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Healthy Individualism Mindset: to develop the self, drop the need for groups (need for belonging)

A few days ago I was sitting at Meetup in Seoul, Korea.

A guy asked me about my job and "who do I work for".

In his broken English, he was looking for a company name, a "brand" that he could relate to.
I said that I moved around, and that there was no company for me.

And then, in his broken English, he said something that made me think:

Guy: But people need to have a sense of belonging. Here in Korea men feel a belonging to the company.
Don't you have a sense of belonging?
Me: Well, you are right. And I too, I belong. I belong to many groups, and I like them all. And ultimately, I belong... To the human race

He was taken aback.
He told me he was glad for having heard that. It had helped him to broaden his point of view.

I had to reflect on this.
Look at what different paths the sense of belonging had led two different people.

One moving around, feeling at home, comfortable and welcome in the most disparate places, connecting and bonding within different cultures and people.
And another one, becoming a company man.

The Ills of Extreme Needs of Belonging

Needing something can put you at risk.

It can make you dependent, and it can make you easy to manipulate.

If I look around today, I can see that many ills of society, including much-unneeded hatred and violence, stem from our need of belonging.

It's the sense of belonging that often leads people to hate others, and that spurs us to join different types of toxic groups.

Some of these groups purposefully feed on our needs of belonging for their own self-sustainment. And some of the leaders of those groups purposefully leverage our belonging needs for their personal gain and personal power.

This is exactly what this former nazi talks about:

An unhealthy need of belongings also fuel their opposites, further giving the hate groups a reason to exist. Black men join movements such as the Black Panthers also because of the white men who join the nazi hate groups.
And then they can point at each other and justify their own extremism.

I can see similar dynamics in the red pill, where the enemies are the women. Same as the nazis blame the jew for controlling society, the black pill says that women are empowered by the"feminized society".
And, again, the same happens on the other side of the spectrum. I am appalled at how mainstream society applauds and elects to thought leaders women whose mantra is "there is a special place in hell for women who don't support other women" (mafia-like organization, anyone?).

The sense of belonging also shows in nationalism and jingoism.
And it's been one of the major drivers of wars and genocides.

Before Joining the Group, Develop The Self

This is one of the reasons why one of the values of this website is that to join a group, you first have to develop the self.

There are plenty of unscrupulous charismatic leaders who want you to follow them and their doctrine.

You are free to join any group you want.
But only after you've developed the self.
Which includes working on your need for belonging, developing your values, and developing your critical thinking skills. That way, you are ready to criticize and warn others when the group becomes toxic.
And keep one leg on the outside, too. Some groups might be too far gone into toxicity to even fix:

That man either worked on his need for belonging, developed his values and stayed true to them, or developed his critical thinking skills and kept his head while everyone lost theirs.
In either case, he is a legend.

That man in that picture is a true symbol of self-empowerment.

Working on Your Belonging

BTW, I'm not proselytizing from a high soapbox.

I am writing this from the point of view of a guy who's been in the thrall of a need for belonging gone awry. And I also fell for the allure of charismatic leaders. Several times.

But, over time, developing my sense of belonging has been one of the major drivers for personal growth.

In the specific:

  1. Working on the intensity of belongings, upgrading the self, and downgrading the belonging: some sense of belonging is OK, and sometimes even healthy and laudable. In my case, I am glad of being Italian and I like that culture; I'm glad of being European and I love the freedom of movement; I'm happy of being Westerner and supporting democracy and freedom, etc. etc. The problem is when the belonging becomes extreme, because an extreme sense of belonging almost automatically comes with a "us VS them" mindset, and that almost automatically comes with the de-humanization of the "them"
  2. Working on the size of belonging, enlarging them and focusing on the values: the more "higher-orders" belongings you add, the better it usually is. You don't wanna stop at your tribe, your region, your country. And, ultimately, you want to get to humanity or beyond.
  3. Moving from groups, to values:  And you want to feel a sense of belonging and ownership for the positive values those groups uphold, rather than the groups per se. That way, you can freely abandon the group if it doesn't uphold the values anymore. Your allegiance is to the values, not the group per se.
DM and Stef have reacted to this post.
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I like this post. I would prefer to have a conversation about this very important topic. I agree with the premises. An example of the wider belonging:

In my perspective to be as "good" as one can, one must extends his compassion to as many things as possible, for instance to all living things.
The part I like the most in your post is to move from group to values. This is one of the strength of charismatic leader: to remind the group why it is even a group. Think about Wallace and the Freedom in Braveheart.

Anyway, I would like to dig deep in this topic, but I would prefer in the spoken form.

True, you can keep going higher than humanity to embrace all living things, or all matter.

As long as you avoid belonging that leads to hatred and to your own bitterness, then you've already met the first and most important criteria.

Charismatic leaders leverage values, true... When they're good leaders.
The more unscrupulous ones will be very happy to also leverage toxic belonging, though. Hitler, fascist leaders, hate groups thought leaders, these are all charismatic, in a way, and they all leverage the ingroup/outgroup phenomenon.

You can also see it in Trump, often.
"America great again", stop investing into the wellbeing of anyone else so we can focus on "us", withdraw from bigger supra-national bodies because they're clipping our wings, etc. Plus all the more obvious the finger-pointing and enemies he likes to make up, from immigrants to China.

BTW, this is not to say that any country should open its borders, or that China didn't do anything wrong -quite the opposite-.
But the way Trump leverages it, it's with an "us VS them" frame that shores up domestic political support for his own power. And it works best with those people who have a narrow and strong need of belonging.

