One key factor in mental health is predictability. To function meaningfully in a social context, others will have to have confidence in you and you will have to have confidence in them. This is a mutually agreed upon contract, i.e. “the social contract,”, that allows for social discourse and functioning to proceed with minimal conflict. It is imperative that those who enter this this “mutually agreed upon lie, or ruse” respect the fundamental tenets of the agreement as any wild-card or outlier will create so much discord that they will eventually be marginalized in some fashion. In the most extreme cases, it will be ostracism, execution, or even murder. But the social façade must receive at least a modicum of respect and those who have opted to participate in this social façade must have confidence that any newcomer will offer this respect. This “newcomer” must demonstrate predictability.
To participate in this “ruse” one must have formulated adequate boundaries in his/her youth so that respect for others receives as much attention as does respect for oneself. This is a respect for rules, which can be described “coloring within the lines” or conforming to the rules so that the teacher will send a note to momma saying, “Plays well with others.” Many young children have trouble with “coloring within the lines” and merit a note to momma, “Does not play well with others” but usually that is a developmental phase that the child outgrows. Children are hard-wired to eventually subscribe to the social contract and restrain their impulses, more or less, so that the social ruse can carry-on.
I have here described this social contract, and therefore civil and gracious social behavior as a ruse. That was deliberate but I must explain. It is a necessary “ruse” and actually not a ruse at all but a consensually validated reality that allows people to more or less get their needs met, though certainly not all of them. If all of our needs were met, it would inevitably be at the expense of others and so it is necessary to learn that the value of accepting attenuated need-fulfillment is more desirous than the havoc that would ensue from seeking complete need satisfaction. This is merely the deferred gratification that we learn about in early years of college, deferring our need gratification in the interest of the greater pleasure we can have by participating in a communal whole.
Two other blogs of mine are listed here which I invited you to check out: