the importance of self-reflection and critical examination of our motivations and beliefs to understand the extent to which others have influenced them. By doing so, we can better understand ourselves and make more conscious choices in our lives. We discussed the importance of developing confidence in one's own path and not relying on external validation. We also acknowledged that external feedback can serve as a reminder or a prompt to check one's compass and ensure they are heading in the right direction.

The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz


Emma: Today, we're talking about socialization.

Chris: Yeah, it was really your idea, so I'm letting you kick it off.

Emma: I've been having some thoughts about socialization and how I first conceptualized it when I was reading about the theory many moons ago. Because we've been having a few reminiscent episodes recently talking about the beginning of our podcast journey, and how I think about it differently now. I wanted to touch on a few of my thoughts on that and get your take on how you perceive it in that light.

Chris: Sounds good.

Emma: Where I want to start was the fluid nature of how I perceive socialization and how I conceptualize where and when the dynamisms come in. I suppose this goes back to when I was writing about my life and trying to examine it through a Dabrowski lens. And two things from that exercise really jumped out at me.

The first was how early in my life as a kid, I showed the seeds of dynamisms or the start of dynamisms, whether or not that actually led to any growth is up for debate. But I started to see some of the emotions and some of the stuff that I've been reading about in the theory very early.

I started to think about how socialization fit into that picture and what socialization was in essence. Rather than see it as socialization comes first and then later you get dynamisms, and you start to experience growth, I started to see a lot of overlap between those and started to also see socialization as an ongoing process and an ongoing force that continues to come into our life. Whether that be through media or expectations of society. So, my shift in thinking around what socialization is and when it impacts us has changed dramatically.

Chris: It's interesting. I'm surprised that we haven't talked about this more already. From my perspective, my bachelor's degree is in sociology, so I think I had a very different perspective of socialization, maybe just because I've kind of studied that through a different lens. It's been interesting for me to think about socialization in terms of the theory after having so many thoughts about it from the sociological perspective. This is something I've talked with Frank about, or I used to talk to Frank about, and it's interesting to me.

I can give so many examples of ways that I was problematic when I first started living with my partner because of things that I internalized when I was a kid as, this is the way things are. Without ever rethinking them until I lived with someone who was like, why do you do this? Why are you such a tailgater? Why do you think that we have to have a drink every time we go to the airport? These are things that I internalized from home.

Emma: Yeah, it's funny you say that. Part of why I started thinking about this was I also started thinking about how trauma and pain. It's almost like a Pavlov's dog response of how much stuff in my past still affects how I behave today, even though it happened a very long time ago. And, you know, it bleeds into my current life, and it bleeds into my relationships, particularly with my partner. Hard lessons that I learned from my ex—that pain and that trauma—still taints the way that I behave today. I find I get really guilty, and I feel a lot of shame, and I didn't realize how pervasive this freaking thing was. Like the fact that I'm still carrying some bastard’s baggage 15 years later into my current relationship really irritates me, but it just shows how much this sticks.

I started thinking about all the other elements of socialization as well, like the directions that they come from, like social media, media, like all these messages that we keep getting bombarded with every day of how we should behave and what the expectations on us are, and like they're never-ending. In that way, it started reframing my thinking about socialization as an ever-present force in our lives. Even if we work on ourselves and even if we become more resistant to it, it's always there whether or not we want to acknowledge it.

Chris: I think the key is to pay attention and to be aware of why you do things. Once you start really examining your motivations and you give some thought to why you are the way you are and where your beliefs came from, you realize what a house of cards it's been and how much of what you believe or what you do came from other people and wasn't something that you chose yourself.

And it also, from my experience, even the examples I gave of being a tailgater or needing to drink at the airport. Those are two things I don't do anymore. I am a very different driver now than I was when I first met Jason, and I rethought a lot of stuff. But the reality is that until we have a point in our lives where we wake up to ourselves and we wake up to the fact that we have brought in all of this external stuff without being critical of it until we have that moment, we're repeating patterns. We're having a unilevel experience of life until we wake up and start really examining what we're doing, why we're doing it, and where it came from.

