I like pizza. A lot actually. In my younger days I ran a pizza place. People would often ask me if I got tired of pizza.
Nope. No a bit.
I would say, well there are so many kinds of pizza, you know I can vary what I eat quite a lot. I said that, and it is true, but I didn’t do that. I mostly ate the exact same pizza. Thin crust Pepperoni and mushroom. I like it… a lot (did I say that already?). I would still eat it at least once a week, if I didn’t fear being mocked by my wife. She doesn’t like pizza, well that is not strictly true, but she likes white sauce pizza, which by my definition doesn’t count as pizza…and she has trouble with dairy, so no cheese. I mean come on!
In Canada we are supposed to be able to pursue a life of happiness unrestricted as long as what we do does not adversely harm others. While this is strictly true, it is not practically true. We all modify our behaviours based on our peer group. It is okay to like Justin Beiber, until your peers decide it isn’t cool anymore, so then you have to say you don’t like him anymore, even though you may actually still think he is talented, even if he is doing some weird things.
Something interesting happens when you become accepted into a peer group, you give up some of your personal freedoms to belong. You give up some of who you are to feel connected to this group. I find that fascinating. To me this is one of the most interesting things about people. We will even do things that are terrible to others to belong to that group. Ask most school kids about having been or having done some bullying. Most have encountered it, and often they really didn’t want to hurt the other person, they just really wanted to look cool to the people they were with. I get it. I don’t remember bullying anyone, but I don’t eat pizza as much as I want…and I am an adult.
What is it about being in a group that makes us want so desperately to stay in the group that we give up part of ourselves to stay there. I have been part of groups where, I really hated who I was when I was in it, I didn’t like the group any better, but I was scared to be out of the group.
We, people I mean, are built for connection. We have lots of different diagnoses for people who don’t feel or are separated from that feeling of connection. It is an intrinsic part of what makes us human. If you are a person of faith, you would say that is how we are made, to connect to God. If you are a person who looks to science, you would say it was a survival instinct that continues through evolutionary processes. Whatever your reason of choice it is hard to deny this overwhelming imperative.
If I ever went back to university, i would study this. I would study what it is that makes us like this, and I would study what that leads us to do.
My dad was a military history buff. He had many many books on the subject and was very knowledgeable about it. I am not uninterested in that, but my angle is different, I want to understand the why. I want to see, not that we hurt others, or fought for this piece of land, but why we felt that need. How do we decide who sets the course, how do we decide that that once the course is set, it is more important to stay in the group than it is to say, well wait a minute. I don’t care about this, so I am not going to do it.
People in a group are so very interesting, and individually are just as interesting. We are all free to chart our own course and so we do, as long as our peers let us. The pressure to be a High School student trying to decide the next step, stuck between teachers and their pressure to get good grades and have options open, the guidance counselors telling you to figure out what you will be goods at, you parents telling you to find a career that will either make you happy or wealthy, and your friends who are just as confused as you, but don’t want to appear to not know what they want. I just can’t imagine how hard that would be. You have a whole life in front of you, but how can you possibly figure it all out. The signals from everyone around you are so confusing.
My advice? Relax, let’s go get pizza, we’ll have time to figure it out later, and the Pizza will be worth it!