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The group as identity - group norms, group conflicts and the fear of one's own opinion.

When your personality gets lost in the crowd.

Criticism is something we can easily avoid by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.


We all have a personality.

We are all shaped by our own histories and backgrounds, have our own strengths and weaknesses, and our own perspectives on life. We are different - and this is a good thing!

We have an ethical understanding, we are emotional or more scientific, we are loners or cliquish characters, we prefer deep, long friendships or we are more like a leaf in the wind that needs a lot of people around it and quickly feels captured and taken in. We are thinkers, artists, analysts, maternal, youthful, paternal - or life artists.

One reads with passion, another prefers to be outdoors in nature. The third may be a tinkerer, and the fourth is perfectly happy as a musician.

But even in our basic attitudes we have different emphases and perspectives - and yes, there are even different ways of thinking, feeling and expressing ourselves. And then there are different temperaments and talents - the quiet ones, the meek ones, the fiery ones, the honest ones, the success-oriented ones and those who prefer simplicity.

All of these reflect diversity and abundance, like a colorful, wild, beautiful mountain meadow in late spring.

The groups, however, dictate their needs and the direction we should take if we want to belong to them and meet their expectations.

It is no longer a matter of living out one's individuality, but of dedicating oneself to the common goal, which is always redefined in one way or another: Either by majority decision (democratic) - or authoritarian, through a rigid, strong hierarchy.
In the latter case, a small, close-knit community determines the direction of many and gives a clear direction that is to be valid for all.

What was originally intended to serve the group's survival quickly becomes a constricting structure if the group's goals are pursued very dogmatically, very uncompromisingly. When flexibility and empathy are lacking, the law quickly takes precedence over the group members - the group becomes an end in itself.

But even without such a rigid structure, conflicts quickly arise, for example, when one cannot follow the opinion of the majority. In these moments, the feeling that one is perhaps wrong quickly arises. The reason for this is a psychological phenomenon:

When a majority declares something objectively wrong to be right, those who have recognized it as wrong also waver and often accept the wrong statement as right. What "the herd" believes must be right!

What does this do to you, to each individual in a group?
Well, you adjust your own thinking and actions as best you can to continue to receive approval.

"That's the way it's done here, that's the right thing to do within this framework."

With a growing sense of "we," i.e., the more one identifies with the group, the more the pressure increases to conform to the group norm, i.e., the corresponding views and behavior. Behind this is the fear of losing this security and being excluded and shunned. One simply does not want to become an outsider!

Psychology speaks here of the pressure of the majority and/or the pressure of authority that weighs on the individual, on you. The second is when you conform involuntarily because the members of the group are conforming to an authority that has and exercises power over you.

And this is where something happens that is the first dangerous stumbling block:
Because one wants to belong, one adapts to the majority, even if it contradicts one's own personality and attitude, simply because one wants to continue to belong.
One's own behavior is no longer based on one's own values, but on the values and ideas of the group - one's own self, one's own personality takes a back seat.
One commits oneself completely to the goals of an ideology, instead of remaining oneself, and adopts ways of acting and behaving that do not come from oneself but from the group. One goes with the flow and ceases to be self-determined.


Pray attention to what I say: One commits completely to the goals of a group, not necessarily to Jesus Christ!


However, if one's inner doubts cannot simply be turned off, then one gets into an inner conflict between one's group identity and one's own personality.

This may be the case when moral decisions cannot be supported because they fundamentally contradict one's value system. This can be the case when one experiences things that are different from what is considered true in the group. This leads to an inner conflict that becomes more and more apparent.


Such processes are not bad in the beginning. One is allowed to doubt. Questioning is allowed and healthy.

But it becomes dangerous when peer pressure sets in:
Peer pressure is the influence of other group members on someone who has a different opinion. This peer pressure is negative, not positive. People try by all means to get the individual back on track, often with the threat that failure to do so will result in expulsion from the community and termination of membership. In practice, this means that the own truth is questioned by the majority and judged to be wrong.

The result is often that the group opinion is adopted again, one swims completely with the current, one's own opinion is given up. The group no longer plays the role of a community with common interests and goals, but becomes the sole source of identity. One gives up one's personality.

Why do people do this, and how does it happen?
Well, the reasons are usually inner insecurity, lack of courage to stand up and defend one's own views even against a majority. One is simply afraid of becoming an outsider. If the inner conflicts persist, one will inwardly (and sometimes actively) withdraw - because when one's individual view differs from the general view, silence is a common reaction.

What can be stopped in a healthy group because personal boundaries are not touched and one's private role can be fully accepted again, for example when leaving a sports club, slips dangerously quickly into the realm of spiritual abuse in churches.

In a healthy church, where members are free to express their opinions, where critical questioning is encouraged and seen as a growth step, open exchange is possible, and the leadership is not authoritarian - it will seek consensus when conflicts arise, and allow exchange at eye level. A healthy church will be able to tolerate differing views on issues and encourage diversity in the church without responding with threats or fear-mongering.

A healthy leader will always be willing to support, encourage, and allow space for his or her own personality-not interfering in the privacy of his or her members or trying to control them.

Where this is not the case, where group pressure and authority prevail, where even the loss of individuality is seen as a goal, and where members are expected to put the good of the group ahead of their own, this is called spiritual abuse.

How to recognize spiritual abuse and what exactly spiritual abuse is will be the subject of the next article.

Sources: In gratitude and respect for the respective projects and enlightenment works:,which%20applies%C3%B6rigkeit%20and%20the%20group%20is%20limited.

With thanks to Prof. Dr. Samuel Pfeifer for a really good lecture.


"The Wave"- Morton Rhue.


As well as plenty of personal experience and research.

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