This past week Jews around the world celebrated their emancipation from being slaves in Egypt for over 200 years. This got me thinking a lot about slavery- but not the physical kind. Rather the mental kind. The things that control us and taunt us; the enemy within which grabs us by the balls and enslaves us.
This mental slavery can come in a number of forms. It could be your job, a group of people, or even your body image. But in order to free ourselves, we need to understand how and why thing, this “Big Other,” is projected onto our lives, and creates our realities.
This “Big Other,” which is a term coined by the French psychoanalyst Jaques Lacan, is really just a chain reaction of our past experiences dictating our thoughts and creating our identities. Although the Big Other is a mere fiction, it can also be the one thing in our lives that prevents us from accomplishing our dreams, being ourselves and being, well, happy.
When I was 7 years old, I was diagnosed with ADHD. I was told that my brain was different, that I had a problem, a learning disability. I was, technically speaking, disabled. And for many years I kept this a secret from my closest friends and family because I was ashamed of my “disease.” So I internalized this me vs. you dynamic that, although completely irrational, haunted me. It wasn’t until I dated someone with ADHD that I realized this Big Other didn’t exist. It was just set of rules that I had made up in my head based on early childhood experiences which were just that– experiences.
Maybe you may want to be a fire twirling, lion training acrobat, but you’re stuck in finance because you’re afraid of what your Big Other would say. Or maybe you’ve experienced an eating disorder because of an early childhood trauma and you now find it impossible to free yourself from this paradigm you’ve established.
It’s kind of like everyone has their own yardstick with different shapes, colors, and patterns. These are all of our biases. And once we realize that our yardstick is not the standard by which all things are measured we can begin to free ourselves from the voice within that tells us we’re not good enough or we have to act a certain way.
But we need to be willing to observe our thoughts and the decisions we make, and try to understand their origins. Are we acting out of fear or are we acting out of love? Is this group of people really judging me and trying to hurt me, or is this just my Big Other talking?
Because, at the end of the day, we have a choice. We can either use our own unique and beautiful Big Other for growth, or we can be enslaved by it.