Studies in human behavior show that we can become strongly influenced by others demonstrating our need to belong. This may seem acceptable depending on the modeled behaviors or attitudes we observe, but on closer inspection, deeper implications on the kinds of messages and perspectives we pick up and internalize from others are evident.
Do we subconsciously conceal our true natures with the incentive for acceptance into other groups? And if the values differ, did we subdue our previously learned values because of societal pressures, or because our current psychological and/or physical needs are not being met? Was it a process of subjugating our once valued ideals to align with the pressures of the social contexts we placed upon ourselves if indeed the values are not in alignment? If we turn to the finding in the Stanford Prison Experiment, it may shed some light onto these questions.
Stanford University psychology professor Philip Zimbardo in 1971 conducts a psychological experiment to test the hypothesis that the personality traits of prisoners and guards are the chief cause of abusive behavior between them. In the experiment, Zimbardo selects twenty-four male students to participate in a 7–14 day prison simulation to take roles as prisoners or guards. They receive $15 per day. The experiment is conducted in a mock prison located in the basement of Jordan Hall, the University Psychology building. The students who are guards become abusive, as does Zimbardo himself. Two students who play the role of prisoners quit the experiment early, and the entire experiment is abruptly stopped after only six days. The U.S. Office of Naval Research provides the funding for the experiment and U.S. Navy and the Marine Corps both show interest in this investigation into the causes of conflict between military guards and prisoners. The implications of these experiments show how multitudes of human interactions can impose and influence peoples behavior given specific sets of circumstances established in social settings.
If we look at the countless examples of how children rebel against their family mores and go off on another direction when they become teens, or if we look at the cultural phenomena of how the rise of punk rock was reactionary to the classic rock era, then we may draw conclusions upon the underlying psychological factors that impel the changes in the newer generations?
The question I often ask is when these changes of expression occur, are people consciously aware of their motivation? Is it because there is something missing and not fulfilling the people willing to change the course of their psychological values? This is of course a very broad stroke to make in assuming that these values are different. Perhaps it is in the expressions of the person that differ, but not the underlying values of those expressions? Perhaps they can be mutually exclusive and co-exist? The point of contention is really the cases of people who are not artistically seeking new directions, but rather those who change their values to become a part of a divergent group. The direction is clearly different and easily distinguishable for others to see in many cases that involve dramatic physical changes.
This scenario would include someone who dramatically changes their appearance to fit into another group of newly formed friendships. Tattoo’s, implants and piercings for those who are decorating their bodies with ornamentation that in many instances their parents would not approve if done in extreme measures might be the example to study.
Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), also termed body dysmorphia or dysmorphic syndrome, is a mental disorder via obsessive preoccupation with a perceived defect in one’s own appearance, viewed as so severe as to warrant exceptional measures to hide or fix it. If the flaw is actual, its importance is severely exaggerated. BDD is categorized in the obsessive–compulsive spectrum.
Usually starting during adolescence, BDD is a fairly common mental disorder, affects men and women roughly equally, and may occur in some 1% to 2% of the population.In fear of being thought vain, persons experiencing BDD tend to keep the preoccupation secret, and BDD is severely underdiagnosed.Severely impairing quality of life, BDD can lead to social isolation and involves especially high rates of suicidal ideation. Clearly the cases below would indicate that these people have no secrets to the expression of their selves.
But more interesting still are those who do not consciously know they are changing their values. Those who form new friendships, become involved with new organizations of people personally and professionally sharing something maybe familiar, yet some forms of differentiation are not openly shared. The individual in them withholds overtly shown behaviors and personal information as to not disrupt the status quo from within a group. For the average person, this may seem to be subtle and is the primary purpose for this post. Questioning the very natures of those that are seeking some kind of alternative experience begs the question about wanting to belong. The changing process they undergo during this transition is something worth investigating. Do their values change during this transition?
But of course there is a pendulum swing that goes all the way to the other vantage points; those that are out of the ordinary. Like those seeking alternative lifestyles as depicted in the Stanley Kubrick’s 1999 film Eyes Wide Shut. This film goes deeper than just those just looking out for new ways to spice up their relationships, or new ways to express themselves sexually.
Not only is this film about a mysterious, perhaps murderous, secret society, it is drenched in allusions to the New World Order cabal. Occult symbols like the pentagram can be found throughout the film, as well as multiple references to rainbows and looking glasses… Eyes Wide Shut, the phrase itself, is a calling card among secret societies, meaning ‘my eyes are shut to your misdeeds, brother.’ This anonymity is required of the participants, otherwise the society’s wealthy elite would be revealed. For as one character in the film says, “If I told you their names I don’t think you’d sleep so well.”
