A contrarian is defined as a person who opposes or rejects popular opinion. Despite most people conforming to social norms simply out of laziness to go against the grain if anything else, some people remain resistant, developing their own rules and philosophies. There are various reasons for why someone would choose to perpetually go against the flow in life, ranging from life changing traumatic events to a relatively strong desire to project themselves as unique.
Contrarians tend to have an unusually strong sense of self that allows them to be more vocal about their differing opinions. A recent study conducted at the University of Queensland in Australia quizzed participants about controversial topics, finding that those with the strongest moral convictions were the most likely to take a contrarian stance on an issue. The researchers also found that many contrarians tended to be later-born, whereas firstborns were more likely to stick to the status quo. A correlation between IQ was also found, with the smarter people being more likely to be nonconforming to societal expectations.
Contrarianism comes at a heavy price, however; many contrarians lack any concern for social graces, alienating many people with their constant counter-suggestiveness. Their uniqueness can also make it difficult for them to identify or connect with other similar people, relegating many of them to a relatively solitary life. Conversely, many leaders also happen to be contrarians, using their faith in their creativity to produce significant changes to the status quo.
Types of contrarians
Although it is possible to take a contrarian stance with practically anything, most of them tend to focus their counter-suggestiveness on one or two topics, including the following:
- Political contrarianism – One of the most attractive topics for contrarians to start debates usually pertain to political issues. As if discussing politics was not enough of a sensitive issue with regular people, contrarians will usually vote for a third party candidate (no offense to Ron Paul supporters), often flat out rejecting the established power structures. Reasons for this include bitterness from their candidate losing in the past or an inherent distrust of institutions that all contrarians seem to have. In more extreme cases, some people will even go down the slippery slope of conspiracy theories, offering wild reasons for not voting such as the system being rigged, all politicians being inherently bad, aliens, etc.
- Fashion contrarianism – We definitely notice them when we see them; the person that wears white shorts and an aloha shirt to a bar or the guy who wears dress clothes to get coffee on a Sunday. Many fashion contrarians dawn outrageous outfits not only to reinforce their own notions of individuality, but to project an image of extreme confidence and fearlessness in not adhering to social norms. While much of it is employed as a psychological defense mechanism (due in many cases to unique people being bullied for being different in the past), it can also be used as a passive aggressive rejection of society in general. In some cases, however, they may simply do it out of a desire to express their creativity rather than make a statement.
Contrarians are not people that simply enjoy contradicting people. Their reasons can be as harmless as wanting to express themselves or fit in by drawing attention to themselves (by ironically taking stances that can alienate them) to projecting a rejection of societal values on the world.
Sovereign Health understands the role that contrarianism plays in the refusal of many people suffering from substance abuse issues and mental disorders to seek help, offering family interventions conducted by licensed professionals in a relaxing, non-confrontational setting. In addition to dual diagnosis treatment of co-occurring disorders, we also provide educational tools that can equip patients with ways of being less counter-suggestive and more open to criticism and change. If you have any questions about Sovereign Health’s approach to dual diagnosis treatment or contrarianism, feel free to browse the rest of our site or contact us.
Written by Chase Beckwith, Sovereign Health Group writer