A Tribe Apart To believe that no one in this world understands what you are going through on any given day. To feel that you are the only person out of the almost seven billion people that populate this universe who can experience the feelings of desire, hurt, pain, happiness, sadness, confusion, emptiness and joy. Sometimes all at the same time can these feelings be amongst you. This is how, in my own words that I would define the meaning of Personal Fable.
To be the center of attention when there is good and bad happening and the feeling you have thereafter depends on what you think that others think of you. They are always watching you as you imagine. They are the judge of your every move. You have to be cool, act cool, look cool. To me this is the definition of the Imaginary Audience. To have a constant judgment of your behavior can lead to a phobia or paranoia. It can be positive or negative. For most it becomes a result of your character and leads to you to being self-conscious of your ever move.
It’s all about me and only me! I am the center of attention. It is my way or the highway. No one else matters. There is no particular interest in what you think, believe, feel or say. I am selfish. I am self-centered. I am the definition of Egocentrism. According to the Cognitive Development topic these processes, Personal Fable, Imaginary Audience and Egocentrism all require formal operation thought. They all work together and sheds plenty of light on how and why we think the way we do. In A Tribe Apart, Brendon is a good example of Personal Fable.
Brendon comes from a good family; he has four siblings in which he is the youngest. He feels compelled to compete with his older brothers because they are good students and all around good people in general. Brendon’s family were displaced from Reston to Houston since his father lost his job and then later lost his job in Reston whereas his mother became the ‘bread winner’ of the family. The family appears to be the All-American, traditional family whom eat together and pray together, however this model family is said to be ‘distorted by the pain of economic loss’.
Brendon takes on risky behavior and becomes and example of Personal Fable as he uses escaping as a way of not to care or feel his feelings. He to, becomes a product of Imaginary Audience, because he had previously dealt with embarrassment and has decided to shut himself off from that part of the world since his optimism and excitement have since vanished. In A Tribe Apart, Brendon turns to alcohol consumption and drug use as a pacifier to make him feel ‘warm and alive’.
His substance abuse leads him to believe that it is like “relaxation, and escape from everybody to make yourself happy. ” Brendon is said to have tried many modes from classroom clowning, truancy, dope, booze and art as an act of anger and therefore has led to aggression towards his siblings than his parents. Brendon often feels alone when it comes to his feelings, although his friend Tad is around he feels let down and disappointed by people and has chosen to shelter himself instead of reaching out to those who may feel the same way he does.
Because Brendon has a ‘doesn’t care’ attitude he has removed himself from the social setting of school all because of a role he played in the talent show that has him feeling embarrassed. Brendon is dealing with, not only believing that he is the only adolescent in this world experiencing issues (Personal Fable) but also feeling self-conscious, like he is being watch or evaluated (Imaginary Audience). He continues on his path of destruction although he really doesn’t want to be that ‘guy’. His though process is that the good in him is no good and in order to feel good about himself he has to do badly.
Brendon follows this streak throughout the book and doesn’t change much. Brendon, as bright, talented, and creative as he is said to be deals with darkness, loss and mental turmoil and focuses on his regrets and bitterness due to his family experience. On the other hand, there is Charles Sutter who enters A Tribe Apart as the unnoticed freshman who is from a home of professional parents and a sibling who ‘look to the world, like proof the American Dream works for all’. The Sutter family is black. Being black makes it twice as hard to prove yourself.
Black adolescents are often labeled as ‘Trouble’ and ‘Ghetto’. Even though Charles is in gifted and talented classes, plays several sports and serves as the class leader he is considered a ‘tightly wound young man acutely aware of the restraints and responsibilities his race imposes’. Charles never seems to be at ease because he is constantly dealing with not feeling free of the burden of proving himself. He is ‘Mr. Perfect Black’. He is the rare face of the class. He is the black sheep of the group who wants, solely to fit in despite the color of his skin.