I agree with you that it's very pervasive. It's coming at us from all fronts. And there's a lot of different ways that it looks. Right now, I'm working on a presentation and thinking about ableism. Ableism is a pervasive problem in that it's everywhere. It’s not something that we question the way we question other isms like racism or sexism. We accept prejudice and discrimination against disability without really confronting it or challenging it. And we have this internalized ableism. We believe that we should be normal and strive to fit in and be like other people, or at least, I mean, that's not how I feel, but for a lot of my life, I wanted to be normal. I wanted to fit in, and I didn't want to be me. When I started really confronting that in myself and questioning why I wanted to be normal, what did that even mean? Who is normal? I don't know. It's a whole process.

Emma: The realization I had is it comes from the past, but it also comes from the present as well, and it will continue to come in the future. Which was a bit depressing but also really awakening at the same time. It's like, you're gonna have to keep fighting this fight forever, you know that. Even if you dig down to the roots of all your shit that you've dragged from the past with you, and even if you manage to unravel everything, which is an impossible task really. But even if you did somehow manage to unravel everything and question everything that you believe and understand where it all came from and dig everything out of the roots, stuff's still gonna get thrown in your face. You're going to have to find a way moving forward to deal with socialization as well as deal with what's already happened to you.

Chris: Once you do start waking up to the fact that you have been living on automatic pilot and not creating your own reality, once you reach that point, you're much better equipped to deal with the socialization of the future or the present even. If there's one thing that is really emphasized often in the theory, it's the deliberate nature of multilevel growth and what he was calling advanced development. It's conscious, it's deliberate, it's self-created. So, that becomes a way of life once you have these dynamisms operating in your life that make that experience of reality possible. Once you get to a place where you're being deliberate and not automatic, I have to believe that that's half the battle.

Emma: I think the belief and the emotional attachment are the other half of the battle because no matter how many times you cognitively tell yourself something, sometimes your heart just doesn't want to let go of that belief. And you're right, it's ongoing work to repeat those messages until you can truly let go of some of the stuff. I don't know if I should go down this rabbit hole. Ah, fuck it, I will.

One thing I got from watching heathen videos on YouTube is a lot of people who become pagan and polytheist find that they're still dealing with what they call Suitcase Jesus. So you're still dealing with latent aspects of Christianity, if that was your upbringing, that you're lugging around with you. And every now and then, Suitcase Jesus will pop out, and you go, oh, that's still the thing that I've got hung over from a religion I no longer follow.

A good example of that is so you can tell yourself that I no longer believe in the Christian concept of hell, but the fear of it may linger with you for a very long time. So, there's a repeated message that has to go on because somewhere deep down in your soul, you're still quaking in your little boots at the fact that you might meet Satan one day. Even though it's no longer part of your current experience or your current practice. I think that you're right, there's that ongoing work of self-examination and continually doing that stuff, but it's got to go on until you can really believe it somewhere in the depths of your soul.

Chris: That's true. Often, the head knows something that the heart doesn't know yet or hasn't gotten there yet. It's true. This is an interesting topic. There's a lot of different directions that it can go. It's tough because I have my own thoughts on this and my thoughts from people I've worked with, and I see that some things are just so hard to walk away from. In terms of beliefs or prejudices. I'm thinking now of my own battle of trying to get people to think about ableism.

Not to come back to that again, but this is a real issue that we have in our society where we really elevate able bodies, and “this is how we should be.” We have this ideal of how we should look or what a family should look like, or what marriage should look like, and a lot of this stuff is heteronormative. There are so many things that have changed in the world since I was young.

At camp over the summer, I was telling the kids that when I was in high school, no one was out. No one would admit when I was in high school to being gay or lesbian, let alone being trans or non-binary. It's like we were in the dark ages, but it was just over 30 years ago. It wasn't really that long ago. That has really changed for the better to some extent. Although it's still a shit show here in America when it comes to—there's a ton right now of anti-trans legislation. It's fraught.

Emma: I think you're right on this stuff because this goes back to what we're saying about—the head believes, but the heart takes time to catch up. Even though there has been progress, in the dark places of the internet, in the quiet corners where people are whispering with each other, there's still a lot of phobia and bigotry. And, as you said, ableism and all sorts of shit going on. As a society, it's going to take us a long time for attitudes to actually catch up with some of that stuff. And, as you said, there's going to be resistance on that part too.

