I am currently working on a study that deals with behavioral inhibition. There’s a theory that once a child becomes 5 years old, a switch in the brain is triggered that modifies their behavior.
Have you ever dealt with a 3 year old? They will say whatever they’re feeling at the moment. If they want a toy and someone else is playing with it, they have no qualms in taking the toy from the other child and walking away with it. They also feel no remorse for their actions and they don’t carry around the burden of guilt. They say what they feel like saying and for them it’s over.
Once the switch is triggered this all changes. They stop blurting out whatever crosses their minds, they become more concerned with other’s feelings and how they are perceived by their peers. They can understand the rules to a game and they take direction better. They also become eager to please and to win approval. This trigger makes the small child more socially acceptable. It was always believed this happened at the age of 5, but it could happen at an earlier age and that’s what we’re trying to determine. In pondering this whole concept I began to wonder about my own experiences with behavioral inhibitions.
Recently I had to work hard to maintain my own convictions when faced with a group that demanded my compliance with their *rules*. The rule I resisted most was one that involved exclusionary practices. In other words, if they didn’t like something about another member, a small group of the upper echelon members set about giving this disliked member the ax. It wasn’t enough to just exclude the disliked member, they also took great delight in humiliating the excommunicated to extremes.
In some instances, the excommunicated suffered depression and severe self esteem issues from being excluded and then ridiculed by some of the other members that were still in good standing. It was tantamount to torture.
I abhor any kind of exclusionary action. I think secret societies and cliques are what bring our society to a screeching halt. There are some famous groups that support my claim. Take for instance the Nazi regime, or the Ku Klux Klan. These two examples are notorious for executing the same tactics; excommunicate and then humiliate. The only difference is their unfortunate subjects sometimes died horribly.
When a group becomes a mob, the act of standing up to them can be a waste of time. I found that pointing out their actions as unacceptable, and asking for positive change in their behavior, made me an excellent target. I already knew the drill and I fully expected to be stoned once I opened my mouth. I asked for positive change. I wanted every member to have a voice and a vote. I asked for transparency in all club dealings. For example;
I didn’t want my club dues to pay for someone’s mortgage. I wanted my dues to pay for things the club needed as a whole unit.
I wanted the practice of throwing members out on a whim to stop.
I was not the only member of the group that agreed with my suggestions, however, the group had become a mob and most members were terrified to voice their disappointment along with me. I can’t blame them for remaining silent. I have seen the group in action. It is not a pretty sight to witness. It is enough to make any adult modify their behavior in order to remain invisible and compliant with the groups’ dogma.
It made me wonder if a few of the folks in control of this group ever had their 5 year old switch triggered.
What makes people exclude other people?
When someone is not secure in their own beliefs and convictions they tend to *knock* anyone who thinks and behaves differently. For instance; You have a friend that you like a lot, but other people had a problem with your friend being different. Therefore it was strongly suggested that you sever ties with your friend for the good of the group. You refuse to comply and buck the suggestion every chance you get. This noncompliance and unwillingness to forsake your friend exposes an insecurity within the group and to impede further action you must now be eliminated.
Some people need a crowd around them to feel they are a part of something bigger. If this crowd carries with it the prestige of being exclusive then to participate and be accepted you can now express your own superiority to the masses by letting them know that to be a part of your crowd comes with a price and perhaps it is one that most can not afford to pay. They also use this new found in-ness to bolster their own low self esteem and in some cases they use it as revenge for perhaps not being popular when they were younger.
We are better than you and to be invited is an honor. Are you worthy? What will you give up in order to *be* with us? How hard will you work? How devoted will you be?
The problem is that when the newness wears thin or completely off, the accepted member may find themselves unhappy with the status quo. It is not unusual for folks within the group to become disenfranchised with the constant threat of being ousted or the constant haranguing manipulation exerted by the leaders. In fact, the member may soon realize that the leader is the most insecure of all of them.
Why would a group have such an intense need to be exclusive?
That’s simple…it makes it easier to manage and control. Can you imagine trying to control a large group of people? The group would have to be manageable. It must consume large portions of your day. The phone calls, the emails, the cajoling and the duplicity. What happens when one member feels insecure about their position within the group? How many lies does the leader have to tell in order to keep everyone in line? Even though you will have those folks that follow along just to be included, at times even those members will demand maintenance of some sort.
What happens when the members start to fight with each other? Do they now have the power to exclude other members? Yes, in fact, this is the only function that will keep the dysfunction of the group intact and working like a well oiled machine. There will always have to be someone on their way out in order to maintain control of the group. This allows the leader to stand tall and proudly announce “See what I did for you? I got rid of the problem! Once again, I have come to the rescue and restored order where there was chaos!” To reinforce this great action the leader will encourage the virtual stoning of the excommunicated member so that others will think twice about having thoughts that don’t benefit the group.
Sounds barbaric, but it’s been happening since cave man days. The only difference is that as human beings in this day and age we should be more evolved. We did not evolve from monkeys anyway, but rather from something that is now extinct and was in the lemur family…not a monkey at all. Besides I think primates would even be ashamed of this bad behavior.
While this has been an interesting experience for me, I know that some have suffered great loss and pain as a result of the group I was formally a member of. I will never forget this. I can only hope that some of the folks actually heard my message and will strive to make positive changes. There is a lot of warmth and kindness within their confines and many will be left behind that I have tremendous love for.
I’ve come to the conclusion that I have to protect my self respect and to exercise the freedom that was won for me by so many great members of a society I am very proud to be a member of. I am grateful that at some point in my toddlerhood a switch in my brain was triggered that inhibited my behavior so that empathy and decency began to play a larger part in who I am in this world.
But I am most grateful for my friends.