Do Not Pu[ni]sh Yourself [1]; "There's a cop inside each of us - kill it"

Opinie, gepost door: Dylan op 25/08/2021 08:12:05

Why do we so often fail to achieve our goals, fitness or otherwise? An important reason is the way we set them and try to achieve them. We are bombarded by photo-shopped images of a ‘super fit’ elite. With whatever body type happens to be in fashion this decade. And taken from the best angles possible. Simply change ‘fit’ for ‘social’ or ‘successful, ‘body type’ for ‘social life’ or ‘work life’, and you’ll see this covers most of the rest of your life as well.

[version with proper lay-out and links for further reading at: . Also see ]

This societal media obsession plays an important role in the setting of our goals. Which are then often unrealistic and unhealthy, and always to be achieved in a far too short time span. All the while we fail to take into account how we and our bodies are actually feeling, in trying to achieve them. We then hate ourselves for failing to achieve these goals, which might feed into another loop of mediatized escapism. And another bout of goal-setting and failure. Until we give up, hopefully before we get to any significant physical mental illness. Is there another way?

Sadly, underneath the media-madness there is not some primal state of nature and harmony where all is fine. Far from it. We are used to – get trained for – goals being set for us by external forces. In any case at school and at our workplaces. And perhaps also in our families and personal relationships. We then pursue these goals out of fear of judgment (getting a low grade), losing our livelihoods (getting fired) and damaging the social relationships we need. We push ourselves towards them.

This way of relating to ourselves in pursuit of goals becomes part of us. So that, even when we do set our own goals, we set them in this mode. As if we were the teacher, the boss, the judgmental parent or pushy friend. To then push ourselves forward in fear of our own judgement. And when we don’t reach our goals we punish ourselves with mental negativity. And in some cases even physically. To then turn to media, in order to distract us from all of this. Fundamentally, mass (social) media is not the cause of our problems. Instead, it is itself a result of our more fundamental problems (which then intensifies these and creates new ones).

“There’s a cop inside each of us –kill it”

This famous slogan from the social movements of the late 1960’s refers exactly to this problem. As a result of the social system around us, we have become divorced from ourselves. Separated, alienated. This divorced part of the self is set up against the rest of our self. And takes on the role of that social system. In this way, oppressions are internalized. So that, even if this social system would crumble, we would simply rebuild it in one way or another. And so that even where we find places to escape or actually build alternatives, we tend to perpetuate the ills we are trying to get away from.
Philippe Gras : Au cœur de mai '68 - Bonjour AthènesThe May 1968 Revolt in France

Capitalist exploitation is reproduced in our own way of relating to ourselves in a exploitative way. Similarly, we reproduce the mentality of governing (the control of human populations) as the control of our individual bodies. As a result, this self-exploitation and self-control form a support for the current system. And will even continue in a liberated space or territory. Which, eventually, will lead us to exploit and control those around us in a similar way as we do ourselves. After all, why expect anything less from others than from yourself? In so doing, we reconstitute capitalism and government. Unless, that is, we confront this separation and reconnect with ourselves in a healthy way.

This confrontation, however, cannot be in some way violent. You cannot actually “kill” your internal cop. For instance, if you respond to the cop (or teacher, boss, etc) in your head by shouting at it, with some kind of internal riot, you are likely to wind up in some kind of war in your head. This is because you cannot actually do away with the part of you that has been turned into a cop. Because, unlike an actual oppressive police apparatus, this ‘internal cop’ is part of you. Luckily, there is another difference with the actual police: the one inside of you isn’t armed with batons, teargas, water cannon and/or guns. The only power the inner authority structure has over you, is the power you give to it through your obedience and fear of it. The proper way to proceed is to dismantle this obedience and fear.

“None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free”

The first step is to stop believing you are free. You need to fully realize and accept your current obedience to, and fear of, your internalized structure of authority. For those whose thoughts tend to take the form of words (like me), a way to do this can be to give your ‘cop’ a name. So when [s]he pops up with this or that comment, you can recognize it as “oh, that’s officer Bill again.” I would suggest then simply saying to that part of yourself: “OK, Bill, thanks for your input.” And then, to start replacing this with a different internal structure.*

This replacing of internal structures might seem vague or downright unrealistic. But, we create these structures every time we create a new habit. A habit can be understood as a complex of behaviors and motivations that is (eventually) self-sustaining. Like starting each day with a cup of coffee will have you wind up craving a cup of coffee every morning. You might even start craving it as you go to bed the night before! And this is so, even if the coffee is caffeine-free. So, all we need to do is get away from the habit of doing what we are told by the cop inside of us. And we don’t want to be getting into the habit of constantly having to fight our cop (hence “thanks for your input”). Who wants that? No, we want to replace it with something else.

Read the second part of this series to find out how.

Tags: theorie theory

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