In one of those strange 'the universe is paying attention to me' moments, two of the people I read recently posted on topics that touch on the need for emotional congruency. One about how when someone close to them died unexpectedly, they think it might have been a comfort to them if there had been the kind of mass grief and hysteria involved as there was for people like Princess Diana. The other about how a lot of fans have trouble wrapping their heads around the idea that the thing they love may not be loved by others and may in fact have problematic aspects and that this doesn't in any way diminish their capacity to love it anyway, rather than feeling the need to start a flamewar every time someone implies that they don't like the thing enough.
A third related phenomenon is outrage-blogging, where the point (besides generating traffic) is to get validation by writing inflammatory posts about things that bother you. Once you get sufficiently good at this, your audience will consist of 90% people who violently agree with you and enjoy the shared outrage, and 10% people who violently disagree with you, who get their own outrage-fix by fighting against the 90% in the comments section. And yet another related phenomenon is the 'release the winged monkeys' effect, where bloggers who have enough popularity have to be careful about how they share outrage, because if they're not careful a certain portion of their audience will swoop over to the source of the outrage and attempt to bury them in hate/counterarguments/etc. And if the source of the outrage has their own sufficiently large audience... well. But the relevant point here is that even if the blogger is not habitually an outrage-blogger and their audience is fairly reasonable, there's something about someone you respect expressing outrage that seems to incite other people to start feeling the same way and to jump to their defense.
I'm still mulling this over way too much to have a coherent mini-essay here about the common points and what it all means and all that, so instead here are some disjointed thoughts on the topic:
- There seem to be a couple of magic ingredients here: strength of emotion, and level of status/respect
- The stronger the emotion, the more unacceptable it feels for other people not to share that emotion
- And when witnessing strong emotion in someone else, the higher their perceived status (to you, the witness) the more likely you'll hop on their emotional bandwagon
- It follows from points 2 and 3 that if you feel a strong emotion and other people don't validate it, you must have low status. Now you have two problems: you're upset *and* you're not important enough to have your emotions respected, which is going to feed into your upsetness
- I'm tempted to draw some kind of line from low self-esteem or relatively weak personal identity to the desire for emotional congruency, because feeling temporarily disrespected is only a major problem if you feel it implies certain things about you in the grand scheme of things
- I'm also tempted to draw a line from extroversion to the desire for emotional congruency, because my experience suggests that the more extroverted you are the more passionate you tend to get about things in general, which would correlate to the 'strength of emotion' part (NB: my subject pool has a major confound in that almost all the introverts I know are NT types on the MBTI)
- There's a psych concept called 'locus of control', where if you perceive it as being outside yourself then you're going to feel helpless and like you have no control over your life and if you perceive it as being internal then you feel like you have agency and so forth. I'm going to guess that there's a similar sort of 'locus of identity' concept, where if your sense of self is anchored on a small number of external things like 'is a good parent' or 'Star Trek fan' then you're going to feel massively threatened if one of those things is challenged in some way, such as getting into a fight with your adult child or hearing someone talk about why Star Trek kind of sucks in some ways. Whereas if your identity is more diffuse (parent + fan + athlete + writer +...) or you happen to be one of those lucky people who don't need any kind of external validation at all, then a threat to one of the things you like isn't going to faze you so much.
- And obviously the more threatened you feel the stronger your emotional reaction to the threat and the more important it becomes to you that other people at the very least acknowledge your emotions
- But none of this fully explains to me why there's the split between belief-congruency and emotional-congruency verbal fight styles. I'm fairly neurotic so it's not like I haven't had my share of strong negative emotions. So why haven't I ever had the urge to start saying hurtful things to get a rise out of the other person?