The Four Agreements (1997) is your guide to breaking free from negative patterns and fully realizing your true self. It was a New York Times best seller for over eight years. These blinks explain how society raises people to conform to a strict set of rules and how, with a little effort and commitment, you can set your own guidelines for life.
Nobody gets to choose their native tongue, but the language we grow up speaking isn’t the only thing society imposes upon us. Social norms even prescribe the content and form of our dreams.
For instance, everyone has individual dreams, but there’s also a collective dream. This is the dream of the planet. The rules that define this collective dream are taught to us by parents, schools, religions and other influential forces. It’s through this education that we learn what proper behavior is, what we should believe and the difference between good and bad.
However, these rules and agreements weren’t chosen by any of us. Our acceptance of such rules without question amounts to our domestication.
If we rebelled as children, adults were still more powerful than us. They could suppress our dissent and punish us if we disobeyed them. Not just that, but we were also rewarded for obeying their beliefs and following their rules. As a result, the vast majority of us surrendered.
Just consider how many parents tell their children that they’re “good” when they follow the rules and “bad” when they don’t. In this system, the primary reward for proper behavior is attention from parents, teachers and friends.
Naturally, getting such a reward feels great, and we learn to abide by these rules to reap this benefit. We fear rejection and often pretend to be something that we’re not.
As a result, at a certain point, it’s not necessary for anyone to control us because all of these beliefs are lodged deep within us. In other words, we domesticate ourselves. We devise a perfect self-image and, when we fail to act in accordance with it, punish, judge and blame ourselves.
But there’s a different way. We can break free from this structure by establishing new agreements for ourselves, which we’ll learn all about in the following blinks.