Institutionalisation

When I talk to people about this blog I start by describing the sort of people it is aimed at. I say something like “It’s for people who have left corporate life after 15-20 years and it’s about the challenges they face”and I am surprised at how often I get the response “yeah, well, they’re institutionalised”.

They are right, of course. No matter how independently minded you think you are, now matter how much you try to broaden your outlook beyond work, life on the Mothership is an artificial environment. It’s not real life, it’s a construct. The rules, the procedures, the constraints, the expectations, they are all false. The way we dress, the way we behave, the way we see the world is quite unlike anything we do in our private lives or how people choose to behave when they have the choice. After a while you begin to accept all this as normal when, in fact, it’s quite the opposite.

We know this, or course, intellectually but it’s hard to accept. “institutionalised’ is something we associate with people leaving the arms forces, or long-term care, or hospitalisation, nor people like us who have just had a normal job. It’s sounds like a disfigurement, a weakness, a deprecation and it couldn’t possibly apply to us. So, rather than accept and address it, we pretend it’s not relevant to us.

We might partly acknowledge it and make some cosmetic changes. We dress a bit differently (no more ties!), change our work patterns, go to the gym in the daytime (freedom!). However, we don’t ask the really hard questions about what changes living on the Mothership has made to us. We don’t enquire what it is about us that is different to the people who are around us now. So we don’t work out what we need to do to adapt.

Getting over being institutionalised, unlearning behaviours, changing your worldview, de-programming yourself – this is all critical work to re-imagining yourself and creating a new future. Everyone else can see it plainly. So must we.

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