[Kubrick] died only days after submitting the first cut of the film to Warner Brothers. At this point, the film was commandeered by Warner Brothers and heavily edited… Is it possible that this scene and others originally contained images and/or dialogue that illuminated the New World Order in a way that was dangerous to their privacy? Was Kubrick trying to out the secret society, or at least toy with their heads?
It’s clear that Eyes Wide Shut is about a secret society, though the film is up for interpretation about whether they are truly dangerous or simply wealthy, bored New Yorker’s looking for a good time. Whatever the true nature of this film expresses, it is only another expression of how we humans organize and sometimes put ourselves at risk when we pursue choices outside of our comfort zones. Choices that sometimes lead us down a path that will challenge our values, and possibly change the way we see ourselves. We may indeed compromise some trusted values only to replace them with a result that we may not have bargained for, or we may discover something that provided us with new insights on just who we really are.
But to know just who we really are, one must first ask those questions like…”What am I willing to stand for? What is it that I value?” When our friendships have lasted for many years with some people, I think the answer for the sustainability in the friendship is because we identify with them despite the years that have gone by. But we can also see that some of our friendships do not stand this test of time. Does this mean we have somehow become disenchanted from them because we either lack a frequency in contact, or maybe it is the distance between us, or possibly it is because of a difference in our values expressed? For me the interest lies in knowing if people indeed are aware of when these changes occur and how they represent them to other people in their lives.
Thus the seeds of charade begins to play out in their lives if they find that they still want to associate with some people, but find that the similarities become less and less as time goes by. The painful examples are evident in all the unhappily married couples that have grown apart, but co-exist to maintain the illusion of a family whether it be for the children’s sake, or for a financial decision that takes precedent over their happiness. To give the facade any legitimacy they must express charades of candor to others in their lives, and tragically they must express this quietly to themselves; a constant reminder of the state of being they find themselves attached and enslaved to.
How well our politicians subvert the populace and play this charade is all to evident in human history when they promise one thing publicly, but silently act differently with their powers. The reason politics has earned a bad name is precisely due to the secretive behaviors our elected public figures enact. But to me the tragedy is still in the realm of our friendships, and relationships on the interpersonal level of communication we see in day-to-day life. When was the last time you gave yourself a mirror check? What say you?
Are we authentic? Or are we acting? Do we see the world as a stage?
When the motivation and inspiration to become a better person stems from the attention you covet from another person, and if indeed you feel good while performing said tasks to improve yourself, is it better at times you start this endeavor (such as physical fitness goals, developing musical skills, being well dressed, etc.), for social advancements or for personal reasons based on your beliefs? There still lies the question, do you not do it for yourself, or for the sake of its intrinsic value? Is there a significant difference between social values and personal values, albeit they are not mutually exclusive? I understand that having a coach, parent, spiritual leader, or someone with an expertise should be sought out to meet some of these goals, but my interest is in the differences between the distinction I have noted above.
The ends justify the means for some people. My notion is the consideration on the root underlying motivation that we act upon before we engage in some activity may indeed lead to an emerging ego defense rather than a purer direct resolve. Splitting hairs some may agree, but there may be something to be said about a deep seated self-doubt that motivates someone and not an honest cognizant assessment. Even if the result has a similar outcome, the internal motivator that wins out sill be subject to a harsher scrutiny if there is any dissonance in these decisions that come back to haunt us later. Example, If I choose to go through the appearance of attending church for social approval as opposed to an internal ambition to better oneself and unify with a religious experience, can that have implications? If you look at all the hypocrites who do not seek such instruction for their own betterment in their heart, and instead go because it is socially sanctioned, there seems to be a disconnect to the reason for going. They therefore are giving the appearance to others that they are attending because of an internal drive and maybe not because of the external drive that prompts them to be present.
Why is having another person gain your approval more important than having a reconciliation with self-approval? Are they both inconsistent ideas, goals, with different values assigned to them? Maybe because they have different rewards attached to the prospect of having someone like you for you in comparison to your own internal reward by doing what you like to do?
Does this possibly imply that a self-approval is in need of reevaluation, and that possibly the need for others in our lives is more powerful than our own appraisals because we have doubt enough to seek other opinions about such matters? If we invest in the time to show others strengths we may be working on, their observations and interest somehow have gained a higher priority than our own judgement because we have not yet learned the ability to truly calculate a balance in our self-worth enough that we seek outside validation?
