Existential Psychology

Gaining Power From The Group Losing Power Because Of The Group

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Although it’s not usually consciously conceptualized as such, the psychological reason to identify with any group, be it a clique, team, religion, nation, or any other entity, is to augment power. By yourself you’re small, insignificant, exposed, but by being part of a larger entity you expand the boundaries of that small Self, feeding off of the power of the group, becoming bigger as a result.

The problem with this strategy in the existential sense is that the moment you think you’ve gained power by joining the group you’ve actually lost power, because your identity and your personal autonomy are subsumed under the norms, rules, and values of the group you’ve joined. Your personality, your voice, in short you, must align with that of the group or you risk ostracism, forced to once again face the enormity of the universe on your own.

So we see that group membership is a double-edged sword. You feel more powerful but in the process your individual power disintegrates as you are compelled to identify with the larger entity. Unless your unique traits and potentialities are a 1:1 match with the group you lose yourself at the moment you think you’ve found yourself through identification.

This is why the most psychologically healthy groups have as their underlying ideology the goal of helping each member self-actualize in his or her own unique way. This is the only ideology that encourages rather than limits personal freedom, allowing people to become who they are in and through the group instead of giving up who they are by identifying with some larger ideology.