Herd Mentality is Killing Intimacy
Have you ever wondered how much of your life was prescribed to you rather than chosen by you?
Authenticity is a precursor to intimacy.
Read that again, folx. It might sound like a simple obvious statement, but the knowing that connection requires us to be vulnerable about our true selves is the basis of this conversation
A topic that has been in my heart since childhood, I received an upbringing so unique, that I see the world a bit differently than the average North American. Call it ADD, Bipolar, Consipiracy, whatever you desire. My point is that because I grew up thinking outside the box, I can look at society from an outside perspective in many ways. This piece is an attempt to communicate the downfalls of herd mentality and how I see our society losing intimacy and individuality as a result.
Public Education in our modern world seems to me to be structured very similarly (some argue literally) after indoctrination style Communist education. The intention may be different, but the effect of herding our children (and adults in post secondary) into learning the exact same education, mandated and chosen by the government, does not allow much space for individuals who think differently or who want to challenge old ways of being.
Herd mentality I also see in our community practices, where I see we tend to band together with people having the same primary education and information, think the same, practice the same, and are usually the same age.
Unique thought has been extremely challenging for me. In school, I either learn the info and regurgitate it onto a test, or fail. I see failure as often distancing those who dont perform as the status quo expects. That distancing has led me personally into an overdeveloped independace, and I know others as well who have dealt with ostracizing by either labeling them mentally unstable (anyone who thinks uniquely must have a chemical imbalance?), having a learning disability, or being unable to participate because of other unique features.
The stigmatization, ostracizing and inevitable outcasting of anyone not fitting the norm is an issue that is dear to my heart. I felt I either had to become medicated to force my brains to fit the same mould as the herd, or I could become lifelong outcast, creating their own way of being. You can probably guess what path I chose.
Intimacy comes into the conversation because I believe that true belonging does not require everyone to be the same, but rather asks us to be open to and to celebrate differences. This opportunity is the salve to the separation I experienced, I adore communities where we practice holding space for people who are different.
I grew up believing that either I need to be like everyone else or be outcast, the child version of me, who is primally wired to find support, easily forego my own needs and desires to avoid fallout. It's a primal coping mechanism as safety and belonging becomes correlated with 'fitting in'.
The following effect is my main point: To be part of the herd asked me to 'fit in', which does not allow for progression, as newness itself is a threat to the old systems. It created division in community, family, and the especially in relationships. I see we become attached to people based primarily on our similarities in education, values, age, lifestyle etc. and we rarely leave room for understanding of other cultures, thoughts, and ideas. In romantic intimacy, compatibility is sometimes seen as "how similar we are" in the moment rather than about what future desires we would like to develop, which totally cuts off the space to grow together.
I'm not saying that everyone would be better off breaking free from social norm or that everyone who fits well in society is lacking individuality, but what I am saying is that by blindly following the expectations of society, religion, and family, I gave away my capacity to be unique individual, and I know others who have felt the same. In turn, this sub-consiously invited me to shut down the pieces of myself which I thought did not fit the acceptable norms.
Connection and intimacy require authenticity. How do you think it affects your relationships if your first examples of connection instead required blind obedience and conformity?
This topic is also connected for me with unhealthy, abusive, or codependent tendencies. Taking on the belief that love is conditional on following the rules pushed me into habits of disregarding my own needs and beliefs in an attempt to be 'loveable,' because I took on the idea that I am only loveable if I meet others' expectations.
If you see yourself in this conversation and you struggle to feel loveable when you disagree with your partner or community, please know that you are not alone, and that it's not your fault.
Love that is conditional on adhering to others' beliefs or expectations is NOT love.
I say this directly towards school systems and governments that require neurodivergents to be medicated in order to fit in.
I say this towards families who require their members to follow any particular religion or familial standard.
I say this towards lovers who ask us to change ourselves in order to be acceptable to them.
They are all unacceptable and I happily say and hard and loud NO to anyone who claims that I am better off being more like any one else.
Beginning to understand ourselves as individuals is new for most of my clients.
I see this first with a simple question:
"What do you desire?"
Most people will respond with blank stares and a tentative, "I have no idea..."