Balancing of loyalties and conflicting loyalties are ‘systemic’ concepten as alternatives of the static and individualistic, rather dominant and blurring, concepts of personality, identity, ego, self etc…
In a paper in 1998 on 1998 Bekkum Rite of Passage as Supporting Structures for Young Men I formulated a paragraph on balancing and conflicting loyalties:
How to give both young men and the various sectors and scientific disciplines more insight into the inner turbulence they experience? Psychoanalytic, ethological and system therapy studies indicate that long term inner conflicts are have a deleterious effect on a person‟s stability, health and welfare. In some cases this can led to depression, psychosis, criminality and even suicide (Connors 1994). Kurt Lewin formulates the phenomenon of the self-organization of all kinds of impulses in his „Principles of Topological Psychology‟ as follows: “If the motor system were to be guided by all the needs (and impulses d.v.b) of a person at the same time, his behaviour would become chaotic.” (1936, 179). In ethology, the study of animal behaviour, conflicting impulses and emotions are unavoidable, problematic and dangerous (Lorenz 1964, Tinbergen 1969). Conflicts of loyalties between father-mother-son-daughter are the basis of psychoanalytic theory. In the Freudian Oedipus complex, a central and dramatic role is reserved for the unsolvable conflict of loyalty. Murder, suicide, incest, neuroses and psychoses can result from intense and long term conflicts of loyalty not being resolved. An important instrument of intervention, that builds on the psychoanalytic tradition, are how intra- and interpersonal boundaries are dealt with in family and social relations in family therapy and system theory. The concept of „loyalties‟ has been developed in the American system therapy (Boszormenyi-Nagy en Spark 1973). The concept of loyalty sheds on light on the quality of family and social relations. Nagy links loyalties to what Martin Buber called „the order of the human world‟(ibid. 37). Loyalty is the cement of all human relationships. Members of families and social networks are loyal if they treat each other fairly and with integrity and have certain rights with and enter into certain obligations that do not apply to people outside these networks. Loyalty presupposes reciprocity, it concerns interpersonal actions and reactions. The outside world of family and social networks has its counterpart in the inner world of each real individual, including juveniles. Since the outside world is never stable, the inner world will also display a permanent dynamic which is referred to by the term „balancing loyalties‟. The adolescent finds himself in a phase of life in which the constant weighing of diverse interests, needs and loyalties is extra dynamic because the mature adult personality is still in the process of being formed.
Balancing on the Cutting-Edge
Conflicting loyalties lead to more tension and stress. Every person, including a young person, wants to alleviate this. Extremely profound and sudden dilemmas, such as a deep hurt or announcement of a divorce can cause individual explosions of violence. A longer period of unresolved conflicts of loyalty with boys can result in all kinds of risky behaviour and incidents but also to lapses into criminal and violent behaviour (Boszormenyi-Nagy en Spark 1973, 223) were the first to coin the term balancing of loyalties. This process continually has to do with exploring boundaries. Should I get angry because my parent keep calling me lazy? Or should I laugh, should I get mad and start hitting somebody, or should I walk away? Social contact and communication is only possible between people if those involved
know their physical, sexual, social and emotional boundaries. For instance, the boundary between public and private exists everywhere and at all times. Young people are allowed to experiment more with boundaries more than adult are. We accept it when young people kiss for long periods in public, but when adults or senior citizens indulge in it, we do not find it acceptable. In my psychiatric investigations conducted among military conscripts and on the basis of my observations and bibliographical research I finally distinguished five realms in their social worlds in which they had to balance loyalties. To these young men the domains were strongly interrelated. They had to strike a balance in and between each and every one of the domains in order to take the step to adulthood (1998e).
– between their own personality, immediate family/distant relatives and friends (peer group)
– between leisure time, school and work (van Bekkum 1994, 1998c)
– between the world of women and men (van Bekkum 1998d)
– between ethnic/local/regional and national worlds (van Bekkum 1998b)
– between the secular (everyday) and religious (supernatural) world