TIPS FROM THE QUEEN OF REJECTION®
Elayne Savage, PhD
IN THIS ISSUE
1. All Frenzied Up - A Look at Mob Mentality
2. So Exactly What is Mob Behavior?
3. Witnessing Mob Mentality First Hand
4. F.E.A.R. = 'False Exaggerations Appearing Real'
5. The Mob Mentality Morass
6. Contacting Elayne
7. Privacy Notice and Subscription Information
All Frenzied Up - A Look at Mob Mentality
by Elayne Savage, PhD
I don't scare easily. But when fear is dished out daily, it's hard not to want to protect myself from the onslaught.
I feel ganged up on. Clobbered. Pummeled. So much information and misinformation is being hurled at me. If I believed everything I heard, I might be scared to death.
There are so many threats being thrown about: How the government is trying to "kill granny." (Hey, that's ME!) That Medicare could be taken away. That I'll have to go before a 'death panel' and be told I have to end my life because I’m not productive enough (or something.)
Truth be told, this last threat hits home. But how did they ever discover my secret fear? How could they know I've been concerned about my productivity of late? Let's face it, some days I'm not writing as much as I'd like. And I get embarrassed every time someone asks, "Where IS that third book?? And I, too, wonder why I'm not working harder to secure more speaking engagements?
How did they ever discover that I'm turning into such a slacker? Sheesh. If I'm not careful, I'll soon be taking their threats personally!
The outrageousness of these threats might even be seen as comical. But they are far too scary to be funny. What frightens me most is the viciousness of the mob behavior at the Town Hall meetings. The outbursts verging on hysteria. The misplaced anger. The hyperbole. The spewing forth of toxic rhetoric.
It rattles me to the core.
So Exactly What is Mob Behavior?
Here are dictionary definitions for 'mob.'
- A disorderly or riotous crowd of people.
- A group of persons stimulating one another to excitement and losing ordinary rational control over their activity.
Social Psychologists define two basic types of mob behavior.
- Contagion theory holds that the energy exchange and anonymity of being in a crowd causes people to act in a certain way.
- Convergence theory holds that like-minded people (people who wish to act a certain way) converge to form crowds.
It just crossed my mind that definitions of 'terrorism' and 'terrorist' fit here as well:
- The use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes.
- The state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terrorization.
- A terroristic method of governing or of resisting a government
- A person, usually a member of a group, who uses or advocates terrorism.
- A person who terrorizes or frightens others.
Hmmmm. Writing this is bringing back unpleasant memories . . .
Witnessing Mob Mentality First Hand
I witnessed mob mentality first hand many years ago when I was a Child Welfare worker for the City and County of San Francisco. We initiated a planned work stoppage to make a point that we deserved a raise. Or more benefits. Or something like that.
Feelings ran high. The flames of indignation were fanned. The workers got all frenzied up. Some behavior became aggressive and unruly.
I watched helplessly as normally responsible and reasonable social workers became disrespectful, disruptive and irrational. Jekyll and Hyde-like they turned on anyone who did not agree with their stance. Suddenly everything became 'us' vs. 'them,' 'good and bad,' 'right and wrong.' The polarization was intense. They threatened, they bullied, they intimidated.
I watched as social workers flung themselves in front of municipal buses to prevent them from rolling. There were ugly shouting matches when picket signs weren't honored. Fury and viciousness were unleashed. It was out of control and scary.
Although I didn't support the tactics, I did support the cause. I agreed to leaflet the commuter bus station. I naively walked up to a queued of passengers and handed out flyers. A few folks got upset. One man suggested, "Miss, you just cannot push information at people. You should hold it out and let them take it."
In those days I took everything personally. As I listened to his words I felt chastised, dismissed and rejected. Later I understood what a valuable gift this was! Thanks, Mister, for taking the time to teach me such a valuable life lesson on honoring respect and personal boundaries of others.
F.E.A.R. = 'False Exaggerations Appearing Real'
These surely are scary times. Many of us are leery of all the unknowns. Change is a huge unknown. And this uneasiness breeds fear. For many of us, the idea of change rocks our comfort level.
In the e-letters of March and April of this year I wrote about Fear, Anger, Outrage and Change. Little did I dream how relevant these musings would be today. Little did I imagine the Town Hall meetings would disintegrate into such chaos. I had no clue how these uprisings could possibly instill so much fear. Or how the media would pounce and inflate.
Little did I dream how out of control and hysterical folks would become. The flames of fear were fanned and populist rage exploded.
This nation has become so fragmented and polarized. What has become of the idea of "one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all?"
F.E.A.R. is often described as 'False Exaggerations Appearing Real.' In other words, all too often fear arises through the prism of our misperceptions.
In March 2009 I wrote about 'Fear, Anger and Outrage.'
In April 2009 I wrote 'Don't Fear Change. Change Fear.'
In these pieces I define rage as 'anger with a history.' "Rage is an emotion beyond anger. The way I see it, anger relates to something happening in the present and reflects “now” feelings. By contrast, rage arises from overwhelming, sometimes unbearable feelings from the past.
These strong feelings arise from perceived mistreatment at the hands of others. Perceived injustices. Betrayals. Disappointments and Loss."
"Most often when you scratch the surface of anger, you'll find fear . . . Fear and anger are connected emotions . . . When we are faced with a stressful situation, we respond in one of two ways. By fear or anger. We can see the connection between fear and anger in aggressive behaviors.
The bully is a good example. The bully puffs him or herself up because underneath that tough exterior lies fear and vulnerability."
I wrote how fear has been galloping through this country at breakneck speed. Following the horrific attacks of 9-11, The Politics of Fear erupted, playing to our fears and anxieties. Terrorism. Anthrax scares. Gay Marriage. Immigrants. Disease epidemics. The Economy. And now Health Care and a new president who happens to be Black.
A culture of fear has been permeating and fraying the fabric of our country. Fear is in the air and it's contagious. And we feel vulnerable. Helpless. A small voice asks, "What's going to happen to me?"
I wrote these two e-letters several months ago. I didn't dream how the recent frenzy of fear and rage would make them even more relevant now.
Let's talk more about Mob Mentality. Social Psychologists prefer to use the terms 'crowd hysteria' or 'herd behavior' (think 'stampede.') The definition of 'stampede is " a sudden frenzied rush of panic-stricken animals."
When humans are caught up in similar panicky situations, we too can be swept along with the tide of mob hysteria. Even though it may be against their better judgment. All too often mob behavior develops a life of its own, spinning out of control.
Like my social worker colleagues, folks with normally decent values may become infected with mob hysteria.
At these times mob participants lose their sense of self.
They become submerged in the group. They lose their personal boundaries. With the loss of this sense of separateness and individuality, comes loss of principles, personal integrity, and sense of responsibility.
In other words, they lose their moral compass.
Many factors can contribute to mob behavior. Here are a few:
- When people feel invisible, dismissed, not listened to or heard, they may react by puffing themselves up bigger than life and participate in mob behavior. By raising their voices and shouting out their fears, they know they are heard.
- If they feel economic opportunities are passing them by, they may be inclined to band together with others who feel the same.
- Mobs tend to view the recipients of their rage as objects rather than real people.
- There's a certain sense of security in the anonymity of a large group. It gives permission to say and do things they would not ordinarily do.
You can probably tell I've been pretty disturbed by these recent out of control happenings. It has helped me a lot to pull together some ideas and thoughts, put them in order to make some sense of it all, and share them with you.
I'd love to hear YOUR thoughts on the subject . . .
© Elayne Savage, PhD
Until next time,
Elayne Savage is the author of books published in 9 languages.
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