We Are Our Experiences

“Let us then suppose the mind to be, as we say, white paper void of all characters, without any ideas: How comes it to be furnished?…To this I answer, in one word, from EXPERIENCE.” -John Locke

I have struggled with the phrase “we are our experiences” for a long time.  Every person that ever said it had already distinguished themselves as pathetic before they uttered it.  It felt like a convenient scapegoat, accepting that they are just a result of their upbringing and environment.  It is a cheap phrase dressed in profundity.  But I have to give it some merit.

My main argument against it was that we have a choice.  At this moment you can choose to treat this person differently, you can acknowledge that there is another way, you can choose to act in the way you know is right, regardless of whether or not it coincides with your past experience.

Then I become trapped.  Where does our sense of right come from?  Buju Banton screams in a song “Circumstances made me what I am/Was I born a violent man?”  I thought freedom was the choice, but I am discovering that denying my experience in the face of the moment is inhibiting.  To accept that my experience is a deep part of who I am and up to this point is the best base I have for guidance and the directing of future behavior allows me to move much more fluidly.

Despite its apparent validity, I still think the phrase is cheap cheese and can burn.

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4 thoughts on “We Are Our Experiences

  1. I agree with you on that phrase. I do believe some aspect of “we are our experiences” is true to the extent our past experiences definitely influence the way we perceive, judge, view the present, but like what you said, we still have the choice to choose a different path or decision.

    Although we may be our past experiences, we have the choice to create the next experiences.

    Maybe that makes sense, maybe not. What do you think?

  2. I agree, your phrasing at the end there is pretty spot on. It was your comment on the other post, about my perspective being different from another’s, that created a bit more clarity on this issue for me.

    I just never liked people denying the willpower and attitude they can have by choice by saying that they are just a product of their experiences/environment.

  3. I know what you mean, and I find that the people that blame their past, or coin the phrase “Thats just who I am” are all complainers and negative.

    It could be contagious too. I am big believer in you are who you hang out with. I never seem to be productive if I get caught up with people complaining. Surround yourself with people that let their actions do the talking.

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