Every group has the challenge to find a way to bridge the gap between its individual member’s desire to be individuals and all the members together wanting to feel one with the group.
What is right for the group and what is right for the individual will not necessarily be the same. And it establishes a natural tension. It all serves the goal of the members to feel at ease together and be able to do the work they set out to do together.
To feel safe the group will search for ways to establish conformity. Whereas the individuals will search for ways to establish their individuality as their means for safety.
This quest to make the group feel safe becomes visible in the activities the individual members take up towards others. That is how they indicate what it means to be part of that group. They’ll share habits and rules in an effort to have the other follow them. But sometimes they do it with such force that others don’t buy-in and reject being forced to follow given advice. And if they chose a path where they become overwhelming with their care, the rejection might follow to free oneself from too close guidance.
The individuals need to feel safe becomes visible in the ways they will set themselves apart. May it be by shifting the habits or rules slightly or by adding something new. Sometimes it’s something that others are likely to take up. But sometimes these early adopters take up something others don’t like. It’s a risk they take to find their way to belong, one which may lead to rejection.
A lot of this happens unconsciously. It is guided by the unaddressed emotional responses to one another as well as the worldview we’ve built up throughout our existence. A worldview we built on the ones past generations transmitted us. One that is also impacting the system we live in.
What I’ve found, is that the more aware we can become about this process, the easier it becomes to be open to listen to others and seek to understand their values and motives. It leads to sharing. The hard part then often is to remind oneself as well as the other about the responsibility that comes with membership.
When listening and sharing is missing in a culture, diversity will easily lead to an endless process of differentiation and division stressing individuality over belonging. Then belonging fades away overwhelmed by the complex task of adapting to the supremacy of the individual.