The Pain Of Independence

The Pain Of Independence

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” Mark Twain

I recently read about the “pain of independence”, in a fantastically thoughtful book by Ozan Varol. Ozan writes: “Resisting conformity causes us emotional distress…[It] produces…“a pain of independence.” 

This idea particularly resonated with me as I seem to have adopted a number of beliefs that run counter to prevailing wisdom. I’ve discovered that conventional relationships are not the only place to find love, that “working for the man” is anything but a safe bet and that living in many different countries allows for a richness that I’ve never been able to replicate in one spot.

THE IMPORTANCE OF INTROSPECTION

As Ozan says, swimming against the tide can be painful and I’ve found that it requires continuous self-reflection. Every day I ask myself if I really feel this way or if I’m just incredibly adept at coming up with justifications for the way my life has “turned out”. (No doubt it is a bit of both.) I ask friends and people I respect about their experiences and try always to be seeking out evidence that contradicts my point of view. 

I‘d argue that this type of introspection can be useful for everyone, however seemingly conventional their path. 2020 has shown us that, in the modern world, safety in numbers is an illusion. That our jobs, freedoms, rights and relationships are not as secure and dependable as we’d assumed.

ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS

Ozan offers some questions to prompt us to look more closely at our unexamined habits: “What do you assume you’re supposed to do simply because everyone around you is doing it? Can you question this assumption and replace it with something better?”

I wonder if the pain we feel when we find we’re separated from the herd is more a reminder to check in with our level of intentionality, especially around the big questions. What to study? Who to marry? Where to work and settle down? We could also ask further questions. Do these rules apply to me? Am I around people I care about and who care about me? Am I doing all I can to live my best life?

Either way, I’m pretty sure it’s more a nudge than something likely to cause an injury and therefore nothing at all to be afraid of. 

8 comments

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  • I enjoy your introspective articles Abi. I can relate to this one for sure. I find as I get older I feel more comfortable with being whatever I am rather than trying to fit an idea I have of myself.

    For me at the heart is to remember the idea of myself as “a separate person in the world” is really a mental construction. So much of our mental energy can go into maintaining this construction. I am learning not to carry the mental construction of me too heavily.

    • Thank you Nick. This article seems particularly resonant, which is encouraging! I feel similarly that age brings a certain comfort and ease with our idiosyncrasies. Oneness, in the Vedic sense, is a philosophy that makes a lot of sense to me too. I hadn’t thought of it in this context, so thank you.

  • Thank you for the thoughtful essay on the Pain of Independence. I have long given up the notion that I must run with a pack of directionless, visionless groups of people who only seem to just get through the day and survive without thought of present and future.
    I only run with my inner lion and go through each day with purpose and a vision of furthering my arts and supporting others with similar values. I am done trying to be nice and give advice. Since a very early age and fighting bullies who hated the fact I wore a hearing aid ( I have two now) , I have made up my mind to be a junior olympian in swimming, now learning martial arts, and tai chi and yoga especially after swimming. The activity helps my hyperactivity and my arts and writing help me think deeply.
    Taught to be independent from an early age and to think globally has helped to be more thoughtful in my dealings with humans. I am convinced if we keep our own counsel, we will emerge saner and healthier than 98% of the people.
    Ps I went through 7 years of med schools having a vision to help my patients as a Physio. If I can do it, anyone can do it.
    Thank you,

    Susan
    Susanhuber.com

  • There is no one sure formula for living your “best life” : for those of us striving
    to be whole, to live our best life, there are many alternatives. Abi, that you
    are doing well with your creativity and this marvelous website, just for starters,
    means you are living a dream of yours, I sense. This is absolutely marvelous.

  • Time and tide wait for no man ..
    It’s ok Abi, were all in this together! It appears commonplace that we have all been questioning every aspect of our lives, global concerns are now added to our own personal ones,even if we don’t want or need them!, pressure, albeit small, builds up over time ..we have all had time to reflect and ponder judiciously over EVERYTHING, it’s not the best recipe for mental health, but it has its place. It’s only natural and human to be this way, so your no different to anyone else. I am 100% positive that you will make the most appropriate choice and therefore the best possible outcomes will befall you. Thank you for sharing Abi, your openness is a breath of fresh air, never hold back on communication

  • “…….. try always to be seeking out evidence that contradicts my point of view.”
    I love this line. Always be open to opposing or different views.
    Being ‘set in your ways’ is such a terrible place to be.
    Even if you never change your views but are always open to alternatives, this is such a different mindset. A much happier one.

    • Thank you Jim. I’m always trying to work out where I’m wrong! I agree that it makes you more open and inevitably, happier.