Alan Watkins: Why You Feel What You Feel at TEDxOxford (Transcript)

So the emergence of conceptual-self happens, and we start to label our universe — you know, cat, dog, bat, ball, window, floor, and so on. And so the world starts to make sense and we start to be able to navigate. And children between the age of three and six learn about six new words every single day. This is phenomenal language acquisition that goes on.

But it’s not until they get to the fourth-level which is called concrete consciousness that they start to learn the rules that govern the concepts. So that’s when it all starts to make sense: why is a dog a dog and a cat a cat? Why is a mummy a mummy and daddy a daddy? What’s the rule? And it’s in that between sort of six and nine years old that the fun starts to happen. So if you speak to a seven-year old, you can start to have fun by playing against the rules — you know, look at that cat going wolf wolf? No, cats go meow! They don’t go wolf-wolf. And it makes them laugh, because you’re basically playing against the rule. So there’s this whole rule emergence that occurs in a child between six and nine. And then that’s where most people stay.

So most of the people you’re going to meet in your life, 20, 30, 40, on the inside nine! See, this accompanies all the time, [toys at the prime], behaving like children. It’s very common.

Now there is an attempt usually in the early teenage years to get beyond that concrete-self, to get beyond the rules, which is why you get teenage conflict. You know, you’ll see it — and parents try to suppress this, like it’s a bad thing; it’s a developmental stage. You shouldn’t be suppressing this stuff; they’re testing the rules. So this battle ensues — you told me to be home at 10, I want to be home at 11. You told me to be honest; you’re not being on it and the whole kind of fight breaks out. And they have the whole turbulent teenage years.

And now regardless of who wins that battle, whether it’s mom or dad or the child, it’s the bubbles along for a few years. Now eventually regardless of who wins the battle, they leave home, hopefully. They go! Right?

But then a much bigger parent called society comes in and imposes its rules. So a lot of people go back into the concrete, not in the transpersonal way, they’re back in the concrete following a set of rules, that we start to believe that we’ve got to get a degree, we’ve got to get a job, we’ve got to get a relationship, we’ve got to get a car, we’ve got to get a house, we’ve got to get all these things — to be a good corporate citizen.

So we start to follow the rules and we enter a company and we start to work our way up the career ladder, following the rules. And so a lot of people you’ll encounter are back in that concrete, their life become stereotypical. And you’ll see people talk about this, no that’s not how we do things at this company, you be the chief executive, I’ll be the chief financial officer, that’s how we do it around here. It’s a set of rules that we’re all following. And we’re often not even aware of those rules, and that will often happen for the rest of your life. You don’t even realize you’re running the rules.

And by the way these rules weren’t given to you with your permission; they were just imposed by parents or society. We’re not even aware of it. If you’re lucky, you have a crisis. At some point in your life, something terrible happens to get you to question the rules. Now remember most people this never happens to — or if it does, it doesn’t cause them to question. So that might be the loss of a loved one, the loss of a relationship or something terrible happens, usually most commonly in midlife.

And then you enter the stage what we call the disease of meaning, is it starts to occur to you that there’s something wrong with the picture of your life. I’ve been following all these rules and it hasn’t delivered. I thought if I was a good corporate citizen and I got a good job and a good house, and paid tax and all of that stuff, I would be happy and blissful forever; and I’m not. That’s the disease of meaning, and that is real pain. And in a religious context, people call it purgatory. I mean, it literally is hell on earth. So people get into this date and often they lash out, they become unpleasant and negative and so on, because they’re basically in pain.

Now there are two strategies to that pain. First strategy, much loved by students — anaesthetic. Because if I can blot out the meaning of life, that kind of existential question is get wasted on a Friday night, I don’t have to think about that question, about what’s the meaning of all this. It just goes away the question.

So then some people do this every night, some people do every weekend, getting wasted either through alcohol and drugs. But the problem is when the hangover wears off, the question returns, it’s still there. And you can’t answer it. So if you’re smart, you realize anesthetics won’t help you.

So you get into the second strategy, which is distraction. Well, there’s different types of distraction. Now that distraction can simply you become a gym bunny, let’s pump some iron — you know because when I’m feeling the burn, I don’t have to think about the question. So I become the body beautiful, right, stuck at the gym the whole time. You know, getting the kick on the endorphins and so on. So, but you realize that actually when you get away from the gym the question is there again, so the gym doesn’t solve it.

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By Pangambam S

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