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Is Discipline Just Internalized Oppression?

Updated: Feb 17, 2021

Should, should, should. I feel like I’ve been living my whole life in the prison of “should.” I’ve been so out of touch with what I really want that simply standing up for myself or telling someone “no” has me drowning in guilt and anxiety.

It makes me wonder: where’s the line between discipline and obligation? Is discipline just a Westernized glorification of obligation? An internalized version of oppression?

As our culture defines it, discipline (noun) is:

  1. control gained by enforcing obedience or order

  2. orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior

  3. self-control

  4. training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character

Based on those definitions, it seems very clear to me that discipline is indeed an invention of the oppressor. It’s a way of internalizing their desire for us to stay in line, follow the rules, not make waves. They’ve managed to pull us so far from being connected to ourselves and our instincts that it’s hard for us to naturally do what’s good for ourselves anymore. We have to resort to oppressing ourselves just to stay healthy.

So, then, it seems like the journey away from discipline, away from obligation, away from oppression, is to reconnect to what our bodies and minds naturally want and need. If we were living in connection with nature, living a life that got us moving outside as part of our daily routine, no one would need the discipline to go running. We’d already be moving our bodies. And those who would run would do it for the joy of it, not because they felt like they "should."

How in 2020, with all of our devices and technology, can we return to a version of health and connectedness that allows us to give up discipline for good?

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