Wikipedia gives this physiological definition of reactance:
Reactance is an unpleasant motivational arousal (reaction) to offers, persons, rules, or regulations that threaten or eliminate specific behavioral freedoms. Reactance occurs when a person feels that someone or something is taking away their choices or limiting the range of alternatives.
Reactance can occur when someone is heavily pressured to accept a certain view or attitude. Reactance can cause the person to adopt or strengthen a view or attitude that is contrary to what was intended, and also increases resistance to persuasion. People using reverse psychology are playing on reactance, attempting to influence someone to choose the opposite of what they request.
I have heard that it also comes from our natural desire to not be told what to do and on who you perceive to have the power at that time. I was sold on cohousing that there are common areas but there are also private spaces. I saw how frustrating it can be if it looks like the group, or members of it, try to control too much or want everyone to think the same.
For example, one woman was surprised in the night to find someone crossing through her backyard. They could see right into her house. This made her uncomfortable. She asked if people could ask before going through a backyard and refrain from doing it at night. I didn’t understand why it had happened in the first place. I thought we agreed back yards were private and there had even been talk about fences (and other communities do have those).
Her request seemed reasonable but one man spoke up that maybe people just wanted to take a walk. I was like, first, there is a path a few feet down that is hidden by trees and wouldn’t be so close to someone’s private space. Second, a man may not feel the same reaction as a woman. My 13th birthday party, my friends saw a man looking in our window. We thought it was funny but my mom called the cops. A group of 13 year old girls in pajamas surrounded the police officer and he called in for back up. Then my two friends who saw him said he looked like Pete from the Soap Opera, Days of Our iIves. “Do you watch Days of Our Lives?” The police officer said no and had to repeat the same conversation again.
The point is, women may have more of a creepy feeling to some stranger in their yard. My mother talked to the police officers and they said it could have been a boy who heard of my party or not. I never felt comfortable after that because whoever he was, he knew a young teen girl lived there. My mother thinks he came back at least once but luckily I never heard or saw him and that house is long sold (no teens in sight).
So, why did this have to be a community decision? If one person doesn’t want neighbors in their yard, so be it. I know my cohousing seemed to feel better if everyone was on one page, or too afraid to speak up that they may think differently. It felt like groupthink and some members holding all the cards. So, I was pleased when my high school students gave a better definition of community. At the start of the school year my co-teacher was trying to create a safe place to talk about tough issues in history so she asked the students how to build a community. They said that community is not all sharing one point of view but letting people be themselves.
So much we can learn from youth. I wonder if those police officers ever did watch Days of Our Lives.