THE PSYCHOLOGY OF REBELLION AND CONFORMITY
By Roy Masters
Author of “Hypnotic States of Americans”
June 20, 2012
This article first appeared in the February 1989 issue of New Dimensions magazine.
We tend to think of “conformity” and “rebellion” as opposite forms of behavior. Yet rebellion and conformity, in their usual form, are actually two sides of the same syndrome. Both are responses to pressure which keep the victim reacting to, and therefore “conforming” to, the pressure source. There is a third way of dealing with pressure that involves neither rebellion nor conformity, which allows a person to fully develop his innate potential, without outside interference.
Injustice drives people to rebellion—injustice in politics, in the home, in education, in the dog-eat-dog business world—in a system based on legality rather than on fairness, common sense, and decency. And yet the usual form of rebellion is not a reasonable response; it is an unreasonable response to unreasonable pressure, and in our rebellion we are all overtly or quietly going mad.
There is a creative rebellion, a rebellion without emotion, judgment, or resentment, a rebellion that consists simply of the poised observation of what is. But few know about this correct rebellion, because early in life we get sucked into a destructive one that works against our best interests. Even the most quiet, sticky-sweet people are secretly violent, which manifests in their victims as expressed violence. What I am saying is that society is made up of the obviously rotten and the apparently good, each type perpetuating the system that produces rebels and conformists.
Rebellion arises against cruel authority, but behind such authority stands hypocrisy. The real sinners are not the rebels but those who drive them to rebellion—the wolves in sheep’s clothing: cruel parents, teachers, preachers, bureaucrats, and the downright criminals hiding behind the cloaks of station and legality.