If we belong to or identify with a group, than we will regard that group to be the ‘in group’, anyone outside this group will be the ‘out group’ and therefore they become the ‘not us’ or ‘them’. This orientation will trigger our tribal behavior and we will become extraordinarily contemptuous of, cruel towards, and paranoid about ‘not us.’ Because we know that other groups can be hateful and as paranoid as we can be, we fear them; and so continue the cycle of hate and paranoia. In certain context, we may even attribute cruelty as a virtue. Around the time of 911 crisis for example we may remember certain cruel acts on both sides were not uncommonly reported in the media, depending on which group you were in, it was either interpreted as an act of cowardice or heroism; same cruel act but interpreted as a virtue by one group and cruelty by another. This kind of behavior has been a source of great suffering for thousands of years.
Why does this kind of behavior continue? One answer is that we derive our self-identity from the group to which we belong and adopt its values. The group then orients us to compare ourselves to others; and as we get comfortable with the idea of belonging and being accepted by our group, we seek to have our contribution valued, wanting validation that our existence matters to the group. A sense of belonging is important to feeling of well-being and feeling safe. It is the sense of belonging that keeps us in the mode of the ‘in group’ and noticing the differences in the ‘out group’. This is a tribal behavior and it is this that keeps us from being compassionate to other groups and will keeps the suffering to continue unless we change our tribal thinking.
The Compassionate Mind by Paul Gilbert
Posted by drchana on May 17, 2012
If one decide to become part of “we” it doesn’t mean they should lose sense of “me” ; if “me” does gets lost there is a serious problem knowing and developing the sense of self.
In relationships we share patterns of energy with one another which pass through our neural circuits, these patterns of energy carry meaning and information. If this energy and information is not transmitted properly there are serious consequences for knowing the self and being part of the we.
For example, if the past experience of relationship connections were unreliable, it will prevent us from knowing ourselves and will cause difficulty relating to others as “we.” So as not to risk being hurt again by similar experiences to the past ones, we will shut parts of ourselves off . This may result in us living life of isolation and creating sense of independence which will allow us to survive but it will limit our sense of vitality that we are able to feel as part of we. We may also find that our sense of self to be in an overwhelming upheaval if our experience of past connections with those we depended for comfort were inconsistent, un-welcomed and intrusive. In this situation we may find ourselves with disabling doubt , anxiety and fear when ever we allow ourselves to become dependent on our loved one for support, caring and well-being. We may continue to look for a perfect partner but never finding one. We may become highly reactive to ambiguous communication that may fill our daily lives with dread and uncertainty. These experiences prevent us from growing and knowing ourself as a person; they keeps us from being “me.” They also constrain our present experiences and limits us from constructing more helpful future. We have to grow beyond these past memory patterns and move towards integrated state of thriving as both a strong “me” and a vitalizing “we.”
Daniel J. Siegel in his book Pocket Guide to Interpersonal Neurobiology mentions studies of empathy and reports…
…” individuals who are shown a photograph of a gruesome accident can be overwhelmed in their response and shut down their capacity to help if they ask the question: What if that were me? How would I feel? Instead , if they ask the question, ” How does that person feel?” they are more likely to have the internal resources to extend themselves and help other. The gist of these finding is that if we fuse together you and me, “I” will become lost and overwhelmed. We will become confused, fused – with. Joining is not the same as fusion.”
Various mindful awareness practices are direct way to increase the capacity to become a part of a we without becoming lost as me. ( in the future posts I will say more about these practices.)
Daniel J. Siegel : Pocket Guide to Interpersonal Neurobiology
Posted by drchana on April 6, 2012