The power of the group

Let us look at another pathological solution to the devastating symptoms of anxiety, which again involves a modification of life-style. One of the most alarming ways in which the individual can behave when faced with painful anxiety brought about by the stress of reality is by the destruction of the real situation. This is replaced with a less anxiety-filled reality. The process has a well-documented history. Certain countries prior to the last war, haunted by the social conditions of the age, set up totalitarian regimes which destroyed their social systems and even attempted to destroy races in order to create a new and reassuring reality.

A more prevalent withdrawal from reality today is a withdrawal into a special sort of conformity, a withdrawal into the group. It seems very likely that this instinct is responsible for the popularity enjoyed by many strange types of clubs and off-beat minority groups. Sometimes this is a harmless defence against anxiety and tension. But fashions change. The present club uniform is rather odd and many of us find it difficult to understand. The hair tends to be worn very long, brightly coloured and sculpted, or skin-short; the clothes are highly coloured, bizarre, untidy or excessively uniform. To the parent generation the aims of the club are inexplicable, and the means of achieving them questionable.

Nevertheless, it seems a shame not to make some effort to understand these social processes, for they evolve in order to try to ease reality tensions in a reasonably acceptable fashion. The football field or the tennis court have always been places where battles against a tension-filled reality are successfully waged.

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