(1.) 1. What sorts of situations, or what times of life, lead people to feel uncertain, anxious, or insecure? The paper speaks on the uncertainty-identity theory and how having ambiguity about who
1. What sorts of situations, or what times of life, lead people to feel uncertain, anxious, or insecure?
The paper speaks on the uncertainty-identity theory and how having ambiguity about who you are can lead to identifying with strict and sometimes dangerous groups. However, there are many times in our lives that we are met with great insecurity such as: losing a job, experiencing a death in the family, facing debt, facing large global and political events, going through a divorce, being diagnosed with a serious medical disease, or moving to another country. These events tend to cause great anxiety in our lives and can lead to us questioning ourselves and where we fit. As a person with Generalized Anxiety, this sort of uncertainty is a constant in my life and can completely understand the desire to be a part of larger group with very certain boundaries and rules. However, the answer never resides in others of course but instead in the way you process the insecurities.
2. Are the teen and emerging adult years — a time of changing ideas, shifting identities, and vocational questions — years of increased uncertainty, and therefore of potential interest in extreme groups? Do you think older adults in transition (e.g., retirees) might be targets of extreme groups? Why or why not?
Adolescence is a constant whirlwind of changes and that can make for very vulnerable teens who are trying to figure out their identities. Of course, this means that they will be susceptible to strongly opinionated groups and leaders that give very clear guidelines to otherwise confused teenagers. Instead of having to create an identity, go through the struggle of challenging ideals, and finding that life itself is will always be somewhat uncertain, they are willing to hand over all that critical thinking to those who seem more certain and can become easily persuaded by extremist groups potentially. Especially because adolescents don’t have the experience yet to discern opportunistic zealots from trusted sources, teens will have no protection from groups that prey upon the lost.
I also do believe that retirees can become targets of extremist groups due to their own inexperience with modern tactics as well as their insecurity and uncertainty of the future. Retirees are commonly targeted by scammers in order to get them to part with their money through shady schemes like phishing by phone or email. Many aren’t educated in the ways of misinformation in the internet age and end up becoming indoctrinated easily through lies and the promise of a clear identity as their old ones have long faded. They are physically and sometimes even mentally defenseless, making older people a prime target for extremist beliefs and groups looking to build membership.
3. What sorts of extreme groups (or cults) might appeal to people in times of personal uncertainty?
Some basic examples of these groups can be ones like alt-right, KKK, nazis, street gangs, white supremacists, Scientologists, Happy Science members, Jehovah’s Witnesses, or the people who follow Gwenyth Paltro’s new group. Usually though, I feel they will choose a political identity because it is the most easily accessible identity and also widely accepted as it is very common and even encouraged to be engaged politically. However, there are certain levels of political identity that surpasses the usual definition and falls into more extremist territory obviously. Things like bombings, anthrax, or other physical endangerment based upon political beliefs is when a political identity and identification with a group encouraging such things can become extremist. I also often see small groups online that form around very strict rules and tend to be very exclusive that prey upon very specific traumas held within uncertain people. For example, “incels” are a group of involuntary celibates that are very exclusive as they only accept men who have never been sexually involved before and believe in the same things they do. Largely, that just equates to simply hating women and also hating themselves but ultimately they lure in very insecure individuals who feel rejected and uncertain of themselves. Groups like these tend to pop up insidiously to pull in those who feel lost but, instead of promoting self discovery, aim their efforts at hating other groups. I suppose these are just called hate groups at the end of the day.
- What sorts of situations, or what times of life, lead people to feel uncertain, anxious, or insecure?
Someone experiencing the death of a spouse or a divorce often experiences anxiety, uncertainty and insecurity, and this can be a vulnerable time. One’s spouse becomes part of a person’s identity, and when a person loses the spouse, that person loses a part of his or her identity; thus, such a one will work to establish an identity apart from the spouse that is now gone. Another situation in which one may experience uncertainty, anxiety, and/or insecurity is when one departs from his or her faith. When one no longer believes according to the faith of his or her upbringing, it can be both a wonderful time of ontological exploration and a time of great fear and uncertainty, as one no longer resides in the safety of his or her beliefs. I know someone to which this scenario is applicable. He left one cult, went a little wild, began using drugs, but then sobered up, and eventually was persuaded to join a different cult.
- Are the teen and emerging adult years — a time of changing ideas, shifting identities, and vocational questions — years of increased uncertainty, and therefore of potential interest in extreme groups? Do you think older adults in transition (e.g., retirees) might be targets of extreme groups? Why or why not?
I think teens/emerging adults are particularly vulnerable to joining extreme groups, especially if after graduating high school they do not attend college. High school provides a social network for kids, and when that ends, the world changes for them if they don’t go to college, which serves as another social network. These kids are typically trying to find an identity outside of that of whatever clique or group they were part of in high school, now that their high school world has ended.
I think retirees might be in a similar condition, given that their identity was tied up in their careers. When that ends, unless they have a solid social structure and some type of hobby that occupies their time, they may feel a loss of identity and could be susceptible to an extreme group.
- What sorts of extreme groups (or cults) might appeal to people in times of personal uncertainty?
Hogg (2014) mentions groups that are highly entitative —those “that are well structured with clear boundaries, and in which members interact and share group attributes and goals and have a common fate” – as being most appealing and effective at reducing uncertainty (p. 339). Some of the most effective seem to be religious groups. They purport to provide answers to ontological questions, they often meet regularly, they offer a sense of community, and they provide a sense of belonging and identity. These groups tell you how to behave, what to believe, meaning what to think, what to avoid, and sometimes with whom to associate and whom to disassociate. As hard as it might be to believe that anyone would be attracted to such a group, it can be appealing when one is in a state of self-uncertainty. It can be a relief to such people when a group welcomes them with open arms and provides an identity, provides camaraderie, friendship, guidance, and a purpose.
IN 6-5 LINES, RESPOND TO THIS TWO DISCUSSION BORAD. When responding to others it is best to add support to their claims or add evidence or logic that goes against their claims.