Clique Makers: Part 1

The difference between Cliques and Friendship Groups is control. One is based on control, and the other has no interest in control.

When people are in a group or a class because of a common interest, they are all there for the same reason, and should all be equally welcome, and equally welcome to participate fully. Narcissists however, often bring the drama.

Exclusion, not Inclusion, is the main function of a Clique.

A person does not have to be full-blown NPD to make cliques, just enough narcissism to find joy in creating a subgroup within the group where they get to be the Leader, and include or exclude people based on their Judgment... usually, really, based on how much the Clique-Leader(s) believes a person will follow their agenda of exclusion. The willingness to exclude and demean others is the main requirement.

"We" are above "Them" is the Clique mantra.

Clique-makers bring drama into a situation by creating a "hierarchy". They will try to turn any place where there are humans into a social soup of "In Crowd" and "Out Crowd". Of course if the actual leader of the group is a Clique-maker (like a professor, coach, or manager) the drama is through the roof. However that does not need to be the case, Cliques are made all the time within larger groups, often hidden from the real leader of the group.

A person who is fair-minded, kind-hearted, with strong boundaries and original thought will usually not be included in a Clique. When they are, they will only be included until they make noises of disagreement, stand up for someone who is being treated unfairly, or until they "outshine" the Clique-Leader(s) in some way. Then they will be rejected forthwith, even shunned.

When there is a Clique happening, whoever does not fit the parameters of the Clique will be excluded purposely, and treated as if they are not worthy of common courtesy and respect. Obvious examples of this behavior can be found all over modern culture, and can be found in stories throughout recorded history. Large and small scale Cliques have caused terrible problems for humans throughout the ages.

Cliques are different than friend-groups. A subgroup of natural friends who happens to be in the larger group does not exclude people, judge people as "less worthy" than they are, or make it known that certain people are Not Liked.
Natural friends voluntary come together on their own, there is no Leader (or co-Leader) who gets to decide who "WE" don't like, or orchestrate what everyone else does all the time, or who's opinions and ideas are automatically held above everyone else's.

While Cliques enjoy rejecting anyone who doesn't conform, natural friend groups don't even notice how others are dressing, talking, or acting. They only take notice if a person has done something to hurt someone.

Rejection, ostracism, or shunning of a member of a healthy group is rare, and only occurs if someone did something  terrible that caused someone personal injury and damage. Things such as physical attacks, slander, adultery, child endangerment, verbal attacks, fraud, and theft. And even then, rejection does not necessarily occur if the person shows remorse and makes amends; if the damage is recognized, faced, and repaired.

In contrast, a Clique does not necessarily reject people no matter how heinous a crime they commit. Since the Clique membership is not based on anything except "In Crowd", play-hierarchy and the egos of the Leader(s), members do not get rejected as long as they meet those three requirements. A member would not be rejected solely for defrauding or attacking a fellow member. If, however, the victim stands up for themselves against the perpetrator, it is HE or SHE who will be rejected. The victim, not the perpetrator.
The exception to this is when the victim is either a "Leader" or a "Leader's Pet", then there will be great Ego Injury (narcissistic injury) and the perpetrator may be rejected. But it is not for the CRIME ITSELF, it is because of the Ego Injury. (If the very next day, someone perpetrated the exact same crime on a "lesser" member of the Clique, the whole thing would be downplayed, ignored.)   

Natural friend groups have no parameters except obvious courtesy and respectful behavior; different personalities and points of view add richness to the group. New members are welcome, and jealousy does not dictate who is let in. A very accomplished man with "movie star looks" would be just as welcome as anyone, and a very intelligent, well-spoken woman with "movie star looks" would just as welcome as any man. A "nerdy" woman or man, a shy woman or man, a young, old, skinny, heavy, short, tall, any-race, any background woman or man is equally welcome as anyone else.

Cliques however actually enjoy rejecting people based on whatever "parameters" they make up, which can change based on someone's insecurities. The goal is sameness, not diversity, and anyone who disagrees, has an original point of view, who does not follow the social signals and dress, talk, or act within the very limited "approval" is not welcome. Anyone who the Clique members feel "out-shined" by in any way, or anyone who the Clique Leader(s) feel they won't be able to control will not be let in, and will possibly be driven out of the original larger group altogether. 

