The War On the Self

In this article, we examine the most influential aspects of the environment that exercise their power to constrain the true development of the Self.

Prerequisite Reading: The Idea of the Self

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson, wrote the above, emphasizing the fact that the world constantly tries to rob one of his / her individuality.

The War on the Self is the inherent conflict in the nature of this world vs the Self. From the very time, a conscious sense of Self assumes its nature, its interactions with its environment is both collaborative, as well as competitive. However, there are certain aspects of the environment, that have a significant power over the Self at various stages of its existence. Some of these powers, more than often, act as a restraint on the Self, as opposed to allowing the Self to assume its nature.


Parenting is the most important factor in the healthy development of the Self. And it is this factor that usually acts as a constraint, in conflict with the sense of Self of the child. Most parents limit the development of the Self, with the best of intentions. Their behaviour is driven by love, usually trying to protect the child or shape the child’s future directing it towards security.

The Education System

In modern society, the Education System is the first predominant platform for a child’s social life; thereby having the second highest influence on the development of the Self. The current education system has its legacy in Religion, and has been modified based on the Industrial Revolution. The primary objective, in most cases with a few exceptions, is to make an individual a productive member of Society. This typically involves trying to fit the Self into the current economic matrix, limiting its potential from exploring new unforeseen possibilities, constraining its true development.

“If you end up with a boring miserable life because you listened to your mom, your dad, your teacher, your priest, or some guy on television telling you how to do your shit, then you deserve it.”

In this famous quote, Frank Zappa outlines some of the people from our personal & social life who most often, knowingly or unknowingly, try to mould us into someone we are not.

Society & Culture

While modern times denote a historical high in individual freedoms, our long legacy of exerting control on the individual still weighs heavily on our sense of Self. There are many levers different societies & different cultures use, to varying degrees in this regard. Developed societies use influence, while primitive cultures use force. Some of the most common tools are Money, Religion, Politics, Advertising etc.