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I think humans by nature are social creatures, unfortunately, the negative health consequences of loneliness and isolation are well known. I completely agree that the extreme need to belong to a group can be very toxic, as you can end up in those hate groups without even embodying the values.

I believe this is more prevalent in cultures where individualism is more celebrated and encouraged, like in North America and the west, since we tend to de-prioritize our social lives in favor of money/career/etc, which in turn makes us more desperate to belong to a group. Desperation usually causes the brain to "short-circuit" and bypass Logic and critical thinking.

Healthy Individualism VS Jingoism

We were sitting at the dinner table having a pleasant conversation... Until my dad turned negative and started railing against some Dutch bureaucrats.

What was his issue?

This Dutch bureaucrat I don't even remember the name of opposed the European Covid relief money -and especially the non-repayable ones-.
It was implied (or openly stated, I don't even remember and it doesn't matter) that Italy -and some other southern countries- would waste the money.

But why was my dad making such a big deal of it?

Can you see the issue here in relation to belonging and healthy individualism?
My father was taking it so personally because he was equating "Italy" with "himself".

He wasn't making any sense, talking about the Renaissance, the arts, and the great things about Italy, and how cold and nasty those worthless Dutches were.
As if that had anything to do with the Covid grants.
It almost ruined our dinner until I got it under control with some good collaborative frames and pacing and leading ("yes you're right, Italy is great, and yes, helping others in the time of need is a great thing to aspire to).

But that's what happens when people fuse their ego with bigger groups / entities / organisms: they become biased, lose all rationality, and make no sense.

Actually, the mindset pitfall is two-fold here:

  1. Fusing one's own ego with the bigger entity
  2. Fragile ego of having to be good / get good results / be highly valued by others, otherwise it means you're bad

When you put those together, it's only normal that people act, how to put it... Stupid.

Compare the Empowering "Healthy Individualist" Mindset

Compare the different approach with healthy individualism: I think Italy is a great country, has done incredible things for the world, and I'm happy of being Italian... And yet, that Dutch bureaucrat is also right.

Not only he's right, but I also agree with him on a moral level: it's immoral to spend your taxpayer's money without first making sure the money you give out will come back -it's not your money after all0. Or, at the very least, he should make damn sure that money will be well-spent.
And it's a fact that Southern Europe has had decades of poor government, too, so their worries are well-funded.

My ego overlap with the national entity is much smaller, which I think is a good thing. But it's also far more antifragile. So I can hold all three thoughts together: Italy is a great country, I'm happy of being Italian, and I agree with the Dutch bureaucrat, and he's right to be worried because Italy - and a good chunk of Southern Europe- has had some shitty government in the last decades.

Healthy Individualism & Intersexual Dynamics

This is the same mistake the red pill and the feminazis do.

Look at this example from a Red Pill thought leader:

Sure, Lopez's comment was not the happiest way of addressing men.
But why does he feel the need to be so nasty back?

It's because he equates his ego with "men", so any perceived attack against "men", it's against him.

Couple that with a fragile ego and a thin-skin, and you get the same effect of my dad at dinner: idiotic rants that make no sense, and that only make you come across as bitter and nasty.

Healthy Individualism VS Jingoists Power Move

The nastier jingoists of any kind seek to browbeat those who disagree by framing them as:

  1. Not good enough to be members of their groups (= judge frame, I'm the judge, and I judge you as not good enough to be part of this group)
  2. Traitors for not defending our group

So you get things like:

  • Oh, you're not a black panther? You're not a "real" black, and you're betraying the black oppressed people fighting against the bad white people
  • You're not a KKK support? You're not a "real" white man, you're betraying your ethnicity by allowing blacks to freely roam within us
  • You don't defend men against women? You're not a "real" man, you're blue-pill / beta / cuck
  • You don't defend women against the patriarchy? You're a sold-out, passive dick-envious bitch. Go away and go find some men to submit to

It's very nasty, since people do want a sense of belonging.
And since the jingoists seem so proactive and such fervent supporters of their in-groups, some people fall for their judge power move.

Not you, though.
So, how do you deal with these nasty power moves?

One option is mirror framing + dominance.
Such as, a similar and specular attack, and holding ground.

No, you're a nasty bitch for manipulating other women into a war that only serves to feed your own anger and frustrations

"angry" is a loaded keyword that often gets them.
They are angry, but they hate that word because it destroys their false, manipulative frame of being neutral and fair. And without that frame, they can't proselitize and recruit other people for their jingoist causes.

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I get to know the meaning of Jingo thanks to this:


I think there is something as a healthy group base identity vs jingoism (group narcissism), the same as self stem vs being an egomaniac, as you imply in your post, it helps a lot to keep it healthy to get passionate about other countries history, culture or strong points.

For example I could never throw atomic bombs in Japan as I would risk destroying my favorite Anime Studios. (Luckily my country do not produce those kind of weapons)


Lucio Buffalmano has reacted to this post.
Lucio Buffalmano

Stef: I think there is something as a healthy group base identity vs jingoism (group narcissism), the same as self stem vs being an egomaniac, as you imply in your post, it helps a lot to keep it healthy to get passionate about other countries history, culture or strong points

Exactly, great way of putting it!
As it's so often the case, virtue is rarely found at the total extremes.

Stef: For example, I could never throw atomic bombs in Japan as I would risk destroying my favorite Anime Studios

Acquire the skills and abilities to become great at providing something others want. Such a great way of acquiring power -including when it comes to self-defense- 🙂

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The full mindset:

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