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Procrustean syndrome: why do we hate those who stand out?

Procrustean syndrome: why do we hate those who stand out?

June 17, 2024

We are in a very competitive society in which each person is increasingly required. Both in terms of work and in other vital aspects, we are asked for excellence, originality, creativity, efficiency and high proactivity. However, on the other hand tremendous pressure is exerted towards uniformity, the one who excels in some talent or ability is often despised .

This means that sometimes those who have better skills are not hired or are no longer, harassed and humiliated. It's about the Procrustean syndrome , which I will explain in more detail below.

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What is Procrustean syndrome?

The so-called Procrustean syndrome refers to the tendency of some people, companies or even societies to reject those with characteristics different from their own. for fear of being overcome or questioned by them . There is a tendency to try to maintain a constant uniformity in which divergences are viewed and / or punished.


In this way attitudes of discrimination and even a certain level of harassment are established towards the person who stands out and who is considered can threaten one's position or esteem. Their ideas are ignored or distorted, the attempts of proactivity and creativity are criticized. If the relationship with that person can not be avoided, it is intended that the person stay within limits that do not exceed the possibilities of the person who rejects them, pressing so that a certain homogeneity in the behaviorally manifested capacities is obtained.

Often the contact between both subjects pretends to be correct and apparently does not manifest any type of conflict in a direct way, although relationships tend to deteriorate over time .


Normally it is given to people who may be above, but sometimes it also rejects people who are considered to have lower abilities than their own (in this case they are intended to modify in order to adapt to the world view of the person with this syndrome).

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What kind of people manifest it?

In general, the Procrustean syndrome occurs in people with a high level of frustration and little sense of control , having low or labile self-esteem. Sometimes they have suffered vexations and different stressful and traumatic events that have caused them to doubt their own capacity, so that people who perceive themselves as superior or with possibilities to be so are aversive.

As well the opposite may occur, a person with an exaggerated self-esteem to almost narcissistic limits that see that others stand out and are more taken into account than themselves.


Whoever exercises this attitude can carry it out consciously and unconsciously. While the first would try directly to cause harm to the outstanding person to be threatened, the second tend to think that their point of view is correct and that it is others who must adapt to it.

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Origin of the name: the Greek myth of Procrustes

In order to understand this syndrome more easily, it may be useful to know the origin of its denomination, closely linked to the characteristics of the syndrome in question. This origin is found in the Greek myth of Procrustes.

Procrusteum, also known as Damastes , is according to Greek mythology one of the sons of the god Poseidon. This being welcomed travelers into their homes and gave them great hospitality, with a friendly and willing treatment, proposing to spend the night in their abode.

However, when the guests fell asleep, Procusto gagged them and checked if their size differed from that of the iron bed in which they were lying. In the event that the person in question exceeded the size of the bed, Procusto would cut the elements that protrude from it. If, on the other hand, it was lower and he did not occupy it entirely, he broke his bones with a mallet in order to stretch it. In short, he made his visitors always adjust to the measurements of his bed.

This would come to an end with the arrival of Theseus , who would propose to him to contemplate if the own Procusto fulfilled with the measures of its bed and, after observing that it was of greater size it would proceed to apply the same punishment to him that the one that Procusto provided to his guests, cutting the head to him and killing it.

This myth reflects the pressure to uniformity which is characteristic of the syndrome with its same name, as well as the initially affectionate and welcoming attitude that many people who manifest this syndrome print their interaction, without there apparently being any kind of discomfort or conflict.

Areas in which it is observed

The Procrustean syndrome can be observed in virtually any environment, and can have serious effects on both the person who might excel. Some of the areas in which this syndrome is visible are the following.

Academic field

In the academic field, who excels it is often badly considered , both by some of their colleagues and even sometimes by the teachers themselves. In fact, even in childhood, many gifted students strive to obtain grades within the average (we are talking about cases in which this is done consciously for this reason and not considering the learning little stimulating), especially in the case of girls due to issues related to gender stereotypes.

In some cases the Procrustean syndrome has been seen in cases in which different students and professionals have publicly criticized and humiliated others, because they may have felt inferior in abilities or see their prestige jeopardized if the other stands out. This can happen even in the teacher-student relationship when the first one has low self-esteem.

An environment is created that can generate harassment and limitation of the abilities, the attacked subject can not reach his maximum potential and producing a prejudice both to the training that is being exercised and to the subject attacked by the person who manifests Procrustean syndrome, which can be influenced both short and long term.

Labor sphere

This is the sector in which the Procrustean syndrome may be more evident, especially in the business sector, when there is great competitiveness in the market and it may be possible that other people more prepared or with better capabilities are more apt to own position.

In this area, it is going to try that the person who stands out does not do it, underestimating their contributions or even appropriating them , establishing an excessive level of control over the subject in question and some cases spread rumors about his person or his work in order to discredit it. In some cases in which the person who feels threatened has the power to do so, he may end up not hiring or promoting the most efficient people but rather others that are more dominable and that may pose less threat.

For the company in question, the Procrustean syndrome is an obvious detriment, as it does not allow for the strengthening of the company's capabilities and resources and poses an added difficulty when it comes to expanding and enjoying success. Teamwork is difficult and a climate of tension is created that is clearly harmful to the health of both the subjects involved and the institution they represent.

Personal environment

The Procrustean syndrome is not only confined to the professional or academic, but can also be extended to the personal. In these cases family, friends or couples are going to be constantly criticized and the failures or discomfort that the person seen may feel as a threat (in this case towards self-esteem, considering that it can be better than the individual) will produce a certain level of joy and satisfaction (although it can sometimes be tarnished by the guilt when done unconsciously).

There may be a tendency to avoid people who consider themselves superior in some characteristics. For example, to people with Procrustean syndrome they will avoid possible more attractive or intelligent couples than they . If it is not a close person, it will tend to isolate, abandon or diminish their self-esteem so that their skills are also reduced.

In this case, both the person with Procrustean syndrome and the victim will be affected, causing a toxic relationship if it occurs and causing suffering to both parties.


Walter Murch - 'The Talented Mr. Ripley' and the single point of view (192/320) (June 2024).


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