Have you ever heard people commiserate over how complicated life is nowadays, or felt a wish to go back to your childhood when everything was so much simpler? Of course, there’s a reason why this period was simpler and more carefree: mainly, the lack of responsibility. But I think deeper than this is that the mindset of childhood is a simple one. And us adults (myself being on the brink) could learn a thing or two from the younger members of our species.
To adult is to complicate
It’s true, when you’re grown-up you have a lot of things to take care of: work, bills, food, relationships, a never-ending stream of miscellaneous errands… It’s no plain-sailing picnic in the park (a deliberate muddling of expressions on my part here). But it’s possible to fall into the trap of over-complicating our responsibilities. For example, you might get consumed by all the nagging things you’ve got
to get done so you stop paying attention to what you’re currently doing. Or you think too much about your relationship and where it’s going so you cease to enjoy the simple, immediate presence of your special person. The fault here isn’t in the adult situation; it’s in your intensely cerebral adult brain that insists it must control and complicate.
When I was a child, I didn’t think that much. I just did things. And when I got bored or tired, I did something else. There’s a Zen quote I like:
“When hungry, eat your food; when tired, close your eyes. The fool may laugh at you, but the wise man will understand.”
We muddy matters so much by overthinking and losing sight of the immediate moment. We bury our inner, most basic desires under mountains of analytical, anxious thought. Thinking has become so ingrained and compulsive that it’s difficult to stop. But if we tap into our inner child, and focus on simplifying life down rather than building it up in our minds, we can be more at peace, even with all of the increased responsibilities.
The ‘shoulds’ of adulthood
Another pitfall of adulthood that children aren’t yet aware of is the definitions our society instils in us on what it means to be a successful adult. What hallmarks you have to check off. How you should behave in your everyday life. How to measure and judge yourself and the world around you to be socially accepted and considered ‘doing well’. Children have no former experience to condition them, so their eyes are fresh and their minds are open. They are forever asking why. And I think we should ask ourselves the same question. Always question your beliefs, and your environment, especially when it seems to be sucking you dry. Children are known to be fresh, playful, curious, innocent creatures… and sometimes this is exactly the mindset necessary to open up new discoveries, and to stop us from feeling so weighed down by the world and our socially-conditioned insecurity.
A lack of embarrassment
So I did a module last semester on Freud, and he believed that the child (or rather baby) has an insanely huge ego. The world revolves around them. They are so powerful they cannot even die. Of course, this is irrational. But at the same time, is it so irrational to be utterly content with yourself? After all, animals don’t seem to have self-esteem issues. There’s a quote that goes something like: ‘man is the only creature that refuses to be what he is.’ When you’re a child, you love yourself so much that you don’t even need to think about loving yourself. Surely this mindset is natural, to feel comfortable being the thing that you are? You learn to judge and objectify yourself and make yourself small and fragile – that’s the part that isn’t so natural. I think it would do many of us good to get back to this mindset where we don’t have a relationship with ourselves; we simply are ourselves, and in a position to get lost in the world because our ego doesn’t get in the way.