On a rather large spectrum, Cliques range from kindergarten children leaving classmates out who don't have brown hair all the way to national and global political agendas. Cults are more intense versions of Cliques, but the basic parameters remain.

Who joins Cliques? Nearly all of us have been involved in Clique behavior at some point in our lives, maybe several times. Sometimes we're aware of it, sometimes we're not. We are usually more aware of being on the EXCLUSION end of Clique behavior than being on the INCLUSION side of it. When we are being included, we may not realize that people are being treated with contempt and disrespect by our fellow group members, and so we don't realize our group is really a Clique. But when we are being treated as if we don't belong, as if we are less worthy, as if we don't have a right to speak our minds, as if we don't have a right to participate, as if we are incapable and less than equal, then we can discern that there is indeed a Clique going on. Especially when those who we thought were our friends make no move to stand up for us, or act as if they don't even notice the behavior, as if we deserve to be treated as a lesser person (because to them, we are).
But when we are INCLUDED in a Clique, we may not think much about the way our partner is being spoken down to, or excluded. We may feel powerful when our brother or sister is being treated with disrespect by our "friend" who seems to hold us in high esteem. We may feel like we've "arrived" when WE are being spoken to as an equal by another person, but the person we are standing next to is being left out or condescended to. We may get a thrill of recognition when someone praises our opinions or Facebook post, and let that blind us to the way that person opposes or shoots down everything someone else says or posts.

Clique-Makers play to our innate human need for acceptance, approval, and recognition. We fall for it because we are human. But when we realize that we have been recruited into a Clique, we become Co-Clique-Makers if we go along with their agenda of excluding, disrespecting, and demeaning others.

Spiders And Snakes And Triggers, Oh My

When someone sees a spider or snake, or perhaps a hornet or a centipede, they may instantly react with obvious fear or panic. It shows, you can see it happen, and they often don't try to hide their reaction. It happens so quickly that they may not be able to hide their reaction, even if they tried. They'll let out at least a muffled squeal or scream, or jump back, or run away. The spider or snake is associated as a trigger for fear in the person's brain, the region called the amygdala. It's one of the brain's ways of keeping us safe from harm, a kind of automatic function.

All of us humans have triggers that are very subtle, that we ourselves are unaware of. Some of those triggers cause feelings of anxiety, excitement, anger, comfort, joy, resentment, envy, jealousy, trust, or distrust. Things we see and hear, things we smell, things we touch can be triggers. Like the feeling of comfort when we step into a warm and bright kitchen, or smell baked bread. Our mind instantly feels comfort and warmth just from the smell of baked bread, or coffee, or maybe stew, or pie. Many of us feel warmer or even safer when we see a hearth fire or a woodstove, even if there is very little heat.

Most of us have triggers that cause more intense emotions such as panic, like when we see a snake or a spider, or some other possible threat. And some of us have triggers that cause us to feel rage or defensiveness, even hatred.

Triggers are not the same as straightforward emotional reactions to things. They are faster, instant, "knee-jerk". It can be the look in a person's eyes, or the shape of their eyes, that can be someone's trigger for trust, OR for distrust. The sound of someone's voice, their dialect or accent, their intonations, all can be triggers for us to trust them or to distrust them. Even someone's broad smile that is beautiful and sincere can be a trigger for some people to feel a great degree of trust and even caring, but it can also be a trigger for some to feel an extreme reaction of distrust, even anger. Both reactions have no thought process behind them, there is no actual assessment if the person smiling is actually trustworthy or not. Triggers are not about thought process, they are reactions.

When we have triggers we are not aware of, we may project the feelings the trigger produces onto the object, animal, or person. "Snakes are scary" "Spiders are dangerous" are really expressions of our feelings about them, not facts about them. Snakes are only scary to individuals who are afraid of them, and only about 11% of snake species are venomous. Spiders are only dangerous if the spider is venomous to humans, we are within biting range, and they choose to bite us. The vast majority of spiders are non-lethal to humans, and most are much more concerned about hiding and getting killed than almost any human. The survival chance of a venomous spider in the US is approximately 99%. The most recent stats of deaths by spider in the US is 5.
It would be accurate to say "I am afraid of snakes", or "I am afraid of spiders", rather than "snakes and spiders are dangerous". Statistically, humans cause about 3000 times more fatalities (homicides) than both snakes and spiders annually. Dogs cause about 10 times more than both snakes and spiders.

