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?
Why is just being yourself so difficult? Being comfortable in your own skin meeting the world as it meets us will often place us in situations that test our resolve. When we persuade ourselves to be something we are not, when we try to convince ourselves to do something we should not in reaction to some event that confronts us simply because we are doubting our true identity, we risk losing our inner sense of perspective and betray our true selves. It is hard to predict the outcomes, but I think we may little by little lose ourselves to conformity. For a nonconformist, conformity is the slowest form of suicide.
Is social pressure greater to our sense of belonging that we must struggle to subdue our own individuality? In art and music, individuality is highly praised, even though many artists are inspired by others before them, they create something anew from something that has gone before, putting their own fingerprint on it somehow, someway. I believe there is a strong correlation between self confidence and individuality.
Perhaps we just have not found ourselves, know how we fit into a situation and we therefore try on different persona’s to see how they fare? We may not have a strong sense of self and adopt others styles, attitudes, or opinions for convenience so that we can be a part of something. We try on these persona’s like they are clothing, interchanging our identities as if they are fashion items, and discarding them when they go out of style. Wanting to fit in is a very strong motivator when we want to be a part of something and often leads us to behave in like manner in our social gatherings. Surprisingly we will also follow in kind with our logic and ethical thought.
Being human, and testing out new perspectives on ourselves can have healthy outcomes. It is when we force ourselves to adopt principles that we may not fully understand or endorse that alienate us from our true selves, or our moral selves that may cause us to have doubt during this time, yet we continue to behave in ways that we are not completely aligned with. The cognitive dissonance may eventually change us if this occurs as we may possibly be forced to alter our opinion, or alter our behavior to once again align for there to be intellectual and behavioral cohesion.
The problem for many is that they do not think about the consequences of their behaviors or thoughts, they have not given their position a full understanding, and are often lost to the potential pitfalls of reasoning or behaving. The lifestyle choice they have adopted may bring them elements that are not bargained for in their initial reckoning of it. This is of course what every human experiences on some level since we are not perfect beings, we fail, make mistakes in our judgements, and therefore modify our thinking or behavior after we test it out in the world. The notion of applying our common sense, and pragmatically living by learning from our mistakes is a common denominator that is experienced worldwide and has graced the teachings of Confucius, Buddha, American Pragmatism, and other thinkers though-out the ages.
When learning something new, one should worry about being unable to reach it. When one has learnt something, one should worry about forgetting it.
It is complementary to adopt another persons influence on us when we demonstrate the impact they have on us. We model their behavior by doing what they have done. We see the world through another perspective, but a line should be drawn when we blur the distinction so much that we lose ourselves in living another persons vision. Blind impersonation is merely an imitation, to make it your own, one should adapt it to a vision that is personalized and reflects a view unique to you. Making the decisions to adopt things learned in a social environment is normal and expected. To make them work for you is up to you and your deployment of these pearls of wisdom. What I found most interesting during the younger years of my journey was the expectations of others in my encounters. The social interactions between strangers, and even friends often surprised me. As I grew older and experienced more, these conventions of conduct became more and more familiar to me, allowing me to navigate with more certainty.
Differing opinion on how we see the world is the basis for our differing on how we should proceed in the maze of human conduct. The point of singularity that changed me was when I adopted a corporate philosophy and core value system espoused to me by the company I worked for which my leadership did not wholly adopt with any sense of integrity, and therefore left me disillusioned thinking that they would follow the rules of conduct that they taught me. The larger the group, the stickier the code of conduct may become. The politics of being human has many inequitable outcomes for different people.
I can safely say that no matter what philosophy an entity adopts, following it is an entirely different question and much more important. The adoption of ideas are only as good as the behaviors that demonstrate them, namely: behavior is more powerful than words.
So I say one should be themselves in this world as much as one can be. The convergence of the pool of individuality is constantly blurred in the grand scheme of things and enters into a social construct of conformity. But also is the unique perspectives of individuals that should be held in high esteem, for there is no learning without climbing upon others shoulders to see what could not be seen before. The necessary progression of advancing is often helped by those around us.
Have you caved in on your beliefs due to others you associated with looking upon you for agreement, reassurance, or for some other form of approval when you were in a professional or social situation? Surrendering your opinions or judgements because of a fear that you will not fit in on what others might believe can alter a majority of minds not yet tempered.
