How Herd Mentality or Groupthink can lead to Depression

by Nathan Chua

I have to admit that the title of this article is just about a dead giveaway. Experience has taught me how life can be even more difficult than it already is, when people are driven or indoctrinated to think that there is only one way to live the “good” life. It can drive one nuts when seemingly or outwardly successful people, most of the time unintentionally doom others into thinking they are less capable individuals, simply by describing one way of living that is similar to their own. If you don’t match how a self-described leader lives, you are flawed and outside the inner circle of those considered to be exceptional, or at least worthy of acceptance and love.

In my years of searching for the “good” life, I have come to understand that each one of us is special beyond what others think. The plain truth is we are all different. We should never think we are less than anyone else just because the other is smarter, has better looks, or is more financially well-off.

As Kierkegaard wrote:

The crowd is untruth.  There is therefore no one who has more contempt for what it is to be a human being than those who make it their profession to lead the crowd.

I find this prevalent in our country where people are motivated by fear to offer so much deference to religious personalities, almost to the point of fawning behavior. Whether these are fundamentalists or liberal Catholics, they would bow in obeisance to the “sole possessors” of wisdom. There’s very little wiggle room for variety. The result is we become more of a homogenous group that play roles, having to live up to these expectations, even if our DNA doesn’t conform to such made-up standards.

I have seen how so much suffering is inflicted by those who stand behind rostrums, proclaiming they know what it takes to be considered worthy of respect. People come to me not knowing where they stand in this world. The constant bombardment of religious sermons and motivational talks, can be overwhelming. They feel left out and are constantly grappling for that key that can open doors for them to become what they were not meant to be.

So for you who may think that swimming against the tide of social conventions is a curse, I admit, it will not be easy, when you are surrounded by people who have sacrificed their individuality for conformity. You will experience isolation and ostracism. But take heart, for there is no reason for you to feel down on yourselves, for you can otherwise be proud that you have chosen to take the road less traveled. You have chosen to be brave and to live according to your DNA; according to your wishes for what you believe will make you one whom you envisioned to be, someday.

Rollo May wrote, “The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice, it is conformity.”

Take courage for you are indeed courageous for choosing who you truly are, and more than what you are expected to be. Free yourselves from the dictates of others who have chosen to stop listening to their true selves, and sold their souls to blind allegiance, and their fears of being different.

 

Mental Health Awareness Month at UP

Last October 24, 2017, I had the privilege of being invited to be a part of UP Diliman’s Mental Health Awareness Month. Congratulations to the UP School of Economics Student Council for holding such a timely, relevant and successful event!

 

Is it wrong to be thinking bad thoughts?

By Nathan Chua

I can’t remember the last time I was going to write an article, that I felt will be too long for a single blog post. This is a topic that many of my clients find to be surprising and liberating.

I often meet people who have trouble with their thoughts. Many of us imbibe what we had been taught to fear in childhood. This is what psychoanalyst Erich Fromm referred to as our authoritarian conscience, as opposed to our humanistic conscience. We may think it is our own conscience dictating what is right and wrong to us, but it is actually the voices of people in our past still ringing in our minds.

Here’s an example from another psychoanalyst, Nancy McWilliams:

“When one of my daughters was a preschooler, a nursery-school teacher promulgated the idea that virtue involved “thinking good thoughts and doing good deeds.”  This troubled her.  She was much relieved when I commented that I disagreed with her teacher and felt that thinking bad thoughts was a lot of fun, especially when one could do good deeds in spite of those thoughts.”

I often self-disclose to my clients about what this quote means to me. I tell them how many jeepney, bus and taxi drivers I have assaulted in my mind. What we confuse most of the time is that we do three things every moment. We think, we feel and we do. Most of the time we do as we think or feel. We become our thoughts and feelings. It is important that we separate the three activities. What we feel or think does not make up who we are. It is what we do that matters in the end.

Emotions are not bad. They spur us into action. Our anger helps us defend ourselves against predators and abusers. Our fear and shame tell us to stay away from harmful situations. Our guilt stirs us towards doing better in the future. Our sadness helps us say goodbye to people or things, that were not meant to be forever.

Let me end this post with a quote from the champion of unconditional positive regard, Carl Rogers:

The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I change. I believe that I have learned this from my clients as well as within my own experience – that we cannot move away from what we are, until we thoroughly accept what we are. Then change seems to come about almost unnoticed.

What are the goals of psychotherapy? Video Version

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