To be fragmented means to break into pieces, crack open, shatter, splinter, fracture, disintegrate, fall to pieces, to fall apart. I believe that humans, like a flower vase that falls to the floor, can become fragmented…but from themselves.
The fragmentation process is essentially a process of forgetting one’s self. The process can begin as early as the womb, where the mother or father begin to impose conditions on the child’s existence such as sex, height, occupation etc. As a child grows, the process of fragmentation may continue to unfurl as the child encounters a barrage of societal, cultural, and familial expectations.
Society may ask that the child puts away their art in order to eventually get a stable job and commute 2 hours a day to an office.
Culture may ask that a child abandons their standards of love in order to fit in with the hook up culture status-quo.
Family may ask that the child hide his or her emotions so as not to upset the ego of the parents, and the child rejects or becomes a stranger to their own thoughts and feelings on certain subjects, situations and circumstances.
Implicit in these societal, cultural, and familial expectations is the notion that the person, as they are, are not acceptable and must change and become the expression of the expectation. Whether and the degree to which someone abandons parts of themselves to become the expression of the expectation depends also on how strong someone feels the need to be accepted.
“To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you like everybody else – means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting. And we begin this battle.” E.E Cummings
The need for acceptance can be a strong one, and it is an understandable one. We come into this world helpless and reliant on our caregivers, and we move through this world as part of a particular society and culture which may require a certain form of behavior if one is to fit in and in some circumstances, survive. E.E Cummings understood this well and put it this way: “To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you like everybody else – means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting. And we begin this battle.”
With fragmentation, someone may start out fighting the battle but eventually, piece by piece, put away parts of their armour. They relinquish their helmet and find it difficult to differentiate between their thoughts and feelings, and the thoughts and feelings of others. They put away their breastplate and don’t guard their heart from the undeserving. They surrender their gorget (this is pretty much a medieval neck brace) and loose their ability to speak up for themselves and to communicate their thoughts and feelings to others. With every lost piece of armour, the person begins to forget themselves and to lose their connection to themselves and are in a sense, fragmented: they find it hard to make decisions for themselves, to say no, to know what’s in their heart and vitally, to have the courage to follow it.
Conversely, wholeness is defined as comprising the full quantity, amount, extent, or number without diminution or exception, to be entire, to be full or to be total. Wholeness, in the context of the self, is to live from a place of connectedness to yourself. This may require an awakening of sorts where the beliefs and expectations from family, culture and society come up for examination. The awakening can happen in many forms, and it can require a reshuffling of one’s entire life. It can also be deathly uncomfortable as one is required to say no where they easily said yes, to speak where they were once silent, and to be lonely where they used to shroud themselves in company that is inconsistent with their values and beliefs. Living from a place where you listen to yourself, respect yourself and honor yourself sounds valiant and honourable, but yes, it is not always an easy journey.
But the journey to wholeness is always a worthwhile one. It is our protection against lying on our deathbed with the unfortunate realization that we have lived, alongside with the masses, a life of quiet desperation (credit to Thoreau). It is our protection against hurting ourselves by filtering life through a lense of our personal standards for how we ought to be treated and how we want to live our life. It may not be easy, but it is always, always worthwhile to accept the dare to be you.