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Why do the rebellious end up "coming back to reality"?

+3 votes
To me it's a curious phenomenon that people go through "rebellious phases" so often only to end up embracing tradition, authority, and organization in the end. For example, most of the people who were part of the hippie movement, which by the standards of the time period they lived in, violated some very sacred tenants, having sex with lots of different people, political protests, drugs, homelessness, ect., but many who joined the hippy movement later ended up embracing organized religion, work, rigid schedules, authority, ect.

I guess the better question is how do people maintain their rebellion when their efforts have been frustrated?
asked Sep 24, 2016 by anonymous
My dad would be the perfect example of what you described, and in his case, a large part of it was he did way too many drugs and felt the negative consequences of that. He also thought the way that the hippy movement spread "free love" was really kind of empty and unpleasurable.

I've personally gone through a similar type of phase with anarchism/anarchy, but to me, rather than embracing authority, I would just prefer not to be an ideologist and just keep myself open to all things, with a focus on trying to do things that make me feel good.

"I would just prefer not to be an ideologist and just keep myself open to all things, with a focus on trying to do things that make me feel good."

yes, yes, yes...to that ^^^^

i like this question too....and when i find the words, i'll give an answer...

i basically went from rebellious, to not, and then back again, although in a different way the second time around...

Very interesting comment, Nihilist. Your dad's story is actually an eye-opener for me; I bet it would lead a more eloquent person than myself to an elegant answer to the question.

Kind of like if satisfaction as a function of rebelliousness is quadratic, with an optimal level somewhere between submissive conformity and trying to do exactly the opposite of what you're told to do. Like a swerving car, we are trying to find that satisfying point at the top of the curve but we keep slipping off to one side then the other and trying to scramble back up. Always over-correcting.

We are social animals; we need a little appreciation now and then; too different and we become isolated. I remember one year at university I went pretty far into yoga and meditation and didn't have any desire for drinking and smoking. But I had left my friends behind; I missed them. To be with them I needed to share their momemts of recreation and pleasure. I swung back into self-destructive partying for a while, possibly overshot the mark.
this comment is entirely unrelated to this question, but a spider just ran across the screen of my computer, completely uninterested in our big and beautiful ideas, I am pretty sure it was just hunting fruit flies. Seemed appropriate that I was up way to late on this site and that happened...
yeah syraphant, the fact that i don't really like to party isolates me from a lot of people. People in their 20s-30s seem to drink way too much. I really want to quite smoking as well but haven't made much progress on that front....its like the cigarrettes give me some sort of momentary liberation...kind of like how buddhists ect. describes liberation as being the total fixation on some sort of object, but obviously completely different...

2 Answers

+2 votes

i like this question, so i will give it a shot. i will likely edit/add to this answer.

it is my experience that there are at least 2 reasons folks bail on living a radical life.

1. their radicalism was merely a phase. this may sound somewhat dismissive, but i don't mean it that way. i think the extent to which the acceptable values of modern human life (mass society, education, job, home, kids, rinse and repeat) are ingrained/indoctrinated into everyone makes it extraordinarily difficult to break free of. eventually those values might win out over the continued struggle for a liberated life; what it means to be "free" becomes adaptable to those values.

2. many, many folks are convinced that the only way they can live a radically different life (one that does not adhere to or prioritize those values mentioned above) is to "change the world". mass social change is seen as the only path to a truly radical life. once they realize - as most will, at some point - that changing the world to match what they want it to be is impossible (no way to change others) and/or undesirable (there is no one "right way" for everybody), they become disillusioned and revert back to some more "practical" way of being in the world, which typically means allowing those values to regain prominence at some level.

my own disillusionment led to me bailing on the "mass movement" concept (and the acceptance of mass society as some requirement or ideal), and invigorated my desire to create my own life for myself, prioritizing my own values (as much as i am capable) over those that have been imposed.

i also think people's perception of what constitutes a "rebellious" life, what is "success" (in terms of being a rebel), and related concepts, all can play into how one deals with the inevitable frustrations of desiring a life outside the status quo.

answered Sep 30, 2016 by funkyanarchy (10,290 points)
Agreed, Funky. We want the impossible. Nearly all the time I simply don't like people. That leads to withdrawl which may be seen as "coming back to reality." But in my mind, as I go through the motions of normal people, I'm not in reality at all - just too disgusted with the blissful ignorance of everyone around me to bother communicating my thoughts and ideas.

I'm like, "who am I going to communicate with? Everyone is stupid except me ! " ;)
Lots of people just don't like being alone, they're scared of being an outsider., but I generally think in terms of most kids thinking they have to be rebels, but their acts of rebellion are probably more of a conformity to what they've seen as rebellion which then fizzles out as they get a job, money, the ordinary life of the ordinary people.
–1 vote
Isn't much of rebellion simply an attempt to bring some form of order into our lives...  correct wrongs, end oppressive unnecessarily restrictive actions, to be free of insanity, etc?

The reason for the majority just "settling down", "growing up", "getting on", etc, is that their rebellion lacked real focus as attention was always outward; directed at the glaring injustice, the false morality, etc.

If we focus outward we'll end up disillusioned with our impotency against that which outnumbers, and can so easily over power us. We'll grow weary with lack of progress, with being caught in endless contradiction, with the willingness of the masses simply to submit, etc.

So what to do? Surely the only answer is, understand the real problem.

Sure society is shaped so that only a few can actually live life freely while everyone else labours in an existence of servile functionality. Sure the social structures aren't at all sociable, and every institution should be institutionalized. However, maybe that is just the wrong direction in which to focus, perhaps the only way is for ourselves to be free.

I'd say it's blatantly obvious that running around downing every drug in sight, drinking every pint of whatever, being sexually irresponsible, having millions upon millions is not freedom as all return varying degrees of pain rather than pleasure... accidents, addictions, attachments, conflicts, diseases, psychotic problems, etc, etc, etc.

Most do not understand what freedom is. Hence, our society fears freedom most. But let's go into this, what is freedom?
answered Oct 15 by edclear (380 points)
Good stuff, but what is freedom, something I've yet to find.
edclear, i think your last words in that answer ("what is freedom?") are the most relevant. when you say "most do not understand what freedom is", it seems to me you are claiming a monopoly on the definition. freedom most likely means very different things to different beings.

when you look at those few that you say can live freely, i think my point is made in spades. what do they see as freedom? do you see freedom as they do? i find my life to be much more liberated than (what i can discern of) theirs, but again, that is based entirely on my own way of perceiving (and desiring) freedom/liberation.

freedom, as i desire it, is very scary for most people. and now that i think of it - to bring this back around to the original question - i could see that as another major contributing factor to why so many people do change their life focus away from "rebellion".