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You, me and them: Differences


August 2, 2018

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Ken Silvestro, PhD

Since there are so many different people in the world, is it a surprise to realize variety is the norm? Unfortunately, the differences can create tensions, problems and provoke harm. This is evident from news reports to personal emotional flare-ups.

There are many ways to understand differences but I want to focus on some of the psychological features described in many past articles. These features include: the ego (personal identity), consciousness (awareness), personal unconscious (hidden psychology based on personal experiences) and collective unconscious (hidden psychology based on common human experiences). To this list, I'm adding a new feature: cultural psychology, which has both conscious and unconscious elements.

Understanding differences from the ego and conscious features is not difficult. My identity differs from your identity, and since we both experience life differently, my conscious awareness also differs from yours. As a result, everyone experiences many differences when they compare themselves to other people. These differences make us stand apart, or stand separate from, the next person and make us feel territorial. I could say it makes us believe we know something the next person doesn't know or that we know best.

At the personal unconscious level, each person has psychological complexes based on experiences with parents, other people and emotions. When active, each person's unique complexes can rule their understanding of life and their experiences of other people.

Another part of the personal unconscious is known as the cultural unconscious. These complexes are directly related to the culture in which a person is raised. Conscious values and beliefs also are associated with cultural psychology. For example, considering your heritage will reveal many of your conscious cultural features. Cultural psychology emphasizes the common features we share with people from the same culture and the many differences we don't share with people from other cultures.

On the other hand, the collective unconscious is a common psychological level of humanity that doesn't vary due to culture, identity, complexes or consciousness. This hidden psychology makes you, me and them the same and equal. There are no differences at this level of psychology. Isn't that interesting?

There are many psychological features that bring forth our differences, resulting in distaste, discrimination and being emotionally upset with someone else. We must also understand that each person is the same due to the collective unconscious influencing each of us. Regardless of the differences we see or describe, it is important to know that at the deepest levels of our psychologies we are all the same, regardless of culture or experience.


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