So, you were talking about anti-trans legislation. I'm thinking of the rise of incels on the internet, and people going back to, they want to go back to traditional stuff. Shit goes kicking and screaming. It doesn't go quietly. And even within ourselves, of the things that we want to let go of, don't always want to go quietly. Because you question one thing, you reevaluate it, but that's how powerful socialization is—you're going to get all these voices in your head telling you that, don't be that way, you're gonna go to hell. Don't do that, everybody's gonna hate you, you're not gonna fit in. Don't do that, your parents are gonna be disappointed in you. It's like those little goblins sitting on your shoulder the entire time, actively trying to get you to give up on the very self-reflection that's gonna free you from them because they're not gonna go quiet.

Chris: That's true, they're not. Yeah, it's tough. It's tough to get people to confront their stereotypes and their existing beliefs and think about things in a different way. That's part of overcoming your conditioning and your socialization. You have to be willing to examine it. But like you said, there's more than just the intellectual activity of thinking about it. It's more than just an intellectual sorting out process—the discovery of your hierarchy of values—and creating that system for yourself of, this is how I'm going to act in the world.

Emma: Yes, between point A, where you are with your map of your hierarchy of values, and point B, being your personality ideal of where you want to get to, there is a sea of goblins between those two points that you're going to have to fight your way through. And in the meantime, society is going to keep pouring more goblins onto the battlefield in front of you. They're not going to stop.

Chris: No, they're not going to stop. But as you grow in confidence in your development and you see the fruits of your effort, then I think it does get a little easier. The more you believe in yourself and your direction, in your path, whatever, however, you want to put it, the easier it is to avoid letting other people's voices get in your head or to get caught up in being worried about what other people think. You're finally able to let go of external validation and needing somebody else to tell you that you're on the right path or that you've made improvement.

That's a big deal. It's a lot to get to the point where you don't need to hear that from other people. Not that it's not always nice to hear, good job or the feedback that we get for the podcast. I really appreciate hearing that people resonate and that we're making a difference. But even if we weren't hearing from people, I think that I would feel confident that we were doing our best in this work.

Emma: You've always challenged me on external validation that feedback is good. You know, people can pull you back into line, but it's being able to sort of balance that with that internal compass telling you, yes, I know I'm heading in the right direction. I think I've started to see those external moments of feedback to say, look down at your compass. It's just a reminder or a check to have a look down and make sure you are heading in the right direction.

If someone says, you're being an arsehole, that's just a prompt to look at your compass and go, oh shit, yeah, I am being an arsehole. I need to change direction and be thankful for that moment. rather than just taking it on the face value and them saying, you're being an asshole and go, oh my God, I'm being an asshole. You've got to do that extra step of check your own compass first. And then those two things can go hand in hand. And it's been actually you talking about the value of feedback that prompted me to think in that direction.

Chris: Well, good. I'm glad that that it helped. It's hard because like you can't just blindly believe that you know what's right and that you're on the right path without allowing in feedback from others. If other people are telling you you're being an asshole, you would do well to take a look at that and not just reject what they're saying and defend against it. You have to be open to hearing what other people say. You have to have a willingness to be corrected.

It's not easy. I would say that having a willingness and an openness to being corrected is the sign of someone being on the right path. The more rigid you are, and the more sure you are that you're right, the more you really need to take a look at that.

Before I even got into that, I meant to say that there's this book called The Four Agreements, and that's what I've been thinking of over the past few minutes. It's these four statements that I was thinking about last night. I read this book a few years ago, but do I even remember what all four of them are? I may need to look it up. It's like, be impeccable with your word. Don't take anything personally. That's the one that I wanted to tie to this. Don't make assumptions, and always do your best. But “don't take anything personally” is the one that I was trying to think of.

Emma: Well, thanks, Chris, for coming on this goblin filled journey.

Chris: Yeah, you're welcome. I wish I had more words of wisdom to wrap up this issue of socialization. I think that you just have to be on the lookout for it. You have to be a critical thinker.

Emma: Yeah, and don't be one of those people that says, I've gotten to level IV and I'm fine and this is never going to affect me again, because it will keep coming at you. The goblins will not stop.

Chris: That's right. They'll keep coming.

Emma: Well, thanks, Chris.

Chris: Always a pleasure. Thank you, Emma. It is always a pleasure.

Emma: And thank you to our listeners. We always enjoy having you with us as well. Continue your path to authenticity through the links in the show notes. Subscribe to our Substack newsletter for stacks of cool things delivered straight to your inbox, explore the Dabrowski Center, email us, or join us on social media. And don't forget to show your love by liking, subscribing, grabbing some positive disintegration merch, or leaving us a rating or review on your podcast platform.

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