The fourth window of experience is self-discipline or participation. "The notion of looking on at life, " wrote Antoine de Saint-Exupery in Flight to Arras, "has always been hateful to me. What am I if I am not a participant? In order to be, I must participate." Young children accept the authority of their parents. They listen for a variety of reasons, perhaps out of fear, but just as likely out of respect. Either way, children listen with deference, and thus the voice of conscience is established. Such a voice, though necessary, leaves growing persons with the subsequent labor of establishing their own voices. Yet only through that process can they determine how they will participate in the world. They may well adopt many of their parents' values. But by first questioning them and then finally choosing them, they make the values their own.
They will then be listening to themselves with self-discipline and becoming their own persons. That is literally what self-discipline means: to follow ourselves out of love and respect for ourselves. It is not enough to simply listen to ourselves; we must follow ourselves because we love ourselves. This ensures that love will be included in all our behavior, so that we are more apt to do what we will like and respect ourselves for doing. Being self-full is the best guardian against being selfish.
The opposite of self-discipline is abject subservience to some other--a voice from outside of ourselves--as the basis of our conscience. Someone other than ourselves decides how we are to be in the world. Our commitment in life becomes rote, a robotic compliance to external dictates from, for example, a rigid church, a totalitarian state, a nationalistic fervor, a corporate culture, or more directly, a needy spouse or lover. Such living is self-diminishing. The opposite of self-discipline is fearful, or dutiful, obedience to another. Only when the choice is freely ours--even when our choice is no different from what the other said it should be--are we being in the world in good faith. Only then do we participate in life as ourselves.
Taken from The Windows of Experience by Malone and Malone
Jake Thiessen, PhD
I've been working with couples for a very long time. And, I love it! This blog is my attempt to communicate some of the things I've learned over the past 40 years.