A lot of people share common triggers, sometimes, often, developed in childhood. Most people will admit to the baking bread aroma that makes us feel warm and happy inside. But there are all kinds of subtle things that our brain associates with a memory of a feeling, and so when we see, hear, smell, or feel something, we feel that again.

For me, Sunday mornings in the Spring, when the sun is out but it's not very warm or bright, make me feel bleak, even depressed if I don't recognize the trigger. When I was 8 years old, we woke up on Father's Day to find my Daddy passed away, he had had a heart attack during the night. So even decades later, on Sunday mornings when the sunlight and the air match that morning, I feel unnerved, sad, out of sorts, even dark. If I catch what's going on, I can actively do something to change my mood.

I know a young girl who is afraid of dogs, but terrified of German Shepherds, or dogs that look like German Shepherds. She is not silly or wimpy. She had an encounter with someone's pet German Shepherd that was terrifying for her, and it left the imprint in her subconscious. Now, when her eye sees a "German Shepherd", her brain signals "Danger!" Just like anyone who's afraid of bees and hornets and spiders.

There is a man I know, an lifelong fisherman, who is very much afraid of rapids when he is in a boat. Any rapids, any boat. Even water that resembles rapids because it is flowing over rocks in a shallow area of a lake. In his youth when he was fishing with a friend, they became caught in a dangerous part of a river, they were very much afraid for their lives. Ever since, he instantly becomes anxious when there is any resemblance to "white water".

Two people I have spoken to personally, a man and a woman, are triggered by blond haired, blue or green-eyed women. They both are well-spoken, functioning adults. Both become anxious or defensive, even angry, when they are in the presence of a woman who fits this description, especially if she smiles broadly or laughs out loud. The woman also becomes anxious around brunette women of a certain body type, and seems to see them as hostile or having an agenda, even if she has just met her. The man has a list of blond actors and musicians he "can't stand", none of whom he has ever met. Both of them have reported actually being abusive to others who match the description, the man even to the point of physical attack "because of the look on her face".
Common factors include: Both of these people have older female relatives who match these physical traits and have "happy normal family lives".
Also, both of these people have divorced parents, but more importantly both of them reported feeling neglected or abandoned by one or both parents. One of them also had a stepparent who fit the physical description, who was reportedly cold and cruel to them. Their common trigger is based solely on physical appearance and facial expressions, NOT on the behavior, speech, or personality of a person. Their trigger apparently tells them "This person is uncaring" or perhaps "This person is mean" or "This person will hurt you", regardless of the person's actual intentions, history, or character. Whatever the specific message is, the feelings invoked by their common trigger seem to be a combination of resentment, anger, fear, jealousy, and possibly envy. (Obviously they are both aware of their common triggers and are working to defuse them, since they cause them each problems in their personal and professional lives. One of them has a blond daughter to boot. Also I am blond, so without their self-awareness they probably would not have shared their experiences with me.)

I worked with a client once who was triggered terribly by anyone on the street who looked directly at him, or if two people had their heads together talking. In school, he was bullied terribly by the other classmates on a regular basis, for years, and he developed an imprint of the memories that is so strong it is nearly impossible to talk him down from an anxiety attack, or anger. Like people who believe that every spider is venomous absolutely, he believes every close conversation nearby is about him. He believes his feelings are caused by reality, not by a trigger implanted in his past.

I enjoy my "positive" triggers. The feeling of joy when I hear or see a child, of happiness when I see or touch an animal, of serenity when I am next to, on, or in water. I see my child-hands when I smell or touch clean dirt, and I hear my father's voice when I see, read, or watch anything by Tolkien. The feeling of elation when I see my son or hear his voice, of warmth when I hear my mother's. These are good, as far as I can tell. As long as I don't believe all children are the same, or all animals are human-friendly, or all water is pure or safe. As long as I know the feelings are my own, and do not think they are coming FROM the person, animal, or thing I am hearing, seeing, feeling, or smelling.

My "negative" triggers I work on as much as my awareness allows. I have some friends and associates who don't shy away from the subject, and freely share and compare their own. When I discover a new one, I take note and focus on defusing it. Being a human with a working amygdala, I will always be discovering old triggers, and creating new ones. I'd like to get past my fear of centipedes, dirty dishes, and driving in Boston. Luckily, triggers aren't all problem-causers or I'd never leave my room. Some of them are kind of nice.

Click this link for a helpful page: Identifying Your Triggers