In Nietzsche’s Dawn, he points out that at times we are all irrational. “We still continue to draw conclusions from judgments we consider false and from teachings in which we no longer believe—owing to our feelings” (Nietzsche). Even if we reject certain beliefs or customs, it is still possible that our feelings will be consistent with them. Changing how we feel is often difficult, especially when certain emotional responses and feelings are reinforced by social pressures and expectations.
We are taught to be a member of our community, to fit in. We are conditioned to experience feelings of guilt and shame whenever we deviate from the norm, whenever we fail to conform. Nietzsche calls us bound spirits when we conform to social norms and practices, when we accept the dominant perspective not for our own reasons, but because they represent the norm. What’s more, conforming is often easier than living our own, authentic life.
“Problematic.—To accept a faith merely because it is the custom—that is certainly tantamount to: being dishonest, being cowardly…”
As Nietzsche sees it, we are dishonest when we accept a faith, a perspective simply because it is the custom. In such cases, we don’t accept it on our own terms and lack reasons of our own that justify and explain why we accept a certain point of view. We are dishonest because we adopt values and beliefs that are not our own, ones that we haven’t found our own reasons for accepting.
Learning to Think Differently
“We must learn to think differently—in order finally, perhaps very late, to achieve even more: to feel differently.”
The only way to live our own lives is to think for ourselves, to think differently from the norm. We will never feel differently, we will never move beyond those experiences of shame and guilt that were a consequence of socialization and social conditioning, until we learn how to think for ourselves and do so for a long time. Even if we start questioning how we think and are mindful of our feelings, the feelings we were conditioned to experience when we deviated from the norm, from social customs, will remain with us for some time. Our feelings, in other words, are still tuned to society’s perspective rather than our own.
Our feelings… are still tuned to society’s perspective rather than our own.
In order to feel differently, we need to learn how to think differently. We need to think for ourselves and develop the strength to stand on our own. Our life is truly our own only when how we think and feel is an honest representation of who we are and what we believe.
An authentic life is an honest life in the sense that our thoughts and feelings are consistent and complementary. We are truly free and no longer bound or influenced by things like social pressures and expectations. But as Nietzsche suggests, to reach the point at which we feel differently takes time and effort.
If we live our own lives and strive to be honest with ourselves, hopefully we learn to think differently and, one day, feel differently.