Mary Ann Evans (under the pen name of George Eliot) wrote the following about the subtle conformism woven into the psyche of the town in Middlemarch.
The town’s citizens, largely, assumed that, “[s]ane people did what their neighbors did, so that if any lunatics were at large, one might know and avoid them.” (a few pages into Book 1, Chapter 1)
The characters for whom this (brutal) sentence is true, are eminently manipulable by unstated expectations. They run from anything but “the accepted way” and they don’t really recognize how they circumscribe their lives in the process. If we live, consciously or not, by the same maxim, then the same is true of us.
But if we courageously develop the capacity to think,
and then to think about our thinking,
and then to think about how we think about our thinking,
then we are on the way to deep cognitive empathy and the ability to develop meaningful relationships with those with whom we might have otherwise considered silly, or worse, enemies.
This takes courage, the fortitude to be strange and free.