Did someone ever told you: ‘Just follow the rules.’ or ‘Trust me, and do exactly what I say.’. How do you feel when people tell you this? Are you a person who quietly obeys the system or your leaders? Or are you the person who resists any kind of authority?

I would like to believe I’m something in between. I’m a critical thinker, an independent soul or a healthy rebel.

Last week I was on a training course in Georgia about ‘Personal Development’. I was excited by the goals of the week that were set by the trainers. Building meaningful relationships, getting out of the box, becoming aware of how our mind works, seeing yourself as a possibility and maximize our creativity. All things I love to grow in and I’m open to exploring more about myself.

On the second day of the training, we were led into a new exercise about making art. Some rules were set like no communication with others, and the materials had to be used in a certain way. I saw the challenge and fun in the exercise and started to create my masterpiece, trying to think outside the box within the rules. (While it crossed my mind, I definitely enjoy making art more when it can be created from complete freedom of expression.) Even though it was an individual process, I observed something strange around me. The team was taking away people’s art without explanation. With the girl in front of me, even multiple times and a strong sense of unfairness came up in me. This didn’t feel right anymore, it felt so discouraging and almost like bullying. I started to think what could be behind this behavior of the trainers, the exercise… They came to me to take also my piece of art now. I refused to give it and asked them, what this was about. ‘You’re not following the rules.’...

I felt like, I’m still working on it, how could you know that the result will not fit your rules? And again, I saw more what was for me ‘injustice’. Exercises like this on a training are reflections of the real world and life, right? It was time for me to speak up, as this is something that I would do in life as well. I searched contact with another participant… trying to figure out what she thought of this. Whispering: ‘I think this is a social experiment’. Now I was sent out of the room. I went out and thought: ‘Wait, what the f*ck just happened? I was sent out because I didn’t conform to the rules? Reflecting this on life, it is exactly the same that happens there. Do I want to let this happen and not stand up for myself? No.’ I went back in, sat down on my place and started to continue with my art. The trainer said for the whole group: ‘Everyone stop working, we are not continuing this process until Ine leaves the room again.’ Waw, I felt so shitty, PEER PRESSURE, really? I looked around, saying to the group: ‘They want me to leave the group because I didn’t conform to the rules. Is everyone just going to let this happen or is someone going to back me up on this?’ Only one response I got: ‘You should have just followed the rules Minne.’.

I left the training room and sat by myself. - Breathe. Say positive affirmations. - - Tears. Feelings of loneliness and rejection. - - Breathe. Repeat positive affirmations. -

The only sane reason I could think of why this happened was that this is a social experiment and every minute they would call me back into the room to reflect on the exercise. Talking about things like staying true to yourself, peer pressure, the role of society and leaders, thinking for yourself… etc.

They didn’t come to get me. For the reflection moment, I was advised not to join the group, because I might distract the group again. The clue for the exercise was apparently to show us that we always have ‘limits’ and rules to follow, in everything that we do. How is this in line with the goals of the training?

And it struck me… This ‘what was behind’ is also a reflection of society even if the exercise wasn’t about society and they wanted to make it personal. We are taught to think INSIDE the box of the limitations that our schools, parents, governments tell us and now even here. I believe those rules and limitations are just a way to keep us walking in line. There is nothing wrong with walking in the line, it brings structure and often peace even. But following it blindly without understanding the benefit of it is dangerous to my opinion. This is how communism started, how Hitler created an army of normal people becoming nazis because they trusted him and followed him, without thinking for themselves. This is how a child gets bullied in class and no one does anything about it because they think: ‘She must have done something different than normal or they are afraid to be rejected themselves.’. Seeing the example of this behavior in this group of adults, really made me feel standing alone.

Realising if I want to live a life of honesty and being true to myself, I will probably have to do it alone or surrounding myself with the few communities I found in the world that support thinking for yourself.

I’m grateful for this experience, for the trainers, for the group, for the opportunity for me to reflect on this topic even though it wasn’t the aim of the exercise.

Please find your own limits, your own truth, your own path. Never let anyone tell you what you can and cannot do. If you really want to do something, find a way! Think outside the box, you don’t even need to break the rules, try to find a way to bend them. YOU are responsible for your life and you are the leader giving it direction.

PS: One of the rules of the training is to not talk about what happened during the week.

Pic from Flickr

© Last update in 2020 by Minne Marlo. Proudly created with LOVE.