– Can you describe “peer pressure” in terms of the social other?

Yes, “peer pressure” is one manner among many of how someone can induct the desires of others. What sets peer pressure apart from other inducted behaviors, it would seem to me, is that “peer pressure” implies that those who possess the desire originally are consciously attempting to elicit an imitation of this desire from the person who will induct it. And they do it for a very self serving reason. As Fr. Alison stated, people’s very being comes from others. There is a perverse (partial) understanding of this truth, which leads imperious selves to seek to implant their desires into others so that they can validate their own being by seeing their desires adopted by others. Peer pressure comes from those models who simply must to be modeled in order to be at all; and that it is ALWAYS bad.

– Are there times when peer pressure is good for us?

No. There are indeed times when it is good for people to consciously attempt to elicit desires in someone else, but this never occurs among peers. The goodness of those times when one party deliberately endeavors to induct someone into a new desire requires that the desire being transmitted come from someone other than the party applying pressure. In order to find fulfillment, the peer who applies pressure needs not just the object of her desire but she needs also to see her desire take root in someone else; what this pressing peer needs most is for the one being pressed upon to follow her suit. This is domineering and bad. Conversely, good pressure does not come from peers; good pressure does not come from someone who simply must have others follow her lead in order to find fulfillment. Good pressure is applied by the person who can be satisfied even if no one else picks up her desire. This is possible because she knows the desire she is trying to implant didn’t originate in her–it originated from beyond her.

Peer pressurers recognize (to some extent) the mimetic nature of others and attempt to exploit it for self-aggrandizing ends. On the other hand, the one who pressures others for good recognizes her own mimetic nature as well as that of others and doesn’t delude herself into believing that she is in any way “built up” when other people imitate her. If I apply good pressure, then I know that the desire I model for others did not originate in me. As such, I am no PEER among those who pick up their good desire from me; I am the one who connects them to the good desire, and therefore I am advantaged in that I am already a step closer to the source of goodness than they are. When I pick up a good desire from someone else; I don’t pick it up from a peer, but I pick it up from an advantaged someone who is already a step closer to the source than I am. [If my use of the word “advantage” above causes some discomfort, please know that I affirm the beatitudes, which teach that the one who is truly advantaged with regard to being in proximity to goodness is often regarded by others as the most “disadvantaged.”]

– When is peer pressure something to be resisted?

Never. I’m extremely wary of RESISTING peer pressure. While it is certainly inadvisable for us to adopt a desire just so some imperious persons can find phony fulfillment in feeling influential over us, the opposite (i.e. directly resisting bossy folks) can invite conflict. When our pressuring peers say (in effect) “do this and become just like us so that we can become influential people” and we respond (in effect) “we won’t do that and we won’t be just like you—and you know why?—it is precisely because we don’t want you to become influential people (and certainly not influential over us)!” then we are picking fight … and, ironically, we undermine our own desire and allow the imperious persons to become influential over us after all. Rejecting a desire out of spite is no more beneficial than adopting a desire out of obsequiousness. I hope to be forged by desires which can ABSORB or WITHSTAND peer pressures. I don’t want to be a coiled spring that is triggered by such pressure, any more than I want to be a brittle scaffold that is crushed by such pressure.