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mstokes's picture

self defined by community

Sophie raises an interesting question in her "Rambling" post above: "that our culture tends to define people based upon “self,” the individual, rather than relationships to other people. It seems that for people who may define themselves, or create stories in which “I” is, perhaps, not the primary worldly relationship, but rather “other” is (or community), this creates internal conflict."

It seems that many world cultures would define the individual much more in terms of relationship to community than in terms of individual or "self" properties.  In such communities, does conflict with the community then drive more internal conflict--and as a result create more of a distinctive sense of self within the person--or does the conflict continue to perpetuate itself externally between the individual and the community, with the individual never fully "internalizing" the conflict?  How would such a conflict be properly mediated in such a culture?  Finally, it would be interesting to know (are there studies which investigate this?)  what the incidence of mental illness, or conflicts such as we're considering, is in cultures which focus more on community rather than individual.  Is there increased pressure for conformity and non-conflict within the community, perhaps creating more conflict in the self, or does the lack of focus on the individual or self actually create more "space" for the self, which in turn might diminish internal (and by extension, perhaps, external) conflict?  

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