How to develop an internal self-government

braayaan asks: How can I develop an internal self-government?


Hi braayaan –

This is a gigantic question, one that whole books work to answer.  But I think the easy and honest response I can give you is that you’re already developing one.  Everyone does.  The question is, rather, how can you develop a good internal self-government; how can you do it well?!

See, when we puppies are born, we start right in to developing it.  And we do it by pursuing everything we want (milk and warmth from our mothers, play by biting and tumbling with our siblings, and excitement by walking around checking out the world around us).  And bit by bit, our experience teaches us some things.  Our mothers teach us what sort of behavior results in nurturing and what doesn’t; our siblings teach us when we’re playing too hard (they scream out, or bite back!); and the world teaches us all sorts of things, like that some people squeeze us too tight, and that birds don’t like us trying to eat them!

And bit by bit, we use what we’ve learned to start making our own decisions.  We stop needing to be nipped or bitten or yelled at – we manage ourselves in a way that will please those we want to please, and frighten off those we wish to be rid of.

Similarly, humans start developing that internal self-government from their birth (literally – you never breathed before that, and suddenly you start doing something you will literally do every few seconds for as long as you live!  Now that’s one efficient government!!!).  After a while you’ll learn to cry for what you want; a few years later, you might learn that you get what you want better without crying!  You’ll learn polite ways to ask for things you want, or maybe you’ll learn to steal.  You’ll learn to study hard, or to cheat.  You’ll learn to make friends by acts of kindness, or by lying about others.  Again, all of these are self-government; they’re just different kinds.

So how does one develop a good internal self-government?  I’d say to follow a few suggestions:

1)    Pick Great Role Models.  If you copy the behaviors of people you don’t really respect, you’ll never learn to love yourself.  Find people (or dogs!) you think are amazing, and try to be like them.  You won’t always succeed, but you’ll get closer to being someone worthy of yourself.

2)    Spend Some Time Alone Every Day.  You’re trying to build a good core self, with strength to handle the world.  How can you build it if you’re always distracted?  Take some time to meditate, to think about your day, to ask yourself if you’re being the person you want to be.

3)    Keep Your Head Clear.  Don’t fall into the traps of using alcohol or drugs for your kicks, but remember that even comparatively “innocent” substances like sugar and caffeine will cloud your judgment and push you to making unconscious choices.  So I’m not saying to never have any sweets again, but just keep anything that messes with your mind to a minimum.

4)    Be Honest.  Especially with yourself.  Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not, unless you have a great reason for it that comes from that internal self-government.  And the moment you start to get confused as to who you are, drop the charade!

5)    Ask Advice!  Your writing me is a great thing to do.  But ask others too.  Trust that your self-government isn’t fully constructed yet, and use every opportunity you can to get help for it from others.


That will get you off to a good start, braayaan.  I hope that helps.  I look forward to finding out what sort of person all this results in you becoming!





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