The human mind easily adapts and conforms to ideas, behaviors and the environment around it, often as a means of fitting in and surviving. Most people are content to follow along with what others are doing, even if it transforms them to the point that they do not recognize themselves. Over time, one’s convictions morph to what is widely acceptable in society, destructive acts are deemed constructive and necessary, succumbing to authority is considered necessary, and blurring the lines of morality becomes the norm.
Once the mind is programmed, it often runs on autopilot. It is up to the individual to recognize that their behavior is self-destructive, perhaps not physically but psychologically, and that it may be detrimental to others, as well as society or the Earth as a whole. The process of recognition, followed by non-conformity, would usually occur once a person entered adulthood. Sadly, in today’s world, adults often cling to childish behaviors and eccentricities, thus delaying the process of self-evaluation and personal evolution further and further into their lives.
The subtle system of rewards, comforts and punishments experienced throughout life is what molds us into who we become. For many of us, it means that we act in ways to ensure that others like us, accept us and respect us. By adulthood, many people find themselves trapped in relationships, jobs, marriages, and/or social roles that are completely disconnected from their true nature. Many lose the connection with who they really are and what they really want out of life. Over time, it becomes more difficult to gather up the courage to unleash the real self.
Our desire to fit in with a group and our willingness to change our behavior to do so start at a very early age – as early as two years old, suggests a new study out of the Max Plank Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, located in Leipzig, Germany. The research team that conducted the study, led by psychologist author Daniel Haun, studied two-year-old children, chimpanzees and orangutans who were given a ball to drop into a box divided into three sections, one of which resulted in a reward (chocolate for the children and a peanut for the apes). Here’s what happened:
After the participants figured out how to get the treat on the first try, they watched as untrained peers did the same activity but without any reward. Then the roles were flipped, and the participants took another turn while being watched by the others. More than half the time the children mimicked their novice peers and dropped the ball into the sections that did not produce chocolate. The apes, on the other hand, stuck to their prizewinning behaviors. The children did not simply forget the right answer—if no one watched them, they were far less likely to abandon the winning choice. (Source)
The human desire to conform seems to be natural, or at least it develops at a very early age. It lessens exclusion and ridicule during the early years and, often, results in a form of stability and social comfort during early adulthood. Yet, it also means that we are easily swayed to follow the majority, even if the majority is being influenced through heavy media programming and corporatized political system into negative thought, destructive habits, blind submission to authority, and consumerism.
“The broad message to young people nowadays is to conform and submit to norms and phony authority rather than to develop personal integrity, personal liberty and true happiness. Society beckons our youth to imitate others, to compete with others for no end, to pick a team and stay with them till the bitter end, and to neglect the most important virtues in life like spirituality, intellect and compassion.” ~ Dylan Charles, Editor, WakingTimes.com
It is easy to feed the human desire for conformity, therefore it will take effort to recognize unproductive behaviors. Non-conformity may seem outlandish to our peers but it will allow your true self to pursue a path in life that feeds another natural instinct – the pursuit of happiness.
About the Author
Alex Pietrowski is an artist and writer concerned with preserving good health and the basic freedom to enjoy a healthy lifestyle. He is a staff writer for WakingTimes.com and an avid student of Yoga and life.