I remember when I began to work on my physique by working out in the gym. I had for some time wanted to develop my body to show a positive healthy shape that met my idea of looking fit. After some time in my investment of a steady routine I was able to see and feel the physical benefits of such activity as I discovered the psychological benefits apart from the physical benefits which were also a complementary bonus. But if I were to check my motivating factors at the age I began this routine, I think that it was for reasons that many young people begin such endeavors, to look better to attract other people into their lives. We are attracted to others that like the same activities, we are attracted to those who share the same goals and aspects of our perception of what is attractive, and possibly it is simply that we have similar traits, but the underlying motivation for many still begs the question do you work out because you wanted to attract more people by adjusting your physical appearance to do so as part of your strategy? This may seem to be a matter of intention!
I have always wanted to develop my inner sanctum, my personality and disposition to the world, my soul or ethos that guided me through life because I felt it was extremely important for one to express themselves authentically and meet the world without any depreciating factors of perception. To have a beautiful soul, to be someone of value, to not carry the pitfalls of what our ego, and human frailties often prevent us from seeing in the world. I have personally seen how people with unhealthy approaches to the world have dispositions that are very unfavorable and how they can distort the experience of their life and those around them.
I have grown up with the notion that by going to school and doing well, our opportunities will avail themselves to us depending upon our efforts and achievements. What I did not see growing up is the concerted effort to have much emphasis placed upon our approach in educational curriculum’s to include ethics, and just how important ethical conduct truly matters. I have experienced this in my career paths through-out my life for the last 35 years in the business world, and my own personal experiences in the entirety of my life. Even more shocking is the everyday conduct outside of the business world; our personal relationships where some of the most poignant kinds of human conduct are detected and are astoundingly distressing if taking notice of these results. I work with the public everyday and see countless cases of poor conduct; ego centered, self-absorbed, and selfish behaviors that make me wonder about the futility of this conduct.
Somehow we have attended to areas in our lives that focus on our ego wants above the needs of others. The possession of ego is a universal principle that we must all negotiate within ourselves and with the projection of other egos upon us.
My feeling is that though I am as guilty as most other people on my root causes for engaging in activities come largely from social acceptance, I can clearly distinguish at times we must dig deeper and look to a purer form of inspiration because it just may be that we are living under false pretenses that could have problematic reverberations.
Most days of the year are unremarkable. They begin and they end with no lasting memory made in between. Most days have no impact on the course of a life.
~~(500) Days of Summer
Like the quote above, most days are not all days in a year, a month, or a lifetime. At times there will be moments that are contrary and we find ourselves in a situation we must resolve.
I’m not sure if I totally agree with the statement below. Brilliant movie, but I’m not resigned to say that “everything” is just mere coincidence especially if we are discussing the dynamics in human relationships.
If Tom had learned anything… it was that you can’t ascribe great cosmic significance to a simple earthly event. Coincidence, that’s all anything ever is, nothing more than coincidence… Tom had finally learned, there are no miracles. There’s no such thing as fate, nothing is meant to be. He knew, he was sure of it now.
~~(500) Days of Summer
Given my argument presented here, my suggestion is that we have situations that are more involved than this screenwriters commentary on relationships. I think there is vast differences in our approaches to the world, and that I tend to believe that there is more than just coincidence if living an examined life. If we employ the maxim “Know Thyself”, then one can certainly see my contention for this argument. On the contrary if one is living without examining anything but blind luck, than maybe this screenwriter’s commentary makes more sense. Just a thought!
“You never really learn much from hearing yourself speak.”
― George Clooney
“Often romantic relationships fail because you are trying to get someone to fall in love with the YOU that you never discovered.”
― Shannon L. Alder
“How to get rid of ego as dictator and turn it into messenger and servant and scout, to be in your service, is the trick.”
― Joseph Campbell
“The worst disease which can afflict executives in their work is not, as popularly supposed, alcoholism; it’s egotism.”
― Robert Frost
“oh God! what am I to do if I love nothing but fame and men’s esteem?”
― Leo Tolstoy
“When you are self-conscious you are in trouble. When you are self-conscious you are really showing symptoms that you don’t know who you are. Your very self-consciousness indicates that you have not come home yet.”
“The ego is as you think of yourself. You in relation to all the commitments of your life, as you understand them. The self is the whole range of possibilities that you’ve never even thought of. And you’re stuck with you’re past when you’re stuck with the ego. Because if all you know about yourself is what you found out about yourself, well, that already happened. The self is a whole field of potentialities to come through.”
