Mary and Beth live in a small town and are very active in their community, as were their parents before them. The feeling of belonging and to some extent, being seen as pillars is quite gratifying for them both. But, Mary and Beth are experiencing internal resistance and no small amount of fear as they endeavour to fulfill their personal desires.
Jacki and June, very successful, accomplished women visit their mother in their former home town regularly. Their mother, believing she is voicing care and concern, criticises them—everything from their finances to their children. Jacki and June depart their mothers’ company emotionally exhausted.
What is going on?
We associate with many types of groups or ‘herds.’ We ‘belong’ to our family group, our work group, our social group, our online group and various clubs and organizations. And within these groups we quickly learn the rules and codes of conduct within the group in exchange for acceptance and inclusion—something we are wired to need.
But, what about family and long standing friend groups where the ‘rules’ are difficult to define because they have evolved over years and many experiences that they are so interwoven into our behaviour that we don’t really notice them.? And, what if the payoff for being accepted and included is actually destructive?
Mary and Beth have a generalized feeling of fear around their thoughts “What will people think if I lose weight, seek therapy, quit volunteering, put my needs ahead of the group?” that keeps them from pursuing their goals and desires. Jackie and June find it easier to just play their roles as dutiful, somewhat inept children instead of confronting their mother with truth that contradicts her judgements about them. All of these ladies are suffering bouts of resentment, sadness, anger and are feeling stuck.
The reason the group dynamic is so important and influential, again, stems back to survival. We needed the group to keep us fed, protected and to teach us how not to die. But, into adulthood, if we want to be able to express our individual selves fully—which is beneficial to the individual as well as the group, we must leave the familiarity of the herd and explore our capabilities. We do that naturally around the age of two, as teenagers, and then again when we enter adulthood and strike out on our own, if we haven’t been severely inhibited at any of those natural junctures.
You’ll know it’s time for you to challenge the Herd when:
- You feel stuck, tired and/or resentful. When we are not free to express ourselves it shows up at the physical level. If it continues, the physical symptoms get worse.
3. You have made a change or created something new and the group responds by making you feel bad about yourself or they accuse you of making them feel bad about themselves. We call this switchback attack. The herd gets annoyed because their comfortable way of being has been disturbed.
So why should we challenge the herd?
What happened to Beth, Mary, Jacki and June?
Part Two next week!
In the mean time, I invite you to review your current ‘herd’ membership experience.