26 November 2008

The Need to Experience and Express

Peer pressure is one of the most problematic social issues, which affects people of all age groups. In fact, many brands and businesses survive based on these strange habits of human beings to compare, imitate, and pressurize. In school, the peer world started to build walls that were narrowing around me; it led me to a deeper recognition of the loner in my being. This made me embrace isolation and solitude.
Let me start by asserting that my emphasis is purely on the negative effects of peer pressure, for there are many positive effects too. It is said, “Peers influence your life, even if you don't realize it, just by spending time with you. You learn from them, and they learn from you. It's only human nature to listen to and learn from other people in your age group” (KidsHealth). Here, what follows speaks of my journey of tackling with the problems of peer pressure by realizing the importance of expression.
Solitude and silence have intrinsic beauty, but emotional isolation can get psychologically and sociologically dangerous. It could be due to bullying, teasing, rumors, bad relationships, abuse or violence, mental illness, and such reasons. My experiences are a mixture of these reasons. Though I had a growing social network, I was still lonely. Ultimately, I spoke honesty only to the new kittens my cat had given birth to. Till date, I do not know if I spoke with honesty in school. It seems to me that I lied more, put on a variety of masks, gossiped, spread rumors, and shrank to insignificance. This developed a fear of contact with peers, which resulted in frequent absence in school.
It was that fine Monday morning in the Principal’s Office, which dawned upon me a variety of journeys. He looked at me pitifully and asked, “What’s wrong in school? Why do you want to keep staying at home?” I only remember crying and defending my classmates. Obviously, I loved each one of them very much then, because I still do. Many days later, he walked up in front of the assembly and said in a loud clear voice, “Speak knowing you will be misunderstood.”
The Art Room and the Library became places where I recognized my potential, and re-discovered my isolation, which was slowly blossoming into a self-accepted solitude. This was a painful process, because one needs to keep experimenting to find the exact forms of expression. I tried the refined forms like pens and paints, but I needed something louder that would break things once and for all. So, my expression and thereby my Self got re-invented through the strength of oil pastels, the harshness of ball-point pens, and the fluidity of my words. Since then, I vouch that a human merely exists to experience and express. Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding (Gibran 62).
At the initial steps of this journey, I constantly annoyed my classmates with the question – why? But, I was actually taking the easy way out by blaming them. The words I scribbled on scraps of papers unraveled many inner secrets and found out what I expected of myself. I figured I was a person who hated disappointments, lies with ease, and loves people with an easier flair. My words and the sheets of textured pastels told me to ask myself all the questions. Expression grew me. After all, every class mate of mine was going through similar problems and processes. But, to get into this world of expressions, one has to first quietly experience and then wash out a lot of prejudices. Understanding is possible only when there is observation without the centre as the observer (Krishnamurti 114). Without this, one cannot celebrate the freedom that expression entails.
Firstly, one has to overcome the pre-defined myth that whatever one spends time in should lead to a source of living. Instead, creativity, interaction, growth, and learning should happen. Secondly, one has to experiment with all forms of expression. Shouting from the rooftops, painting walls, cutting paper, scribbling on bus tickets could all be forms of expression, and thereby a constructive process of dealing with emotional isolation. A piece of expression, even a short lived sound, helps the individual reflect and develop a better relationship with the outer world. Thirdly, do not hide your expression, for it is by itself a form of sharing. The only way to make use of your expression is to build a courageous foundation to share it. Experience is the process. Expression is breaking the shell and celebrating this process.
To further demonstrate these insights, one should go through the Eschatological Laundry List that says, “10. The world is not necessarily just. 11. You have a responsibility to do your best nonetheless. 14. You can’t make anyone love you. 16. Everyone is, in his own way, vulnerable. 27. Each of us is ultimately alone. 36. You can run, but you can’t hide. 39. The only victory lies in surrender to oneself” (Kopp 223-224).
Fortunately, school encouraged this constant search in my works and behavior. The day I left school I thanked them, “Though school kept trying to describe me, even one as enigmatic, it taught me that I should never lose the sense of myself and should keep searching for the meaning of this sense.” Secretly, I was thanking my own efforts.

  1. Gibran, Kahlil. The Prophet. New Delhi: Indialog Publications Pvt. Ltd., Jan 2002.
  2. Kopp, Sheldon B. If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him! The Pilgrimage of Psychotherapy Patients: Epilogue. Toronto/ New York/ London: Bantam Books, May 1976.
  3. Krishnamurti, Jiddu. The Flight of the Eagle. Hampshire: Krishnamurti Foundation India, 1971.
  4. KidsHealth Site. Took, Kevin J. November 2007. The Nemours Foundation's Center for Children's Health Media. 24 Nov. 2008 http://kidshealth.org/kid/feeling/emotion/peer_pressure.html.

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