It is probably fair to say we live in the most organised and efficient century since humans started to exist. With the ascension of technology and innovation, we can track people, organise, categorise, label and exercise control like never before and our lives (speaking of average, Western world lives) are better organised and structured than ever before.
Our meetings, lunches, even coffee breaks, are scheduled down to the minute, we leave exactly in time to pick up our children, so they can enjoy the allotted time to play and dine before they are sent to bed to the minute every day.
And we start it all over again. Even the weekends are, for most people, masterpieces of organised family events which include cultural visits, time with other family members or visiting a party from another child (exactly from 3 to 6).
We have become masters of what I coin "projecticising". We have managed to transform everything into neat, little projects which get their allotted time slots and which will make our lives simpler and better.
Will they, though? It is my understanding that a certain structure to managing life is not only desirable but important; however, if the line to micro-managing is crossed, the result seems to be any fun drained out of activities - even quality time with your family or a hobby.
It occurs to me that everything, regardless whether it is work or leisure related is projecticised, may it be time with the children, watching TV, pursuing a hobby, and even sex. Think about how, when it comes to sex, for instance, its quality is measured by how often you get it and how many orgasms you get out of it. We not only projecticise our lives; we also compare our projects to another, setting out a scale of achievement according to which we manage our lives better or worse. This puts enormous pressure on supposedly enjoyable activities and processes, which is increasingly becoming a problem, as it seems.
A couple of weeks ago, I was at my OB-GYN and he told me that only 30% of women could actually get an orgasm. Now, I am not a doctor, but I am still calling bullshit on this statement (excuse the language). It's exactly utterances like these, which make women feel self-conscious about sex and reluctant to talk about it. What if, actually, not 30% of women couldn't get orgasms, but 70% of men are just clueless how to please a woman's body? I daresay if sex wasn't a projecticised process by which a human feels the pressure to have sex three times a week because anything less is perceived as "not good enough", I could imagine why women (and men) feel rather pressured than elated when it comes to amorous activities.
Also think about the decline of hobbies. We have reached a point of time where the average American teenager spends up to nine hours every day in front of a screen instead of pursuing an actual hobby like fishing, dancing, climbing, carving, cooking, or whatnot. Anything other than watching TV or playing PC games seems to be considered a hazardous thing to do which only costs energy and, if it is pursued, it is only as a project which has a cultural or societal purpose (of course there are many exceptions, but the general mood seems to be that anything other than lying on the sofa is considered to be "work"). As long as we approach everything like a project which needs to be ticked off, we are unlikely going to enjoy any of the activities we do, but rather see them as an annoyance or a burden.
Another area in which I notice the dangers of projecticising is when it comes to raising our children. Whether this has always been like this or not shall be open for discussion, but I can definitely conclude from my time as a teacher and nanny that a lot of parents, teachers and other people who regularly work/are with children have successfully projecticised them, leaving little room for spontaneity or flexibility.
I have had extensive contact to children in the past years during my position as an English and dance teacher in a private school as well as my year as a nanny in the UK where I met and mingled with many parents, teachers and schools. Upon observing these two environments, I would say that most children I found where mostly or entirely projecticised by their parents, teachers or both.
Now, to assuage any ranting parent, I am totally aware that projecticising doesn't happen in awareness of the agent, nor that it is executed with any bad agenda - mostly on the opposite, which makes it even more difficult to detect and resolve or alleviate.
Most parents I encountered where rather busy, hard-working people, trying to provide the best for their children and there is nothing I can say against that; however, sadly, it often happens that in order for the overly scheduled lives of the parents or school, the children have to function in a certain way in order to ensure a smooth and practical up-keeping of a family or school system. As mentioned earlier, there are mostly the best motives in mind; however, the execution often results in the opposite, without the agents even noticing.
You may have noticed that I said "the children have to function in a certain way" and it might have left you shocked or puzzled, but I can guarantee that many parents I have encountered actually use this verb when describing their children. They justify their bed times, their dinner choices or TV hours to other parents (or themselves) with the excuse that their children "function" better when it is done this or that way. However, it doesn't mean that ways to make our children function better are also methods which are good for the child.
Let me give you an example. A family goes to dinner with their child, aged four. They are seated in a posh restaurant because it's the mother's birthday and they want to give her a treat. Nothing wrong with that.
The time between the courses is rather long and the four-year-old, as four-year-olds do, becomes increasingly agitated and fidgety because it is bored. It has consumed its meal much faster than its parents, who still have a chat over a glass of wine (it's also Friday night). Because the child starts whining and lolling about on the chair, the father gets his phone out and lets the child play a game to quieten it. When they come home, the child is not only tired, but also passive-aggressive due to is exposure to the phone and the thrill of the game. They are all stressed and agitated.
Giving the child the phone certainly was the easiest way to make the child "function" according to the situation, but it definitely wasn't the best activity for the child, as the consensus of neuro-scientists agree that screen exposure for little children can do significant damage to their still-developing brains, but that's another topic for another day.
So, you see that between functioning and providing the best solution can be total opposites from another. To compare children to computers according to their functions is a problem deep-rooted in our society and I will discuss the analogy of people and computers in our modern societies in a future post more in detail.
Functioning, as I see it, is closely related to the process of projecticising. My child only has to "function" when I have a project to which accordance it has to act. As long as my life is not measured in little units of time and projects, I can allow more spontaneity and my child can cease to function and actually develop and grow.
What we forget when projectsicising is that humans are no computers and lives lare not linear and neat, but dynamic and chaotic. Allowing spontaneity and flexibility to your daily life means abandoning at least some of the project-related thinking we do and invite synergies of our and our children's needs to create a flexible yet structured environment in which a child can thrive and, for once, stop to function - as it usually has to do in school anyway all day.
Before I finish this off, I also want to state that projecticising and structure cannot be mixed up with another. As a parent, I need to establish structure in order for my children to know how far they can go and where they have a safe place; however, making my child a project which is only a tick on the house, car, dog, child list many of us, sadly, still have, will lead to a suffocated child which will try to break free at any possibility given.
In conclusion I can restate that it is vital, not only in the area of raising our children, that we loosen the patterns of our lives a little, stop projecticising everything and learn to have fun while doing something again.
Writer. Editor. Blogger. YouTuber. Freelancer. Traveller. English fanatic.