23 August 2008

Antidotes to Groupthink: Individuation

I've spent the better part of a week searching for the best one-word term for this next antidote, and it's fitting, I think, that it turns out to be a term created by C. G. Jung.

I was searching for a term that would capture, in a positive light, qualities that are all too often dismissed as negative: a certain type of self-reliance, a degree of faith in one's own judgement and perspective, and a combination of strength and resilience that enables its possessor to reject toxic / unhealthy / severely negative-normed groups, even when the price of such rejection is isolation or other forms of group retaliation.

I was searching for a term that would include these things, yet also leave room for compassion, a desire for healthy connection with others, an ability to see one's own flaws and negative / toxic aspects, an ability to see reality without despair.

Jung's term encompasses all of this, and more. I'm going to bypass his terminology and simplify the concept as follows: individuation is self-awareness without denial or excuse; awareness of all that we do that is false, to 'get by'; all that we desire that is socially repudiated [revenge, etc.]; those qualities we possess that we would normally assign to a person of opposite sex from ourselves [strength and aggression in women, tenderness and emotiveness in men]; the qualities that we possess most strongly that we typically assign to our own sex; our desire to save, nurture, and lead, and the damage this can do to us if allowed to run unchecked. It is also an awareness of our place in the universe, an understanding that we do, indeed, have such a place, an acceptance that we, as living beings, are part of a living universe.

Full individuation in this sense is the work of a lifetime. But simply to 'set one's face' towards this goal is to turn away from the values that allow groupthink to flourish unrecognized and unchallenged.

I am not holding up a form of self-worship, here, as an antidote to group-worship. I do, definitely, regard groupthink - especially when it is deliberately instigated by a 'groupthink guru' - as a form of idolatry, an inappropriate centering of the mind / heart / soul on the group, or the guru, or both. Survivors of abusive, cultic churches will know exactly what I mean by this; it applies equally well to workplace 'gangs', criminal gangs, and middle school 'mean cliques'.

To worship a group, or its human leadership, is to imperil one's soul. But to turn from group-worship or leader-worship to self-veneration is merely to substitute one peril for another. Jung's concept of self-knowledge leads, instead, to a calm humility, with considerable humor in it. You know who you are, warts and all. You know what you value, and you know why. You also know that there are many, many things in life that are worse than being alone, either short-term or long-term. Assimilation by a toxic group will be near the top of that list; willingly doing harm to others at the behest of such a group or its guru will be anathema to you.

And, paradoxically, you will know - from the tips of your fingers to the depth of your soul - that, in fact, you are never less alone, spiritually, than when you make the choice to be alone, corporeally, rather than to buy into groupthink as the price of membership in a group.

This antidote to groupthink, in other words, is: to know your own heart, respect your own mind, and value your soul.

1 Comments:

Blogger CZBZ said...

“an ability to see reality without despair” is not easy. Some days are easier than others. There are times when it grieves me to see what I now see. There’s a healthy balance between doing nothing and doing too much when we realize we have to do something.

“And, paradoxically, you will know - from the tips of your fingers to the depth of your soul - that, in fact, you are never less alone, spiritually, than when you make the choice to be alone, corporeally, rather than to buy into groupthink as the price of membership in a group.”

I’m certain some old fella would think me a fine prize even at my age. In my community, being a single woman renders us invisible. Even more invisible than older married women. I may have been forced to put my values ahead of my possessions and divorce a philaNdering maN; but remaining single after my divorce, has been a conscious decision. That alone defies groupthink controls on numerous levels in my life.

The day I finally fell to my knees, was the end of my loneliness. In one moment of desperation, everything fell into place and I’ve never regretted finding my self by losing him.

CZ

27 August, 2008 21:24  

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