The Group Mind
Guest post by Dr Ali Walker
Hysterical fans descend into violence at the end of a football match. Screaming girls start crying as they watch a boy band take the stage. Entire populations turn on a particular race of people after a terrorist attack. Companies turn a blind eye to the infighting in their teams until someone quits or the brand begins to suffer.
We see the power of the group mind all around us. It is the collective personality that results when any number of individuals comes together for a common purpose. Many people think of the group as the sum of its parts. However, the group actually forms a collective mind as a new and separate entity that transcends its members. For example, Australia as an entity is more than and separate from the sum total of Australians. It has symbols, representations, laws, cultural practices and a landscape that gives it an identity above its inhabitants. Similarly, companies, schools, hospitals and organisations are more than and separate from the sum total of their employees, students, members and customers. A family is more than and separate from the sum total of its members. A relationship is more than and separate from the sum total of its two partners.
Why is this important? It is important because if we treat the group as an entity that is separate from its members, then we realize that we need to care for that ‘group self.’ We need to recognise and nurture the relationship, the family, the organization, the nation and the global community. At present, most groups consist of self-interested members who act for their own purposes and forget the needs of the group. In this scenario, the group is neglected and suffers. We experience this neglect in practical ways like disloyalty, lack of cohesion, lack of communication, lack of vision, and conflict.
So how do we care for the group?
When we are part of a group, we need to consciously surrender our wants and needs to harmonize with the group’s wants and needs. We need to see the robustness and vitality of the group as being paramount. This is often difficult to do, especially when we have been conditioned in a self-serving society based on individualism and freedom of choice.
But if we are not willing to make this sacrifice, it should also make us question our commitments- we should only commit to groups that we feel aligned with, and that we are willing to be a whole and authentic part of. When making all decisions, we must firstly ask: how will this affect the relationship, the family unit, the company, the organization, the brand, the nation, or the earth? When employing people, ask: is this person aligned with the group vision? Keeping the group mind at the forefront of each individual’s mind will keep each individual happy, because they will feel clearer on their own purpose within the collective. They will feel a sense of belonging. They will be more likely to show loyalty to the collective, and feel more enthusiastic about their endeavours.
There are many positive aspects to a society based on individualism and freedom, but there are also positive aspects to shifting our focus on collectivism and cohesion. We need to be an inspired society integrating all of these different ideals.