Ethnocentrism

Sociologist William Sumner coined the term ethnocentrism as a delusional belief (bias) that “our (cultural) group” is better than other groups. The in group or out group psychology of ethnocentrism can lead to pride or vanity for outsiders. In 2015, I reached a realization that alcohol had become a major influence on my behavior and way of thinking. I associated with friends who drank regularly, and my indoctrination as an undergraduate convinced me that it was acceptable behavior. I was able to “loosen up” and enter social circles once closed to me.

My belief was that nothing could make me stop drinking and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) was not the solution. I was encouraged to attend AA under personal bias (fear) that I was not “like them.” According to Benthall (2021) I was adopting Sumner’s definition of ethnocentrism by viewing of things in which one’s own group (AA) is the center of everything, and all others are scaled and rated with reference to it.

In January of 2015, I was open to try AA. Welcomed courteously, in a brief time had eroded all my misconceptions. I learned through a five-year process that meetings were offered throughout the city (country), and each had a unique component, even though the methodology was consistent (principles), groups began to develop “clicks” or stereotypes. Fortunately, I have an open mind and rarely took any bias personally. I observed and learned to focus on principles not personalities.

This experience taught me no one is better than, and everyone has something to offer if you are teachable. Members with years of sobriety felt empowered or emboldened that their methods were better than others. However, I can choose the amount of participation or engagement I give to these differences. The moral lesson is my understanding can change if I am willing, open, and honest about my own stereotypes and give others the same dignity as well. The result was a transformation of mindset (daily) and sobriety now in my ninth year.

References

Benthall, J. (2021). The critique of ethnocentrism in retrospect. Anthropology Today, 37(3), ppl. 20–22. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8322.12654

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