Sometimes Groupthink Stinks

//Sometimes Groupthink Stinks

Sometimes Groupthink Stinks

How much of human behaviour is shaped by the people we hang with? Our tribe. Recently, I’ve heard it referred to as “finding your five” – the five people you can go to, count on, divulge your deepest darkest fears to. In essence, be vulnerable with.

We need our tribe, our people. And sometimes groupthink is incredible and positive, but other times . . . groupthink stinks.

Case in point. I started reading Quit Like a Woman the other night, a book by Holly Whitaker, recommended – and sent to me – by my west coast daughter. Whitaker tries to pinpoint her descent into alcoholism, but as she writes about her college years she realizes, “drinking was still not something that I did but something that we did.”

I love a glass of Pinot Grigio, or a frosty rye and ginger ale with the right amount of cubes, but thinking, historically, about my drinking? It’s something that can dredge up tidal waves of shame. I drank too much. Blackouts are, thankfully, limited to the digits of one hand, but hangovers? A much higher number I’d rather not get into, because, well, I know not what it is.

All of this, and guess what? The one-time leader of my tribe, my father, suffered a long and painful drowning death by alcohol, setting a mighty fine example of what NOT to do.

My people, my five, were doing it and we had a blast! It was a simple equation:

tribe of five (or more) + copious amounts of alcohol = FUN

What started in high school carried on into work life, family life. Drinking would lead to hijinks which would lead to hilarity which would lead to lots to laugh about late the next morning over the “hair of the dog that bit you”. Ha ha.

And how dumb were we in the 60s, 70s, even into the 80s? Did anyone reflect on the effect of diet or noxious substances and fumes on health? Raised on processed foods, I ate Alpha-Bits for breakfast every day. (I do recall reading once that even cardboard with milk poured on it has some nutritional benefits.) Smoking? It’s cool, sure do it everywhere. While some of our rock stars were tragically dying, many survived hard drugs and booze in varying amounts and combinations, only to come-to in the late 80s, early 90s, going whoa. Lost a few brain cells there.

And now here we find ourselves: the processed food generation high on whatever life, health and brain cells remain passing the literal torch of a climate-changed planet blinking on red alert to a generation more connected than ever by the internet yet divided by extreme weather, pandemic, politics, racial inequities, economics, supremely high housing prices, origin-of-country shame and ultimately? What to do about all of it!

My husband B and my daughter’s fiancé, optimists both, say you gotta stay positive. And I add, sober. Find a sober, open-minded, positive tribe of five (or more) to hang with.

I saw just such a representative tribe a couple of weeks ago. The kids were different ages, shapes and sizes, but they shared a special bond: the sheer joy of running, jumping, and splashing down off of a pier into cool, clear lake water on a hot, summer evening. “1-2-3! GO!” Comradery at it’s finest.

I was strolling the Bayfield, Ontario pier, sated from a scrumptious pasta dinner, dressed in a favourite sundress. My daughter and her fiancé, both from BC, were with me. They’d surprised me on my birthday a couple of days prior by just showing up on my doorstep! Because of Covid-19, I hadn’t seen them in almost two years. The video my other daughter captured of the moment proves that a person can make a perfect round “O” with their mouth when genuinely surprised.

The shrieks from the pier-jumpers transported me to my childhood. My tribe then, some friends but mostly siblings and cousins, were swimmers, lovers of water in summer: hoses, pools, rivers, gravel pits, lakes, oceans. Ah. It was a simple equation:

tribe of five (or more) + copious amounts of water = FUN

Keep it clean, cool and positive my friends.

Website photo: My grandkids – tribe of three + copious amounts of water = FUN



  1. Cathy Popovic August 16, 2021 at 2:51 pm - Reply

    I drank a lot as a teenager, but hardly at all now. Thankfully I too have very few blackout moments, but I know I had a lot of fun 🤩 Cheers Rita 🥂

    • Rita Hartley August 16, 2021 at 2:54 pm - Reply

      Oh man! It was so much fun huh? Good to be older, wiser, soberer! I’m cheering you back with my non-alcoholic spritzer!!

  2. Hilary+Slater August 16, 2021 at 8:53 pm - Reply

    I was a terrified teen who had no tribe, didn’t know how to get out and have fun, didn’t like drinking, spent my teens alone in my room drawing :0
    I’ve changed much since then, but the patterns were set.. I feel inebriated with a group of people these days, family times with you guys are like a happy drug!! Our quiet life in the country is much like my youth 😉
    Interesting to see the patterns when we look back.

    • Rita Hartley August 16, 2021 at 9:39 pm - Reply

      I really like that: “I feel inebriated with a group of people these days”! Comradery is definitely where it’s at! It’s why we do what we do, for the connection. And your teen years spent drawing have certainly paid off!

  3. Glenda James August 17, 2021 at 12:40 pm - Reply

    So true what world we are living our kids. I will try to stay positive!

    • Rita Hartley August 17, 2021 at 1:13 pm - Reply

      Positivity is where it’s at! Also looking at what changes we can make in our everyday lives for the good of the planet 😜

Leave A Comment