We’ve all been to parties – school parties, house parties, hen-parties, stag-parties, office parties, fancy-dress parties, fetish ones, gothic ones, formal ones, open ones, private ones, weddings, clubs, even funerals ..launch parties for books & films and so on.
What happens there is a complex mix of interactions between people – ones who organise, ones for whom it is organised, ones who attend, ones who are invited, ones who gate-crash (sneakily attend without invitation!). Complex but a goldmine for psychologists and observers (yes, they attend too!).
Some years ago, in my Transpersonal Psychology & Counselling training course, we spent a whole weekend (a full saturday & sunday) studying the psychology of parties- and then we had a party on the evening at the end of it. Yeah, how’s that for a bit of mental work-out? We had all just learnt all the many things.. and yet, we just observed ourselves undergoing behavior patterns – exactly as the psychology predicts!
That’s the beauty of psychology – knowing it doesn’t make one exempt from it! The people who think they know so much that they can control their own behaviors and hide from other people’s observations (or worse, manipulate other people’s behavior) are just kidding themselves – because other Psychologists can spot patterns miles away – unless of course they themselves are either very drunk or very drugged up or just too busy in other amorous activities!
Firstly, a party that is organised by someone for whatever reasons or causes – is all about the person organising it. It is all about them! Not a bad thing at all, but am just saying. It can be to feel-good about their self, their life and it’s achievements, celebration, marking an event, making a political statement etc. And everyone else is there to willingly support that person(s) at the heart of the party!
But of course, everyone who attends is doing so ..inwardly.. for themselves! They attend on the front to support the cause or person, but each attendee has at least one or more personal agenda(s). To make friends, to show off their own achievements, to procure support for their own causes and ventures, wheeling & dealing, networking, seducing others, building empires of their own, plot to destroy other empires & groups & business et are all personal motivations. And each person attending makes so much effort to look good and presentable in a way they plan – even the shambolic `I am a rebel and I don’t dress-up’ type is doing so to make that point. If they did not attend, they can not make that statement- can they?
Some business people spend a large part of their operational hours in parties & socials, or even organising them. It is not for the purpose of spending their hard earned wealth. But rather, it is to create opportunities of interactions, where in what appears to be a social tone, business transactions & agreements can take place much easily! Product launches, Fashion shows, Art Exhibitions, Fundraiser events, High-end Auctions & biding are example where this type of interactions take place.
This brings another important perspective – to make a statement or show off or serve the self, each person needs an audience or an arena. They either create their own arenas elsewhere, or attend another person’s arena (party) and hi-jack part of it, or do both! Even the rebellious people attend other people’s parties – because they require this arena. And in attending someone else’s arena, they are coming within the sphere of influence of the organiser. This may sit uncomfortably with the rebels, but they put up with this, as it affords them a new set of audience! This is one reason why we often find opponents of politics or some other ventures still attend their opponent’s party. And the one inviting his or her opponent does not like to do so, as it is as good as letting their own empire be used, but not inviting an opponent can send the message that the organiser is weak. So it goes on.
In normal domestic parties (and the notorious Office party at Christmas!), people tend to have different and personal agendas. There it is one of befriending co-workers whom they have fancied or admired from afar for months! Befriending or in some cases, seducing – for the purpose of either starting a long or short sexual encounters! One-night stands and heart-aches the week after…usually! Here a dangerous type operates – one who stalks others and waits for an opportune moment of vulnerability on their `prey’s part! Here alcohol, cigarettes and drugs play a role too.
There is of course the case of using alcohol or recreational drugs to `get under the influence’ . Often, the user is willingly letting this happen – either allowing someone else to supply them with excessive substance, or the user just consumes the alcohol/drugs that they themselves have a direct access to. Reasons and motivations vary – to relax and switch off their minds, to gain some self-confidence, to shake off personal responsibility (and afterwards blame their potential wild behaviors on the substance), to forget personal troubles, or just to loose themselves for a few hours!
These are of course extreme observations and examples of behaviors found it parties, and any sort of celebratory gatherings! The purpose of this blog is not to criticize or condemn anyone, as many of us have at one point or other done one or more of these. But it is a reminder to us all, that Parties are not as care-free as we like to think. In many cases, parties are extremely hard work (and am not even referring to the behind-the-scene organizing).
People attend with one thought in mind – and more often than not- people surface with other issues which can take days, weeks or months to process and accept. For example, a one-night stand at a party can either lead to a long term relationship, or an unwanted pregnancy that traumatic changes the lives of the two people and perhaps their friends too. A casual encounter can lead to a fantastic business deal or venture, or careless disclosure can expose privacy and confidential issues, and potentially bring down a group, a business or an empire of sort!
Next time you attend a party – have a thought, then have a drink, and enjoy the psychology of it all 🙂
ps. I must acknowledge the late Maureen Brown, Psychologist and Counselor for her teachings in this area!