Timothy Leary described himself in the late 1950s as "an anonymous institutional employee who drove to work each morning in a long line of commuter cars and drove home each night and drank martinis ... like several million middle-class, liberal, intellectual robots." He was a product of an increasingly institutionalized and narrow capitalistic cultural system - birth, school, work, death. Another cog in the machine.
As we come into the world, we are naturally and necessarily indoctrinated into language and culture, but in the process we become unconsciously conditioned into a virtual world of narrative, discursive, symbolic thought that we are completely identified with. Functionally, this is where most people end up living their entire lives. While thought itself can be useful, the essential problem is the level of attachment to and identification with this virtual world.
How is it that you came to speak your primary language? We could say that, in a way, you assumed it. You copied other people, mimicking their sounds and actions and behaviors. You were indoctrinated into that particular language. Within language itself, you assumed the framework of duality, of subject-object. The very structure of language gives us the implicit assumption that all must be dual, self and "other".
Within one's primary family, you were similarly indoctrinated into a unique psychological style - through first hand experience, you assumed those particular ways of interacting with and relating to people. You were indoctrinated into the culture at large, with all of its many beliefs. Religion. Everything conditions and affects everything else, and the child is like a sponge, soaking up the patterns around it. Some of those patterns may not be so useful as an adult. Some of those patterns may not have made much sense to begin with.
One can understand this through cognition, leading to something that Jed McKenna referred to as Human Adulthood, waking up within the dream, but it can be hard to deeply or more permanently see one's way out of conditioning, or as he put it, to wake up out of the dream.
Back in the sixties or thereabouts, an increasing number of people managed to let go of some of their preconceived notions about culture by way of sometimes controversial or confrontational methods such as EST. People were taken out of their day to day routines and pushed and pointed until they saw through some of these beliefs. At least at a conceptual level, they woke up a bit, within the dream, out of the system and their indoctrination. They began to see the games they and others were playing, their "rackets". Their old views didn't have the same weight anymore. There is a kind of enlightenment there.
Psychotherapy, I think particularly group therapy, offers some possibilities for getting some honest feedback and seeing how things actually are. It can be slow and time consuming, but I know many people that have benefited greatly. Having a neutral observer to one's life can be a valuable thing, and becoming one's own neutral observer is a laudable goal.
Psychedelic drugs also offer the possibility of seeing through the dream. Commenting about his first psychedelic experience in Mexico in 1960, Timothy Leary commented that he had "learned more about ... (his) brain and its possibilities ... [and] more about psychology in the five hours after taking these mushrooms than ... in the preceding 15 years of studying and doing research in psychology."
Meditation, taken far enough and long enough, offers perhaps a deeper, more permanent, more detailed version of these kinds of understandings. Processes can be seen continuously in real time and let go of at the root, not just seen through at a temporary, superficial, intellectual level. On the meditative path, not only can these games be seen through, but experience itself can be seen as it is - phenomenon happening at the sense doors, arising and passing, everything merely as it is in a field of awareness. The understanding that one's experience is pure consciousness, the wall of Plato's cave. The understanding that in the realm of our experience, there is nothing but that.
So, awakening, great stuff, I recommend it, but I'm not sure I could entirely recommend it. I was always fascinated by such things, and was dissatisfied with life to the degree that I suppose in some way I always had to go down this path. But I sure took my sweet time, dabbling, never really committing to meditation for decades. Odd in a way that I had always sought solutions outside myself, making the dream better as opposed to waking up, and that I had never actually looked at the basic problem of the mind itself. In all fairness, I didn't really know there was anything that could realistically be done, and I wasn't quite the type to go off and live in a monastery for decades. As it turned out, that wasn't required.
One thing I can say is that it sure didn't happen until I really committed to practice earnestly, and kept at it for a few years. The first year and a half (for me) being very important. It's not that previous or later years were not important, but I think it's about cracking the egg. Once that sucker is substantially cracked, it's probably going to ooze out all over the place no matter what you do, eventually.