― Joseph Campbell, The Hero’s Journey: Joseph Campbell on His Life & Work
“Anyone can see that an ass laden with books remains a donkey. A human being laden with the undigested results of a tussle with thoughts and books, however, still passes for wise.”
― Idries Shah, Reflections
I have discovered an imperative truth that is sadly not often discussed and escapes many of our relationships. It is seldom realized in endless human encounters, and is responsible for many of our failures to connect with others. I write of a principle that has such a profound impact on us emotionally that we ironically are not very aware of its importance and we are often out of touch with this phenomenon’s impact on our daily lives. There is a dynamic correlation between the success of our relationships. The level of intimacy we experience depends upon the level of our connection to the person, namely: our sense of belonging. The clarity of this in a person’s mind will define them in the end.
The element most craved in human relationships, or at least most appreciated in the relationship is the feeling of Belonging! If you look towards many family interactions, much of the disconnect felt is happening when one or more of the members are emotionally apart, feeling alienated, detached, and sustaining a feeling of non-belonging that disrupts the emotional attachments to that family. I’ve heard about this contingency with comments from various interviews with Gang members expressing their motivation to join a gang in that they were alienated from the rest of their associations, and they felt that they “belonged” to the gang they joined; despite however disruptive, violent, and oppressive that gang happened to be. These examples show just how powerful this dynamic is in human relationships.
Abraham Maslow suggested that the need to belong was a major source of human motivation. He thought that it was one of 5 human needs in his hierarchy of needs, along with physiological needs, safety, self-esteem, and self-actualization. These needs are arranged on a hierarchy and must be satisfied in order. After physiological and safety needs are met an individual can then work on meeting the need to belong and be loved. According to Maslow, if the first two needs are not met, then an individual cannot completely love someone else.
Other theories have also focused on the need to belong as a fundamental psychological motivation. According to Roy Baumeister and Mark Leary, all human beings need a certain minimum quantity of regular, satisfying social interactions. Inability to meet this need results in loneliness, mental distress, and a strong desire to form new relationships. Several psychologists have proposed that there are individual differences in people’s motivation to belong. People with a strong motivation to belong are less satisfied with their relationships and tend to be relatively lonely. As consumers, they tend to seek the opinions of others about products and services and also attempt to influence others’ opinions.
According to Baumeister and Leary, much of what human beings do is done in the service of belongingness. They argue that many of the human needs that have been documented, such as the needs for power, intimacy, approval, achievement and affiliation, are all driven by the need to belong. Human culture is compelled and conditioned by pressure to belong. The need to belong and form attachments is universal among humans. Those who believe that the need to belong is the major psychological drive also believe that humans are naturally driven toward establishing and sustaining relationships and belongingness. For example, interactions with strangers are possible first steps toward non-hostile and more long-term interactions with strangers that can satisfy the need for attachments. Certain people who are socially deprived can exhibit physical, behavioral, and psychological problems, such as stress or instability. These people are also more likely to show an increase in aiming to form new attachments.
Often when we do not feel a belonging to a part of the group, we will take our exit. This can be true for any relationship we happen to be associated with. The greater the lack of connection, the easier it is to leave, and conversely, the more of an emotional connection, the more passion and feeling of belonging we will experience. If our interest levels fade, then our emotional connection will eventually be extinguished the longer this diminishing dynamic persists.
Scores of psychological data will show that alienation from a group will have a dramatic impingement upon the party that is estranged. One can easily turn to a song about such matters of the heart and relate in some way, or one can turn to the cases of families where their children are disassociated from the family, they are therefore trapped within the constrains of how our cohesion vaporizes in relation to the need to belong. If the child feels apart from the family, so too will they want to dismiss it, leave it, or move on to another family of their making.
Isolation, loneliness and low social status can harm a person’s subjective sense of well-being, as well as his or her intellectual achievement, immune function and health. Research shows that even a single instance of exclusion can undermine well-being, IQ test performance and self-control. What is the opposite of loneliness? Is it belonging?
Because as humans, we need to belong. To one another, to our friends and families, to our culture and country, to our world. Belonging is primal, fundamental to our sense of happiness and well-being.
If you have a question about someone in your family that you just don’t understand, ask yourself this question; how do they fit into the equation of belonging in the family? Do they seem detached, indifferent, or isolated more than you would like? Are they not interested in any family activities and choose to go their own way? If anything, make the time to show them that they belong, teach them the meaning of this by your actions and not your words. Reaching out to those we used to be close to, can be very painful, but if we take action and show them how they fit into our world, I bet we can make a difference to the people we love. Don’t be caught bottling yourself in.