On Socialization

Post from March 8, 2017 (↻ June 5, 2021), filed under (feed).

Several months back, to myself, I noted how we may have all already been what we’ve later wished to be: for example, authentically curious, interested, open, unbiased, worry-free, joyful, happy, confident, loving.

Then, I thought, came socialization: People we loved, people we depended on, people who were stronger than us, forced us to do and, worse, believe in things we didn’t want to do or believe in.

And I decided that I wouldn’t concern myself yet with metering the different boundaries, whether the boundary between what may be necessary or however legitimate to push on others and what not, or the much more difficult (and fascinating) boundary between psychical and physical reality; I was only interested in taking this intriguing as much as troubling note that we all may have already been what we’ve then wished to be.

Werder Bremen fans waiting for the team.

Figure: Where we all long to be?

Any of that would have touched the subject in an unfortunate way, however. The more interesting and to me philosophical question has been (and you note I strongly reject determinism): Why do we grow up in a reality that starts with dependence and a great possibility of getting psychologically derailed, one way or other?

If we go about this in a simple though slightly naive fashion, the point of dependence may not be an issue. Dependence seems to make conflict and abuse easier, but doesn’t imply it.

A plausible reason for this great chance of being misdirected, the philosophical meaning of perhaps even getting traumatized may again be the one of us living several lives—and us choosing the experiences we’re making. One reason. And one explanation that would allow us to believe in the freedom, meaning, and purpose of our lives.

This cannot be all there is to say about socialization and painful experiences, but that’s what I just jotted down.

Yet, now, a few more months after I started writing this (like many other writers, I work with a lot of drafts), the whole process of socialization came up again elsewhere, in form of alienation.


It appears that what happens when we grow up is that others exercise a certain pressure on us; we learn that we need to change in order to get what we need or want, well suffering the most unfortunate educational failure of love being pulled back in order to enforce obedience (what love is that?).

This urge for change, through threatened or actual force (and maybe abuse), likely makes for socialization—as well as alienation. If we need to change, is the resulting outcome actually ourselves? Can we, after socialization, after alienation, still be ourselves? Can we still love ourselves—or another? Do we still know what we truly need and want?

In these three questions I suspect a great deal of misery for many of us, and the true devastating effects of socialization. To me, the way we raise and educate people, especially young people, seems to be based on a wrong premise: that otherwise we would do each other harm. The grave irony may be that we’ve with that created a self-fulfilling prophecy: Some people do others harm because they were socialized and alienated. But when we assume that a young self-loving human being would not harm another being, then that would have to have consequences for how we go about raising them—we may need to take greater care not to alienate people from themselves.

❧ There are many assumptions in here, and much that I’ve not spelled out, but I’ll keep this as is; the first part of this post lingered around for a year or more; the second for half a day. Please share your thoughts.

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About Me

Jens Oliver Meiert, on September 30, 2021.

I’m Jens, and I’m an engineering lead and author. I’ve worked as a technical lead for Google, I’m close to W3C and WHATWG, and I write and review books for O’Reilly. I love trying things, sometimes including philosophy, art, and adventure. Here on meiert.com I share some of my views and experiences.

If you have a question or suggestion about what I write, please leave a comment (if available) or a message. Thank you!

Comments (Closed)

  1. On March 10, 2017, 15:59 CET, Stephan said:

    My humble opinion: Predestination and freedom exist side by side at the same time. This means, though every possible change exits already pre-designed, still we are free to make choices any time. In the end our true core stays the same, independent from our actions or experiences. And of-course we can love our self’s and become good even after a lot of bad actions. Never the less there is also something like a universal truth, which is to be understood and to be respected. If we go against it, we suffer in the long run. Since a lot of activities which we consider to be pleasures, are actual harmfull distractions which lead ultimately to suffering a lot of discrimination is needed. Or just spontaneous acting based on intuition. So I guess, the middle path of a simpel and average life, which is not well respected in our times, is still the way to go, in order to stay true to our self’s.