Monday, July 06, 2009

Fear is the mindkiller

By Carl

Rigid thinking and black and white solutions are the mark of children, the small-minded, and Republicans.

I started thinking about this over the weekend, attempting to flesh out why so many people in this country are patriarchal.

It's the whole "my way or the highway" logic. I never understood the lack of of compassion for another person's situation. I mean, it's not like we're discussing things that require immediate action or snap judgements.

It's true, even framing the discussion as black/white (either/or) often precludes a meaningful discussion and b) any hope of solving complex problems, like immigration and of course, abortion.

So why do people do this? Why is it so easy, left and right, to paint the opposition as radical and dangerous and thus shut off dialogue?

Rather than be open to compromise and new ways of seeing things, to simplify things to some arbitrary "essentials" ignores nearly the entire tale of history. Things are never as easy as they appear.

What's turned this entire thread around was that I wanted to understand why some people can't seem to let go and grow up, that they feel the need to control and dictate over things they have no business controlling.

Like other people. Indeed, the essence of controlling someone else is to negate any possible value of that person's opinion in favor of force-feeding them your position, and then intimidating them into accepting it.

I think it comes down to views from the extremes, which I find are propelled by fear and when grabbed by fear it is extremely difficult if not impossible to see clearly and with distance.

Fight or flight. You panic and all you can think about is whether your gloves are high enough in front of your face or your running shoes are laced tightly enough.

People can't manage to take a breath and assume the other party perhaps has some validity to their views, and incorporate those, rather than attacking the views, the other party, or usually both.

But why?

I think it has to do with knowing yourself. In getting to know yourself, you learn two things:

1) The world is a lot more complex than you ever gave it credit for and, 2) you have to incorporate as much information as you can in order to present an informed judgment on something. You have biases, but as you gather information, you learn what those biases are and try to compensate.

In gathering this information, you learn about different views of the world. You learn that other people see things just as logically as you do and can yet come to completely different solutions.

When you don't know yourself, when you make knee-jerks reactive judgments based on biases or incomplete information, you panic when presented with alternative views and alternative information that discredits and maybe negates your own conclusions.

And panic leads to immature behavior. And children don't think, they believe, and when those beliefs are threatened, they try to believe even harder.

Making a commitment to something-- a relationship, a religion, a job, whatever-- requires an act of faith. It says that "I am in this fully because I believe in this and good will come from it."

When evidence to the contrary presents itself, how many people sit down and try to understand if it means something? Instead of trying to incorporate the new information either into their faith or to perhaps look more closely at that faith, the larger number of people with either reject the evidence out of hand ("He can't be having an affair! We just made love last night!") or reject the faith-object itself ("Boss, you promised me a promotion! I quit!").

Both of those are intelligent reactions, so long as they remain in the realm of first stage reactions (what we tell ourselves). Neither of those is intelligent actions until we can look deeper into the abyss of this new information and uncover what's really going on.

Our fears: justified, or not?

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)


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  • We all have our views of the world, but the difference seems to lie in how we handle new evidence that contradicts previously held notions.

    Some try to assimilate contradictions into a larger, richer worldview.

    Others are threatened by new information and contradictions, which they reject lest their worlds fall apart.

    I was raised in a conservative environment full of certainty and black and white attitudes about everything. The more I got tired of being wrong the more liberal I became. It wasn't always easy, but it's been liberating.

    By Anonymous beep52, at 10:32 PM  

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