Winnipeg Jewish Review  
Site Search:
Home  |  Archives  |  Contact Us
Features Local Israel Next Generation Arts/Op-Eds Editorial/Letters Links Obituary/In Memoriam

Max Roytenberg: Finding Your I

Dec 20, 2016

Finding Your I


What was your growing up story like? Do you even remember? Maybe this will help!

We emerge from childhood scrambling to make some sense of the world around us. If we are fortunate, we are in a nurturing environment. Or not! We face all the incoming, impressions, topsy-turvey, with little sense of who or what we are. We are all the sensations we react to, hunger, cold, heat, pain, pleasure, instinctive rather than rational. When do we develop a sense of self, an idea of what it is that we might want rather than what those around us might wish for us?

For myself, it seems to me that the smoke began to clear by the time I was in grade five, about the age of eleven or twelve. Suddenly, it seemed to me, I had a sense of self, and opinions about what was going  on around me in the world. Not only that. The opinions of others were less important. I had begun reading voraciously, learning of a world that had a past that had shaped my present. My immigrant parents’ views had begun to disappear as reference points; my feeling was that I knew more about the real world we lived in than they could possibly understand.

By the time I was in my teens, fifteen or sixteen, I felt I was fully in charge of my life. I was under the family roof, but the things going on in my head, the plans and actions I contemplated, were formulated and carried out with almost no reference to parental guidance. I did not think much about this, I just thought and acted. And I never thought to discuss these matters with parental authorities. I generated the funds to permit me independent action from an early age. I was fortunate that my parents did not stand in my way. How was it for you out there? Was it just me? It  doesn’t  happen to everybody like that. Was I the only one who was obnoxiously opinionated by the time he was a teen-ager?

I believe that coming into a consciousness of self is a big thing. Gaining a consciousness of oneself as separate from those around us, with an independent will, especially, independent from those in positions of authority, is a big thing. The sense of being an independent identity may come long before we achieve independence. But it surely must come first. We may begin by feeling a rising sense of rebellion, exasperation with the lack of understanding by those around us. We may we begin to object to decisions made for us, about us, without consultation. We may begin to object to rules of the game which we find erroneous, obtuse, nonsensical, even unjust. We may say nothing, but a knot of resistance, even anger may begin to form. Suddenly your I begins to take shape. We may even be wrong, lacking all the information needed to make correct decisions. We learn to negotiate those things. That doesn’t matter. It’s not important. An independent will has made it into your consciousness.

This can happen at any age. Sensitivity on the part of those in authority, inviting expressions of opinion, can stimulate development. An authoritarian environment can delay it. Doesn’t it take some people a long time to achieve a sense of I? One wonders at the history behind that.  How much goes on in the mind as part of that process, the realization of being an independent identity, of having an independent will? How much conflict does it generate? How many experience damaging environments which prevent a proper development, haunting their adult lives. Don’t some people spend a lifetime in counselling working through their feelings? Don’t some people just take pills to quiet the questions? We really have to work through this stuff to become happy campers. How can we make a success of what we hope to do in life if this stuff is always haunting us? How many people do I know who, even in their fifties and sixties, are agonizing about relationships with parents that still leave them anxious, angry and confused about their self-worth? How can we successfully interact with a life partner with this monkey on our back?

Yet some of us who have lived through even the worst seem to ride through all that almost unscathed. Perhaps one parent, or family member, saved the day. Or they met the right person early on who got them on the right track. Or they just had the right stuff to see through the sickest parts of the people they were in forced contact with and sloughed it all off. What we do know is that a healthy sense of I, a healthy sense of self-worth, a positive self-image, is crucial to making it through to adulthood with some chance of happiness. Given that, we can handle being knocked down a peg or two by the inevitable reverses we will face in life. We can pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and step back into the fray.

Of course, it’s easy for me to talk, or rather, write about it. I am pretty well at the other end. Most of my scars have faded. I can be philosophical about some of the pieces of me I left discarded on the road of life. I am still more or less intact. But, I remember, I still remember. The life experience is not for sissies, but go for it, kids of all ages!


<<Previous Article       Next Article >>
Subscribe to the Winnipeg Jewish Review
  • RBC
  • Fillmore Riley
  • Daniel Friedman and Rob Dalgleish
  • Equitable Solutions Consulting
  • Taylor McCaffrey
  • Shuster Family
  • Winter's Collision
  • Obby Khan
  • Orthodox Union
  • Lipkin Family
  • Munroe Pharmacy
  • Booke + Partners
  • Karyn & Mel Lazareck
  • The Bob Silver Family
  • Leonard and Susan Asper Foundation
  • Taverna Rodos
  • Coughlin Insurance Brokers
  • Safeway Tuxedo
  • Gislason Targownik Peters
  • Jacqueline Simkin
  • Commercial Pool
  • Dr. Brent Schachter and Sora Ludwig
  • Shinewald Family
  • Lanny Silver
  • Laufman Reprographics
  • Sobeys Grant Park
  • West Kildonan Auto Service
  • Accurate Lawn & Garden
  • Artista Homes
  • Fetching Style
  • Preventative Health First
  • MCW Consultants Ltd.
  • Bridges for Peace
  • Bob and Shirley Freedman
  • PFK Lawyers
  • Myers LLP
  • MLT Aikins
  • Elaine and Ian Goldstine
  • Wolson Roitenberg Robinson Wolson & Minuk
  • MLT Aikins
  • Rudy Fidel
  • Pitblado
  • Cavalier Candies
  • Kathleen Cook
  • John Orlikow
  • Ted Falk
  • Chisick Family
  • Danny and Cara Stoller and family
  • Lazar Family
  • James Bezan
  • Evan Duncan
  • Ross Eadie
  • Cindy Lamoureux
  • Roseman Corp
  • Ronald B. Zimmerman
  • Shindico
  • Ambassador Mechanical
  • Red River Coop
  • CdnVISA Immigration Consultants
  • Holiday Inn Polo Park
  • Superlite
  • Tradesman Mechanical
  • Chochy's
  • Astroid Management Limited
  • Dr. Marshall Stitz
  • Doheny Securities Limited
  • Nick's Inn
  • Grant Kurian Trucking
  • Seer Logging
  • Shoppers Drug Mart
  • Josef Ryan
  • Fair Service
  • Broadway Law Group
  • Abe and Toni Berenhaut
  • Shoppers Drug Mart
  • kristinas-greek
  • The Center for Near East Policy Research Ltd.
  • Sarel Canada
  • Roofco Winnipeg Roofing
  • Center for Near East Policy Research
  • Nachum Bedein
Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.