The world is replete with those who are externally focused, and depleted of those who are internally focused. Though none so much as come close to the ideal of being either internally or externally focused in their self-concept, it nevertheless remains true that people are, generally speaking, focused on the external rather than internal; they orient to the public rather than to the private.
Consider, in all the important domains of our existence: namely, beliefs, behaviours, and emotions, few seldom look inward for guidance. They externalize any challenge which arises therein by relying on the world to solve the problem for them.
For instance, those who are in search of a belief system, a collection of propositions which shall be taken as true about the world, more often than not seek guidance from celebrities and popular culture, two notoriously public outlets. Seldom do people want to step into a quiet room and reflect upon the difficulties that are present, so as to derive from that constant feeling of awareness about them some system of beliefs. No, for it is indeed much easier to rely on the intellectual labour of others to form our beliefs for us.
Likewise, those who are in search of some way to-be, to act in some fashion, also rely on external sources more often than not. Acting in accordance to an individual will is far greater a challenge than acting in accordance to a collective will; and that is only because it is the nature of humans to reward those who conform, and scold those who do otherwise; we associate welcome and acceptance with conformity, on the one hand, and disdain and rejection with non-conformity, on the other. And so, many of us seek external sources to shape how we act within the world. We look to society as though it were an authoritative encyclopedia on acceptable and unacceptable standards of behaviour, and adopt only the acceptable standards.
And as much is also true for how we feel. The intimate nature of emotion, that is, the immediacy of emotions within our own conscious experiences, is itself an insufficient level of individuality; even emotions cannot resist the pressures and temptations of external prescriptions. If another person brings to our mind a state of boredom, we are then immediately forced into a state of fear; for we fear the consequences of hurting the other person’s feelings by revealing to them the truth of our own mental state; we dare not share with them our boredom. And so, the social prescriptions of society, if we so allow, determine how we feel. It is as though our emotions were a television set, and we have placed into the whimsical hand of society the very remote that controls said television set; they need only put forth a minimal degree of effort to change how we most fundamentally feel toward the world: a simple press of a button.
But that all need not be our fate. None need govern our beliefs, behaviours, nor emotions; none need dictate the terms of our self-concept. We do not have to be like the majority. Just as others can become externally focused in their personhood, so too can we become internally focused with our personhood. We need only seek out that which brings us… unease.
For when we pursue unease, we have become oriented toward the proper direction; and that is because being an individual has interwoven into it varying levels of anxiety. No belief, act, nor emotion which is derived from an internally focused worldview comes without unease.
When we form our own beliefs, we imply some level of insufficiency within the beliefs commonly held by the many, and that is seldom tolerated by society. One need look no further than how society treats those with fringe beliefs, presuming those fringe beliefs are indeed moral, for evidence. Just consider how society reacts, in general, to the notion of egoism. They panic and defend at all cost some illusory notion of altruism, for being selfish insinuates some form betrayal of the herd. And once their defence of altruism has, in reliable fashion, failed, they label the egoist as immoral or greedy: not to be engaged with. Thus, as a result of having his or her own belief, the egoist had experienced some level of unease.
Likewise, if we attempt to behave as an individual within society, if we attempt to behave in accordance to our own principles, despite the pressures of society, we shall experience unease. The artist who pursues aesthetics rather than money is repeatedly questioned and badgered; the young person who pursues passion rather than status is repeatedly ridiculed and harrassed; the idiosyncratic dresser who wears deviant clothing is teased and made fun-of. No matter the domain of action, those who behave differently than others shall experience unease.
And what has been said of both belief and behaviour is, undoubtedly, also the case for emotion as well. For instance, when we suppose to not feel empathy for those who starve on the other side of the planet, because we believe such an empathy would break our ability to participate in the world in general, we are deemed unhealthy by the masses. The virtue signalers all around us have, so they say, the greatest levels of empathy for all of the suffering in the world, especially those starving in the remotest parts of the planet; and anyone who suggests otherwise need be scorned. Thus, to even feel in a way which accords to your own experiences shall be accompanied by some unease.
But the point herein be not to focus on the unease itself. No, the point is that unease and internal focus, that is, looking inward for guidance on the problems that manifest throughout our experiences, are deeply interwoven. The nature of humans demands of us some conformity to external sources, and we are rewarded for that conformity. But the nature of being a person demands of us some conformity to internal sources, and we can be assured that any conformity to internal sources will be accompanied by unease.
So, if one wants to become a reflective and educated person, if one wants to break the shackles of conformity to nature and free their faculties of reason, judgement, and imagination, then one must subscribe to unease. For unease shall reveal to us the path to our true enlightenment.