Stanley Milgram, a Yale University psychologist, conducted a now-famous series of experiments in the 1960s to determine how much pain a person would inflict on another simply because they were told to do so.
The experiments took place in the social setting of the trial of Adolph Eichmann, a high-ranking Nazi who facilitated the mass deportation of many to Nazi extermination camps, but who claimed to have done so because he was following orders.
Milgram’s findings, which he detailed in his 1973 work “The Perils of Obedience,” revealed the unthinkable:
People were generally willing to inflict electrical shocks upon strangers, even to the point that the jolt could have killed the person, simply because the experimenter told them to keep going.
Even after hearing the stranger’s cries of pain, most all of the people kept administering the shocks at the behest of the “leader.”
This may be an extreme example of the harm that can come from blindly following authority, but it is a powerful one.
“For many people, obedience is a deeply ingrained behavior tendency, indeed a potent impulse overriding training in ethics, sympathy, and moral conduct,” Milgram wrote in “The Perils of Obedience,” and his experiments certainly bore this out.
“When you blindly follow authority you deny your own knowingness and you miss opportunities to both succeed and to learn on your own,” says Hale Dwoskin, CEO and Director of Training of Sedona Training Associates.
Clearly, it is essential to your own well-being, and the good of society, that we all think as individuals, yet it is often difficult to stand up for what's right.
However, the more you blindly give in to authority, whether that be the corporate world, a boss or a controlling spouse, the more you risk the negative ramifications.
What are the ramifications?
- Low self-esteem
- Guilt for not standing up for yourself
- Fear of the consequences
- Resentment for not living your own life
Simply put, when you are faced with something that your inner voice, or your inner knowingness, is telling you is wrong, but you go ahead and do it anyway, you are risking physical or emotional harm to yourself or another individual. That voice is there for a reason!
At the very least, you are creating conflict within yourself.
The best authority figures, Dwoskin says, are those who point you to that knowingness that is always right within you. If any authority figure tells you that you need them or cannot succeed without them, then run for the hills.
Why You Should Follow Your Own Knowingness-- And How to Do It
I would always recommend that you follow your own intuitive knowingness before any authority figure, even myself, Dwoskin says. The more you follow your own inner guidance, the more successful and happy you will be.
Often, it is fear -- of not being liked, of creating conflict, or of seeming rude-- that keeps us from asserting our true inner beliefs. But you can use The Sedona Method to release the underlying emotions and behavior patterns that are causing you to ignore your knowingness.
No authority figure can be with you all the time, however your own knowingness is always here, now, Dwoskin says. Developing your awareness of, and trust in, this knowingness is the best antidote to being misguided by anyone or anything.
So let go of the inhibitions that are holding you back, and give in to the inner knowingness that exists within you, right now. It will not steer you wrong.