Psychology of rebellion and conformity

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.

Rebellion can never free you so long as strong emotion is involved, simply because the emotion which converts your discernment of the injustice before you into a judgment of it, causes you then to become secretly subject to the injustice. The hostility that accompanies your judgment transfers to you the character and behavioral disorders of those against whom you would rebel. For example, when you resent (judge) another's judgment of you, in the process you become like the one who judged you: judgmental. Being judgmental then prevents your effectively rebelling. You cannot correct the system because you are reflecting it—beginning to be what you were rebelling against. Hostility causes you to struggle between the no-win choices of rebellion and conformity.

As you fail to affect the system for good and as it affects you for ill, your pride, your ego, feels your failure. It steps in and tries to counteract the effect inside you with more emotion, of hate or "love." That only complicates your dilemma. Your ego does not want to see that you are like those you despise. Refusing to face this truth, by denying facts and rationalizing, you are now rebelling against the truth in your mind. Again, resentment is at work. The same thing is happening in you that you despise in others.

You see, they are victims too. Long ago, as children, your tormentors were made to doubt the Truth within them, and as they fell from grace, the spirit of pride entered and compelled them to overreact in the extreme to injustices, real and imagined, so as to evolve their "beast." Rebelling and conforming kept them so preoccupied they did not have to see what was taking place. An implanted identity does the same thing to everyone. Resentment, judgment, rebellion, and servitude fixate your mind so completely that all you can think about is getting even with or ahead of those who put you down, from whom you learned to become unjust.

Suppose I wished to make you do something you ordinarily would not do. Taking your rebellious nature into account, I would forbid you to do this or that. Perhaps I would act angry to pressure you, fully knowing you would react by doing just what I have forbidden, which is what I secretly wanted you to do. Anyone can control you in this fashion and you will not detect the deception. Indeed, efforts to persuade you of it will fail, because pride, being the enemy of Truth, rebels against all realization. Even if, as your manipulator, I told you what I had done to you, you wouldn't believe me because you would rebel still, against the explanation, rather than accept the truth. And what, may I ask, do you accept when you rebel against Truth? More of the enemy's will, of course!

So beware of the wicked ones who have discovered (through their own experience) the helplessness of the victim in rebellion, and have learned to acquire power through intimidation. All manipulators, whether they realize it or not, are part of an ancient conspiracy against mankind. The same spirit that in one manipulator establishes doubt and rebellion in you, inhabits another who appears as a buddy—a friend and comforter of "your" cause. It often happens that enemy and "friend" occupy the same body, typically in a schizoid parent who fluctuates between extreme moods of rage and "love." The cruel, bad mood establishes the mad, rebellious nature; then the kind mood turns around and reinforces the self it put inside you.

Being cruel one moment and kind the next is characteristic of manipulators—in particular of lost, loveless, impatient parents who, whenever they feel guilty for driving their offspring to desperate acts, finish them off by becoming their "friend." And once you have been corrupted by cruelty and then "helped" by the tormentor-turned-savior, you are set up to be addicted to a succession of confounding hate/love involvements with lower and lower low-life people.

Schizoid parents often set their children up to become criminals; then friends/fiends egg them on. From this it is easy to see how you can become afraid of "love," and why young people often react to kindness with violence. Such striking out is a child's way of hurting the source of a hurtful love, to stop it from "loving" and possessing and corrupting. But what do most parents do when their children hurt them? They become upset, angry and violent themselves; then feeling guilty for this, they work harder at "loving" the child to overcome his rejection.

The corruption that begins at home continues at school. Considering how cruel teachers can be to children, it is practically a certainty that your child will pick up wrong friends to soothe the effects of bullying in the classroom. And so he becomes the puppet of both bullies and friends.

The spirit of rebellion, once established, will seek both provocations and support to justify its expression. The fallen soul's very existence, co-mingling with pride that has entered, depends upon intrigue and reaction in the extreme. If there is nothing to rebel against, boredom and anxiety set in. Unconsciously perhaps, you will set about to engineer something to resent. You will find someone to spoil until he takes advantage of you. You will needle someone into rebellion against you so that you may struggle against his rebellion. Spoiled by having his own way, a willful son knows how to trick his mother into being a nag. He simply drags his feet over doing some petty chore, timing it to upset her and to make her pressure him so that he can then utilize her pressuring to justify his continued stubbornness. Later, the irresponsible nature formed in this game will need a wife to nag it. And what kind of a woman marries such a man, may I ask? The kind who needs to be a nag, one whose stubborn sense of worth depends on the thankless task of shaping up an ungrateful rebel.

The kind of goodness that appears as a resentful rebellion against evil is not genuine. Say you have a disgusting brother. He is a dope fiend who intimidates you all day long into tolerating his vile ways. You rebel by being outwardly the good brother. But such goodness is an expression of an egotistic value judgment, the sense of worth it gives existing only in contrast to someone's being worse than you. "Good" guys often take their role from disgust and judgment based on resentment. Often they seek to validate their phony goodness and assuage the guilt it makes them feel through "positive" reinforcements, the traditional "kosherizing" emblems of churchgoing, degrees, success. Their love of worldly authority provides a refuge from the authority of conscience. If you are one of these, you send out confusing signals to your own children.

by - Roy Masters

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