Being a sensitive person means that you come into contact with the illusion of autonomy all the time.
For a long time human culture – especially Western culture – has promoted autonomy as an important goal for individuals and societies. The goal of autonomy has been a social answer to the issues created by the dependency fostered by top down cultural systems.
The Cost Of Order
Any autocratic culture is “top-down” and requires the submission of its citizens to the goals and rules of the culture. Those goals and rules are created by the rulers which are often a select group often familial groups who control the assets and revenue generating sources of of the culture. As a result, most people in the society are in effect dependent on those who control the economic resources.
Many who prefer autocratic cultures like the order that it creates. Order can be a good thing however it usually comes at the price of keeping people down which is a very high price. Both the oppressed and those who carry the burden of the dependent individuals often want to escape the discomfort of such an unnatural system. Highly structured and controlled systems “freeze” everyone in rules and roles that lack the flow and natural dynamics of an ever evolving world. As a result, order comes at the price of the society being stuck in the past and unable to respond to changing realities which increase survival risks for everyone.
The Illusion Of Autonomy
Many current cultures exhibit various degrees of autocratic styles. No culture has total freedom and in fact most people associate freedom with anarchy. Because of fears of freedom and anarchy many cultures have trouble moving to another type of structure. Some, especially Western cultures, promote individual autonomy rather than obedience as an important goal for the individual. Many people have used the opportunity to develop their personal skills which has been helpful. “Autonomy” has been more available for those whose family can invest in them, to those whose resources have allowed them to take advantage of skill development resources.
Autonomy is the antithesis of sharing and requires unlimited natural resources to sustain it because to be autonomous are totally responsible for your needs and are expected to be self-contained. In a world of more than 7 billion people, the strains on our natural resources of this life strategy are obvious. But we maintain an illusion of autonomy nonetheless.
Is Sharing An Answer?
Sharing presents challenges as well. We have all had the experience of sharing with someone who does not give back – who takes advantage in some way. Yet sharing is necessary if we are to save the planet and is being undertaken by sharing networks around the world. There is no question that sharing is part of the answer to handling resources in a resource-challenged world. It will reduce the need for expensive and limited autonomy to that more people can have what they need. It can go a long way to resolving the resource issues we have. It will not solve the political and management issues we have, however.
In other words, how do we go from a top-down, elitist structure with an illusion of autonomy to one that is more egalitarian without an illusion of autonomy?
A New Path
If you spend any time in nature, you do not find any rigid hierarchies, top-down organization, and elitist managers. Nature is the model of flowing interdependency. Humans have not yet been able to replicate the natural approach in its cultures. Sharing will help but we need a different model for the human role in culture. We need to move beyond autocratic elitism and competition.
One way to do it is to move from cultures that create dependency to cultures that foster partnership between all citizens. Partnership recognizes the limits of individual knowledge and skill. It recognizes that we all have responsibility but not total responsibility because none of us have total control. A partnership model allows individual differences to become an asset. It respects interdependency without the abuses that dependency creates. It can create a healthy relationship between the individual and community by allowing all forms of excellence to flourish.
Nature is a study in partnership: trees partner with birds, water partners with earth, bees partner with flowers. Interdependency of the heart of flourishing. Diversity is the genius of shared responsibility.
Sensitive people need a cultural approach that is open to them, their nature, genius and special gifts. As Western cultures gradually move toward sharing and interdependency, there will be more room for the special nuanced contributions of sensitive people. The world will benefit from the unique perceptions of HSPs and HSPs will find the respect they deserve.