Psychological Self-Help

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Research (Head, Baker, & Williamson, 1991) indicates that persons
diagnosed as "dependent personality disorder" tend to come from
families that had rigid rules, including "do not express your emotions
openly" and "don't be independent--do what you are told, follow the
family traditions, obey your parents." Hitler's father was the
unquestioned authority in his family; Hitler re-created his family
situation and established himself as the unquestioned authority of the
Fatherland. Every dictatorial authoritarian must have dependent,
compliant followers. Unfortunately, neither authoritarians nor
dependent people get much practice at functioning independently as
In the process of growing up we are exposed to enormous
pressures to be compliant or conforming. Examples: (1) Parents often
demand obedience, "Do it because I say so!" This may continue even
after the "children" are 18 or 20 years old. Overprotective parents
produce frightened, dependent children. (2) Peers reward going along
with the crowd. (3) Teachers expect you to do the assignments, not
plan and carry out your own education. (4) We are expected to get
married and we are led to believe that love and marriage will solve
most of our problems; we depend upon and long for all these benefits
from marriage. (5) Government regulates much of our lives; it is
drilled into us to follow the law. Have you ever been driving at 3:00
AM and noticed that you stopped and waited for all the red lights to
change even though no other cars were around? (6) Religions tell us
what to believe "with unquestioning faith" and, indeed, avoid and
strongly discourage doubts and questions. Can you imagine a religion
studying the psychological needs underlying the development of myths
and religions? (7) The media encourages passive observation and
glorifies persons in high authority. Independent thinking is hardly
rewarded, e.g. there are 30 to 40 candidates for president every four
years, but how many get a chance to share their ideas? Two, maybe
three. (8) The military teaches, "Yours is not to wonder why, yours is
but to do and die." (9) At work, the employees, even after 20 or 30
years, do not make decisions but wait on the bosses to tell them what
to do. And finally, (10) our friends, in most cases, only remain friends
so long as we agree with them on major issues. "To have friends, you
have to get along." We are taught well to be submissive followers. To
truly think on your own and to do your own thing can be very scary. 
The continuation of a society depends to some extent on
compliance. Forty years ago, writers claimed that the pressure to
conform was increasing. William Whyte (1956) in The Organization
Man contended that "getting along with others" and team-work were
replacing the Protestant Ethic of individual effort and hard work. David
Riesman (1950) in The Lonely Crowd described three common ways
we conform socially: (1) we are tradition-directed; that is, social
customs and beliefs, especially in the form of social pressures,
determine what we do. (2) We are conscience-directed; that is, we
have internalized our parents' morals and ideals so that we are
controlled not by our reason but by our sense of guilt. (3) We are
other-directed; that is, we are sensitive to what our friends and
associates think and feel and we try to please or impress them.
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