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The Disintegration of Individualism

We’ve all heard the phrase mob rule used to describe the condition when a large protest erupts in violence. The result of mob rule is chaos and a potential infraction of law and order. We might even consider the recent behavior of the Congress in regard to the nomination of a Supreme Court Justice a form of mob rule.  Rudeness, threats and anger within the two parties quickly spread into the streets where citizens chose sides and clashed with those considered the opposition. Emotions were out of control. Laws were broken. People said things and behaved in ways that were unthinkable for them in any other circumstance. This was an example of the power of group influence.

In addition to the threat to law and order, there is an even more serious danger that many of us might not consider, but was obvious in this situation.  It is the likelihood of the disintegration of the personal identity of the individuals that participate in the mob, or group, or organization; a consequence that can have a far-reaching, long-lasting effect on a person’s personality. This is an essential concern, one that is worth noting. C.G. Jung, a notable psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, explains it this way (I summarize):

A group or organization, whether its interest is social, political or religious formulates its own identity (collective personality) through its ideas, ideals and behavior much like an individual constructs their own individual identity (personal personality). A person will normally join a group due to the group’s promulgation of a particular idea that is held in common with the individual’s convictions. However, seldom does a group advocate only one idea or ideal. As an individual becomes more and more immersed within the group, those ideas that are held by the group but are not in agreement with the individual’s convictions may ultimately supersede those of the individual as the new member strives to conform to the identity of the group.  The individual’s personal identity (personality) then becomes repressed and takes a back seat to those of the group.  In other words, the member becomes more a reflection of the collective personality and less of their own individual personality.  Individual ideas and standards of behavior are sacrificed for group acceptance.  The result is the abandonment of original concepts and diversity that is an essential component in the long-term success of the group or organization by supplying fresh ideas and opinions that keep the group relevant and concurrent with the changing social, political or religious environment; while at the same time, diminishing the attributes of the individual’s own personality.  An example of this is the mentality and total nonexistence of individuality within Germany during World War II when the group identity dominated and consumed that nation.

So the underlying, looming threat is to each member of the group who has subtly suppressed the ideals and standards that defined their true identity (personality), the components that made that person a unique individual. Once an individual decides to leave the organization due to the dissolution of the group or because of doubts that have arisen on the part of the member concerning the group’s ideology or behavior, the individual may experience a sense of incompleteness. This is the result of the disintegration of individualism. The problem now is that their personality consists only of the superficial contents of the group that were accepted simply because of their association with the organization. The contents that once formed their own individual identity that had been carefully established as a result of meticulous examination and personal commitment are no longer readily available. This condition can lead to depression and other serious personal mental and emotional complications.
As the two parties prevalent in America today gain significant power in American life, we must all be cognizant of the tremendous influence they are exerting on our own individuality.  America was built on the diversity of ideas and opinions—the strength of individualism.



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