SOS BOOK - Chapter 1.21 Coping with group pressure
Deep within us, we all have unique personal drives: our inner needs, desires & dreams. WE UNKNOWINGLY SUPPRESS OUR POWERFUL INNER-DRIVES for the perceived benefit of our family, clan & community. So, we march to someone else’s drumbeat, not to our own unique rhythm.
We unwittingly surrender our individuality & uniqueness to group pressure!
This leads to life lesson No. 61:
COMPLYING WITH GROUP VALUES MAY NOT BE OUR BEST OPTION
By complying with group norms, we deny ourselves the full range of our inner self expression. The sacrifice we make to 'fit in' is often quite significant, but usually THE PERCEIVED NEED FOR SECURITY & BELONGING is even stronger! So, generally we just comply, as the price for inclusion in the group.
Whatever the group’s nature, be it radical or conservative, there is pressure to comply. Dissenters are isolated & scorned. They are punished in some way and then threatened with eviction. Finally, THE PERSISTENT DISSENTER IS REJECTED & CAST OUT, as an example. This serves as a warning to others in the group who might be considering non-compliance!
In any community or gathering, we are all subtly and sometimes more overtly forced to comply. Otherwise we must leave the group and go elsewhere. We then search for another band of people where we may be accepted, and the process of compliance starts over again.
Groups and communities use a wide range of methods to control their members. These includes following established traditions or rituals. There may also be written or unwritten codes of behavior or ethics. Status or hierarchy in the group may also be conferred as a reward for loyalty & excellent behavior, or a punishment for bad behavior. There may be additional titles, awards, medals or certificates bestowed for supporting the system. There can be considerable prestige in being invited to join some exclusive or powerful groups. Membership may confer considerable favor or material benefit.
These methods of control tend to homogenize individual members and to mold them. To further deter dissent or rebellion, the group may appoint monitors or guardians of its standards. Some members delight in voluntarily taking on such a judgmental or supervisory role!
On a larger scale, countries and global religions use a more formal enforcement of the accepted rules & regulations. Local regulations and national laws are perhaps the most obvious form of control. At this legal level we are further policed and even forcibly restrained. We can be formally judged in a court of law, penalized or punished to varying degrees when we cross the legally set limit. This is a formally documented description of what is acceptable to the group. Without these limits & controls, the society fears its structure will degenerate into chaos and anarchy. So much is felt to be at stake: group harmony and even the survival of the group.
THE PERCEIVED NEED FOR STABILITY AND GROUP SURVIVAL TAKES PRECEDENCE OVER AN INDIVIDUALS RIGHTS.
This is expressed in the next life lesson (No. 62):
IF WE EXCEED GROUP LIMITS, WE RISK PUNISHMENT
As explained above, if we oppose established group norms & limits, we risk being isolated or criticized. We can be punished or forced to leave the group. However, almost all groups allowed a limited individual voice or opinion in the group setting. This is because SELF-EXPRESSION IS A PRESSING HUMAN NEED THAT IS HARD TO DENY. In some groups, wide range of conflicting opinions are allowed and even encouraged – but only as long as they are still within the wider boundaries allowed by the group. These are the group’s allowable limits! Even in the most open and liberal society, there are always limits which you must not exceed! Stepping outside the acceptable limits is deemed too threatening to group stability or sensibility. So, some members must still limit their expression of individuality. Social compliance is a survival instinct for groups.
What’s the alternative? We could remain alone, or go elsewhere in search of another community that will accept us. We are however innately fearful of such change! Usually, the fear of scorn & rejection is alone enough to intimidate most members. Having to contemplate the uncertainty and stress of being alone and finding another group is usually too much to bear. We generally opt to comply, conform or ‘toe the line’.
WE VOICE SOME TOKEN PROTEST, BUT THAT’S USUALLY THE LIMIT OF OUR DEFIANCE.
How did we learn to behave as such a trustworthy group member? This behavior does all seem so natural to us! IT WAS OUR EARLY UPBRINGING THAT SUBTLY INSTILLED THIS COMPLIANT BEHAVIOUR.
The justification for instilling compliance was to help individuals fit in with the local community.
Our parents wanted us to cope well in our community: to benefit and succeed! Parents are convinced this is to our advantage or benefit. Mothers want ‘the best’ for their children, and so the subtle conditioning starts early.
PARENTS DON’T RECOGNISE THE DOWNSIDE OF WHAT THEY ARE DOING. The same thing was done by their parents too!
Through this early social conditioning, PARENTS ARE IMPARTING THEIR OWN ACCEPTANCE & COMPLIANCE of group norms. They impart the need for self-limitation & suppression. Infants & children don’t necessarily need to be told this information verbally. It gets CONVEYED THROUGH PARENTAL BEHAVIOUR & BODY LANGUAGE. Even a facial expression, gesture or posture can convey this. Young children also acutely notice the withdrawal of love or support. So, children can see what is expected of them, simply from observing parental reactions and their subtle behavior. This conditioning then CONTINUES WITH PEER GROUP PRESSURE & ROLE MODELS promoted by the media.
To be accepted and succeed in a local group or a society usually means behaving in a certain way. So, we learn to comply. We wear the mask of compliance.
This leads us to the next life lesson (No. 63):