The Psychology of Protests and how it affects you

Protests are as old as human existence. You’ve heard that before right? I will try another opening!

Here you go. Participation in protests has to be understood from the perspective of emotion. Emotion on the other hand has to be understood psychologically – don’t forget, psychology is the science of behavior and how the mind works.

The mind doesn’t work alone. It works with forces. These forces are the conscious, the subconscious, and the super-conscious. When we ask, how does emotion works? We need to look inward. We need to look at the internal forces. This is because emotion starts and ends with the mind even in its behavioral form.

For protests to take place, anger must first be in place; and in that anger must be a great move of urgency. It goes beyond admitting and registering displeasure. Anger is an emotion crucial to the most radical and demanding protests. So for every radical protest, there are radical people. The radicalism can be a response to shared grievances, lack of trust in authority, a vote of no confidence, and any form of injustice which may be systemic, endemic, or perennial.

Of course, you have violent protest where vandalism, thuggery, and violence are the order of the day. As such, the peace of the society is threatened. Then you have moderate protest which does not tolerate violence of any kind but seeks to achieve the aim of the protest as peaceful as possible.

Keeping protests peaceful is usually not an easy job especially a protest that witnessed large gathering and great number of participants. It is usually difficult for peaceful protests to remain peaceful; because of hawks, thugs and even politicians who are ever ready to hijack protests to their own gain. Politicians are always looking for ways to score political points, thugs and criminals are on the look out to steal, kill and destroy then you have those who want to vent their anger on anything and anyone at any given opportunity.

The most important thing usually wrong with protests aside peaceful protests becoming violent is the structure of every protest! The structure of protests is based on perception. We see things differently. Nay, we see things the same way but we do not respond to things the same way.

The way we see things determine how we respond. In seeing, several things are involved – experience, situation, disposition, personality, education, and many other things. All of these factors affect perception. The way we see things do not just affect how we react, it affects what we focus on. It is why different people have a different focus and different analysis. Our views and perceptions are driven by emotional needs to see things differently. However, the fact that people see things differently does not demean protest actions and struggles but as always, views and perceptions should be respected

What is the motive behind the protest?

When the motive behind a protest is asked, usually, respondents see the question as an attempt to de-legitimize their struggle. Question on the motive of protest should rather be seen as a means of validating the goal and objectives a struggle seeks to achieve. Little wonder, many times when protesters are asked why they are protesting, they have no idea or they switch immediately to defense mode giving wrong answers to right questions. As a matter of fact, legitimate and needful protests need no serious effort at being defended. At the same time, the motive should be loudly communicated and each participant should know, realize or determine without a doubt why he or she is a part of a protest.

Attacking non-conformist

Protests usually take sharp dimensions one of which is the diversion of anger from the cause of the protests and the authorities whose urgent attention is being sought to non-conformists. Non-conformists in this register are people who refuse to participate in a protest. So protesters, angered by people who refuse to join or participate in a protest divert their venom from the cause to the non-conformists. However, attacking non-conformists never work. The goal must be to gain more allies among people who would normally not want to agree or go with you. Protesters must, therefore, resist the urge to attack perceived non-conformists (remember that we see things differently) rather, focus on the issues at hand.

Back to motive

The prevailing emotion after a protest should not be anger against people who didn’t participate but of happiness and a sense of achievement for contributing to a cause deemed worthy . Protesters must also bear in mind that not all outcomes of a protest are immediate. Some results take days, some months, some years, and some, centuries!

Thank you for reading. Please drop a comment and feel free to share.

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