Maybe you choose not to do something because other people were watching and you felt awkward or were embarrassed, such as performing in front of people, like maybe singing or public speaking. Perhaps you have chosen a particular line of clothing to wear because it is the style that is most popular during the season. Your concern with how you will look in your new outfit will often dissuade the original choice due to what others may think about them. Nervousness can cause us to have the same outcome, specifically the doubt in ourselves is a very common occurrence and is heightened when others are watching. I think that for those who do so in the professional arena, may fear a retribution from their peers or supervisors on a personal and even possibly on a professional level as well.
The thought of not being true to your beliefs due to the judgements of others can be a very strong factor that influences our behavior. Dr. Wayne Dyer has said …”When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself.”
I remember in my 10th grade English class, we were given an assignment by our staunchly conservative teacher Mrs. Leuth. She apparently had the reputation of having a very challenging class in the English department, and if it wasn’t an honors English class, it certainly should have been. Only two people in that class did not have to take the final, and only two people in that class received an A. One mid-semester morning the assignment to write a critical essay was given to all students in a classroom of under thirty. I believe we wrote the essay in the classroom that day and handed it in on period end. The following day we were handed back our graded papers, thinking nothing was to become of it when we all viewed them as usual in the privacy of our seats. Just another assignment many of us thought. Little did I know that some of us were selected to read out loud to our classmates the papers we had written the day before. I call upon this experience because my paper was chosen due to the content that was in it. Mrs. Leuth told the class prior to my reading that I was not afraid to reveal my thoughts, and for that reason I believe she had selected me to read its excerpts.
I’m really not sure what the assignment details were, but I will never forget that day when I for the first time was called upon to speak publicly in front of my peers about my own conclusions. My own intellectual processes were to be divulged to all in that class, my own thoughts in the presence of others to be voiced aloud in a room with statistically speaking some very critical recipients. Sophomores can be brutal. I do remember as I read to the class my paper discussing a subject that involved imprisonment, and torture. I believe that I was using a particular frame of reference in the paper, and inclusively writing about the mistreatment one could receive in their captors violent rages. I distinctly remember a section which spoke about cutting the ears off of their captor when not cooperating with them. The torture of that person was highlighted in the body of the text and the argument on the crimes of humanity probably consisted of the thesis.
A sweaty-toothed madman with a stare that pounds my brain.”
“Like a blanket that always leaves your feet cold…. From the moment we enter crying to the moment we leave dying, It’ll just cover your face as you wail and cry and scream.
I’m not sure I was that poetic as depicted in the film, but perhaps recognition for the frankness of personalized content I injected probably gave me the spotlight.
The drive we have to fit in can have some disconcerting effects upon our behavior, and our individuality. In philosophy the topic of individuality brings us to several authors that have discussed the ethical and moral implications brought upon by the subject of the individual. You find treatments such as John Stuart Mill’s Utilitarianism or Ayn Rand’s Objectivism in the historical record. A treatment from the existentialist’s and the humanist’s are also notably rendered in the mix.
Wikipedia cites that ethical egoism is the normative ethical position that moral agents ought to do what is in their own self-interest. It differs from psychological egoism, which claims that people do only act in their self-interest. Ethical egoism also differs from rational egoism, which holds merely that it is rational to act in one’s self-interest.
Ethical egoism contrasts with ethical altruism, which holds that moral agents have an obligation to help and serve others. Egoism and altruism both contrast with ethical utilitarianism, which holds that a moral agent should treat one’s self with no higher regard than one has for others (as egoism does, by elevating self-interests and “the self” to a status not granted to others), but that one also should not (as altruism does) sacrifice one’s own interests to help others’ interests, so long as one’s own interests (i.e. one’s own desires or well-being) are substantially-equivalent to the others’ interests and well-being. Egoism, utilitarianism, and altruism are all forms of consequentialism, but egoism and altruism contrast with utilitarianism, in that egoism and altruism are both agent-focused forms of consequentialism (i.e. subject-focused or subjective), but utilitarianism is called agent-neutral (i.e. objective and impartial) as it does not treat the subject’s (i.e. the self’s, i.e. the moral “agent’s”) own interests as being more or less important than if the same interests, desires, or well-being were anyone else’s.
Whichever school of thought you may align with, the fact that our decisions become politically charged without true comprehension happens to a majority of us in group situations. An awareness of why we make decisions that have an impact on us and others just may help us to forge better ones. A balance of approaches would be recommended by this author. Being yourself, and remaining true to your beliefs no matter what the situation will often come to aid you when sleeping at night. If you were still wondering, Yes, I was one of the two who received an A in that English class.
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”
― Mark Twain
“The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
― Robert Frost