13 January 2008

Groupthink: A Problem of Pain

The desire to avoid effort - or pain - makes people vulnerable to groupthink. How comforting it can seem, to surrender your doubts and relax with a warm, welcoming group, under a benevolent leader who will do all of the hard thinking for you, praise you when you praise him or her, and tell you how to live.

Unfortunately, in life there is no 'painless' option. We can only choose between acute pain and chronic pain, between pain now or pain postponed.

The pain of choosing groupthink is equivalent to choosing the chronic pain of continuing to remain in relationship with an abuser. They are essentially the same choice, since so often groupthink is actively established as a means of control, and so many 'controllers' are, or will become, in one way or another, abusive. This pain may be easily ignored at first, but over time it will increase, either because of increasing awareness or because of the increasing amount of emotional/psychological self-mutilation that is required to preserve a lack of awareness. [Yes, consciously chosen denial is a form of emotional self-mutilation. Please think seriously about that.]

The pain of rejecting groupthink is equivalent to choosing the acute pain of leaving a cult or an abusive spouse. Again they are essentially the same choice. This pain will be acute, and probably quite intense. There may be risks involved. No wonder it is so often feared. No wonder people shrink from it.

Choosing the acute form is like choosing surgery; there is a great deal of pain, even risk, at the outset, then a period of healing during which there is still pain, vulnerability, tenderness. There may be permanent loss. There may be permanent adjustments required in one's manner of living. The person will never be 'really' the same... but this is because something pathological, possibly even malignant, has been excised. The pain, the change, are the price of healing.

Choosing the chronic form is like choosing to live with a chronic, debilitating condition - for which there is a cure, albeit a radical and painful one. Abuse is progressive [see Patricia Evans for a discussion of this] - it cannot be contained, it cannot be stabilized. It escalates when enabled or tolerated, like alcoholism, like other addictions, like chronic debilitating diseases. More and more accommodation is required, more and more pressure is applied. One must deny and deny. Eventually, the distortion in thinking and feeling, the emotional and physical exhaustion from constant denial and coping, will do far more damage than the most radical surgery would have done. And there is no healing, no rest, no relief. The pathology remains and continues to feed. Ultimately, if sufficiently severe, it will destroy.

7 Comments:

Anonymous CZBZ said...

"The pain of rejecting groupthink is equivalent to choosing the acute pain of leaving a cult or an abusive spouse. Again they are essentially the same choice. This pain will be acute, and probably quite intense. There may be risks involved. No wonder it is so often feared. No wonder people shrink from it." ~Stormchild

What a great series of posts! Many of us have been the 'black sheep' of the family because of our individuation; or the 'crazy one' in a marriage because of our differences; or scapegoated by a group because of our dissent. Of course we fear disagreement after the experience of being shunned or facing our primal fears of rejection!

Self-mutilating by voluntarily silencing ourselves or surrendering our uniqueness to GroupThink, is participationng in abuse.

I've been learning about GroupThink in application to my childhood and also my experiences on the Internet the past few years. Even IF we find the means to escape an abusive N-relatioNship, we will easily fall into a secondary relationship based on similar dynamics without realizing what we've done...to ourselves.

When we restore balance once again and trust everyone's uniqueness as strengths, not threats, we recognize the warning signs that we are re-enacting an abusive scenario! This time, we volunteered. That also makes it more difficult to admit. The more we have invested in a group of our own choosing, the more inclined we'll be to defend our perceptions. As Carol Tavris illustrates in her excellent book "Mistakes Were Made, but Not By Me".

How to extricate ourselves this time, might require even more courage than leaving an intimate relationship!! This time, there's not just one narcissist to contend with---we will suffer the brunt of an entire group of people dependent upon maintaining their illusions at all costs to their morality (and true healing!).

Great read! You've done an excellent job reading through complicated literature...it's a gift, Stormchild. Keep writing.

CZBZ

14 January, 2008 15:12  
Blogger Meg said...

Dear Storm,

I am going to link to this on my blog. Another timely and helpful post.

Thanks!!

14 January, 2008 17:50  
Blogger Stormchild said...

Meg, CZ...

Long day today, very tired tonight. Faced an abusive situation in realspace. Not over yet, but I'm still standing.

Thank you very much for the kind thoughts; you've lifted up a weary warrior tonight.

14 January, 2008 19:38  
Blogger Stormchild said...

CZBZ said:

*** "I've been learning about GroupThink in application to my childhood and also my experiences on the Internet the past few years. Even IF we find the means to escape an abusive N-relatioNship, we will easily fall into a secondary relationship based on similar dynamics without realizing what we've done...to ourselves.

When we restore balance once again and trust everyone's uniqueness as strengths, not threats, we recognize the warning signs that we are re-enacting an abusive scenario! This time, we volunteered. That also makes it more difficult to admit. The more we have invested in a group of our own choosing, the more inclined we'll be to defend our perceptions. As Carol Tavris illustrates in her excellent book "Mistakes Were Made, but Not By Me".

How to extricate ourselves this time, might require even more courage than leaving an intimate relationship!! This time, there's not just one narcissist to contend with---we will suffer the brunt of an entire group of people dependent upon maintaining their illusions at all costs to their morality (and true healing!)."***

Yes, oh yes. It's so much harder to separate ourselves from a narcissistically dominated group of adults, isn't it? Especially when we joined of our own free will with great enthusiasm and high hopes.

And isn't it a paradox, that when we have already seen and stepped away at least once before we're so reluctant to see and step away when it involves admitting that we 'volunteered'.

But it's so true.

In many ways this can be the worst form of groupthink. "We're all fine here, the problems are all out there," and God help anyone who won't drink the Kool-Aid.

Thanks for spotlighting this aspect, CZ.

14 January, 2008 19:48  
Anonymous CZBZ said...

I'm sorry to hear you're facing another lousy situation, Storm. I don't suppose very many of us 'recover' with only one abusive relationship to learn from.

Even while suffering through the fallout, forward we walk, putting one weary foot in front of the other.

But you know? Over time, it gets easier and easier to spot potentially abusive relationships and extricate ourselves.

Hugs, Storm...I hope you're feeling POWERFUL again tomorrow!

CZBZ

14 January, 2008 20:13  
Blogger Meg said...

Storm,

Hope you are better today/tonight, I get confused about time zones. It amazes me how often it seems that those who have battled one abuser seem to find others only a few steps away, and its not because you're looking for them. Maybe its our place to be warriors after all.

love,

Meg

15 January, 2008 19:53  
Blogger Stormchild said...

Thanks again, CZ and Meg. Things were much better today, and I had time to remember your good wishes, with gratitude.

Meg, you're right, we are all fighting 'the good fight'... it helps to remember this is part of that. And CZ, you're right too... as we become more seasoned warriors, we become more able to avoid or minimize the unnecessary skirmishes... saving our skills and strength for the ones that really count...

love & hugs -- Storm

15 January, 2008 21:38  

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