In the rehab centre where I work, it’s been pointed out to me that I tend to leave my coffee cups all over the place instead of putting them from where I’d taken them. I started putting them back to their appropriate places, but then found myself wanting to leave cups at the pool, common bathrooms, etc. I caught myself thinking it a few times, which prompted me to look closer behind it.
Clearly, it comes from a rebellious streak to do something that is considered a breach of what is acceptable to the authority or within an institution. A minor thing to leave my cup where it doesn’t belong, perhaps, but it comes from the same place as someone who expresses their rebelliousness through substance abuse. I believe that everyone has a rebellious tendency in them; it’s a self-balancing mechanism to correct any imbalance arising from suppressing our expression in some area of our life.
In working with clients, we often find that there’s an element of rebelliousness behind their addiction – how might their behaviours be an expression of some message they strongly want expressed? Usually, I would isolate the aspect of the client that is driven to rebel, help the client understand its motivations, and work to reconcile the differences between this and other aspects in that person. For a person in addiction, telling them off or threatening them with punishments or any other forms of assertion of authority is not likely to get them off the habit. Instead, this would feed right into the part of the person that wants to rebel, fueling its intent. If a part of you wants to rebel, it is not enough to tell this part to “shut up, sit down and be quiet”.
When we engage in addiction or other “fuck you” behaviours, we often end up hurting ourselves. For instance, if the issues behind our need to rebel aren’t dealt with, we may neglect a physical illness in ourselves just to say “fuck you”, with detrimental consequences to our health.
We rebel because there’s some area of our life in which we’ve held back in our expression. Our natural state is one of balance, and when something in us is off-balanced, we are driven to correct that imbalance. If we don’t have a clear awareness of that imbalance, something in us would drive us to achieve balance haphazardly. This can easily lead to an explosion of expression elsewhere as we naturally seek to even out the energies within ourselves.
In this article, I am dealing with the rebellious tendency which is in all of us rather than the pent-up energy from unprocessed emotions. Rather than trying to kill off this aspect in us, we need to find non-destructive ways to satisfy our rebelliousness. Behind rebelliousness is a desire to assert our identity – what we like and dislike, what we value and condemn, what we want to create and no longer tolerate. Therefore, it is not necessarily a destructive mechanism, only when we let it run itself, without our awareness.
Giving Voice To Your Rebellious Side
The way to get a handle on our rebelliousness is by remembering that it is acting out because our self-expression has been stifled in some way or other. Habits such as using illegal substances, engaging in dangerous activities and run-in’s with the law are extreme ways in which we’ve allowed our rebellious aspect to operate. We can replace these habits with those that do not hurt ourselves or other people.
Since we tend to operate from an “all or nothing” mentality, we may not see that there are non-destructive ways of allowing our rebellious nature to express itself. How might you express yourself, in less dramatic ways, that won’t harm yourself or others? What do you want to be more of, in the eyes of others and yourself? What small ways can you find to express this feeling, belief or idea?
Most importantly, how are you going to channel it to express your creativity? Rebelliousness is a passionate force that can be used either to create havoc and destruction, or to push ourselves out of our shell where we allow our true selves to see the light of day. Since healthy self-expression involves some amount of our taking risk to step into unfamiliar territory, we can use the force of rebelliousness to bring out more authentic parts of ourselves.
This is also to say that when we become aware of wanting to rebel in ways that don’t really serve us, it’s indicative of an area of our life where our expression has been stifled. We need to examine ourselves calmly, take steps to find expression in the appropriate area while indulging our rebellious tendency in ways that move us forward in lovingly expressing ourselves.