Charles displays the acts of Imaginary Audience and Egocentrism both. Because Charles is the ‘rare black face’ he feels like he is never good enough nor as smart as them. His attitude becomes that if he has ‘to perform, he will perform’ and proves that he is better than them if he is tried. Once he beat up another student just to prove that he is capable of protecting and defending himself as well as established some credibility within himself so the other boys in the school would know. Both Imaginary Audience and Egocentrism capture attention in Charles case.
When Charles is doing something worth being watch, which is almost always being that he is an A+ student, he has a sense of not only ‘Who is watching me’ but ‘I want you to watch me’. It’s as if, he knows that being a black male automatically draws attention especially when there is some good involved. People are interested in how this ‘black’ boy can be so smart, can dress presentable, can hold a decent conversation, is financial stable that he doesn’t have to sell drugs to make ends meet. As explained in A Tribe Apart, Charles dilemma ‘represents the world of striving black middle-class adolescents.
It is life lived on the defensive, a constant tightrope to be navigated between two cultures: a white culture that never fully embraces them, and a black peer group that disdains black achievers’. Charles overcomes his humiliation after several different issues and strives throughout the book. Remaining an achiever throughout. In his case having the Imaginary Audience and the Egocentrism concepts paved the way. Although it seems a bit much when a person is egocentric but when it come to proving yourself and becoming an achiever then it should be looked at as being positive.
Then there is the ‘supposedly audience’ you want to watch you as that can be the proof to make you remain positive so that you can continue to achieve. Moshing Is a Way to Belong. This is the story of Joan. Joan’s mother left her when she was ten years old and never returned until two years later. Joan being the only female in the household along side her brother and father was having difficulty getting used to the fact that she now was the woman of the house. She was expected to take on all the duties of being a mother, a wife, all the while she was a young adolescent.
Her world as she had known it was crumbling right before her eyes. As the chapter talks about Joan it mentioned how she had went from being spoiled to becoming the woman of the house. Joan had become isolated and lonely. She was in fear of her father and the control her had over her. She was not allowed to have friends. As mentioned, ‘she craved recognition and respect. She was too scared to ask for love. ’ She felt as if no one cared about the little girl that was devastated by her loss. No one knew what she was dealing with and over time Joan took upon herself to fight back for ‘whatever life dished out’.
She started hanging out with kids that were lovers of the hard core rock music. With this music comes Moshing (def. , activity in which audience members at live music performances aggressively pushes or slams into each other. Moshing is frequently accompanied by stage diving, crowd surfing, microphone swinging, instrument smashing, and head banging. ) Joan feels like this is a great way to fit in and be a part of something. According to her she ‘feels, uninhibited, part of the action, and especially part of the group of peers, something she longs for.
Joan also began thinking that being a tough person, fighting all the time was the way to earn respect. She would start fights if she thought someone was taking about her. Nothing bad could happen to Joan, which is what she thought. She continued the pose in high school with a bad attitude and the behavior to follow. Popping lockers and shoplifting was something she did on a regular. This insert fits as an example of Personal Fable & Egocentrism. Joan felt that no one else could possibly understand what she was going through. That she was the only lonely and isolated kid that surfaces this world.
She turned to anger and resentment and felt that whatever rules existed did not apply to her and that nothing bad could happen to her. Joan craving recognition and respect demonstrates Egocentrism. It was all about her and what she thought. Joan’s way of thinking was that anyone around her had to be thinking about her since that was all she was doing. Joan began to question herself and felt that it was time for change. She wasn’t happy with what she had turned out to be. She gradually changed her ways for the better which led to more positive friendships and happier outcomes.
Joan mentions that by ‘being tough, however, she learned to be smart for today’s world. Each example listed throughout illustrates the concepts, Personal Fable, Imaginary Audience and Egocentrism. The one thing that caught my attention that explains a lot about the adolescents in A Tribe Apart as well as the kids today and even when I was a young adolescent is that ‘whatever behavior is common to a group of kids feels normal to them, whether it be doing drugs or doing homework. Whether the adult world sees the lifestyles as positive or negative is not the standard the kids are using’. We live. We learn and hopefully we grow.