It was some time in the '80s when as a teenager, I was visiting some places in north Karnataka with my family, during Dasara time. On the evening of Vijayayadashami, we went to witness a Ramlila celebration. There was a large statue of Ravana, which would be put to flames by Rama. We were all excited to watch this event as was the large crowd of people that had gathered there.
However, there was some glitch because of which the performance was getting delayed and time dragged on and on, without anything happening.
The gathered crowd became increasingly restless. First the shouts started, then people started pushing one another. Soon, there were fist fights among people, vandalism, and.. the works.
We were stuck in the midst of the crowd and quite far from the gates, and got very worried. Some of my family members also started shoving us younger folks, in a bid to keep us safe. Needless to say, it was a harrowing experience.
In the midst of this though, my father made a simple statement, which greatly helped me. He said, "this is what is the characteristic of mobs."
This one statement suddenly changed the situation from a scary event happening to us, to a fascinating curiosity that we are witness to. I was no longer pushed by people and it was no longer people screaming and fighting at one another. It was a "mob" that was being itself. In front of me was not a harrowing experience to run away from, but a fascinating ring-side seat for observing a mob in action!
This incident had greatly piqued my curiosity about the cognition of human groups, so much so that, even today, I work on understanding the collective behaviour of groups both in the online and offline worlds.
What had happened that day, was that my dad taught me the awesome potential of "disassociative reification". When faced by a crisis, suppose we are able to "reify" an abstract entity to describe what is happening, and disassociate ourselves from it, the crisis happening to us, now becomes a curiosity that we can observe.
I've since applied disassociative reification in several situations to keep myself from getting affected. As a result, I've been able to escape psychological attacks like gaslighting, manipulation, opinion-moulding, groupthink, etc. and keep a sense of independent perspective on the matter.