Strongly held BELIEFS and the OPINIONS that come from them, are often considered a good thing, but they are in fact the worst thing for the individual and for society at large, let me explain why..
It is amazing how people are able to convince themselves something is true or false, even in the face of contradictory evidence. They grab onto something, will often defend it with their very lives, and only pay attention to data that confirms their beliefs. Whether it be a religious, political, cultural belief or ideology, they have an unwavering conviction to their cause.
You can fool yourself into believing just about anything, if you set your mind to it, even without definitive proof or evidence to support your belief. Many beliefs and the opinions that come from them, are built on nothing more than assumptions and inferences rather than hard facts, and are ultimately motivated by fear.
History is littered with examples of opinions that have resulted in horrific consequences, such as Hitler’s conviction to rid the world of Jews, Bush and Blair’s conviction to fix Iraq to make the region and the world a safer place, both stem from beliefs built on assumption and inference driven by fear, and little to do with fact.
These are extreme examples, but we are all guilty of holding onto a belief far too tightly, and dismissing or ignoring anything that counters it, for recent examples of issues that have divided opinion think of Brexit here in the UK or Trump in the US.
In the case of Brexit, whether you’re a remainer or leaver, you hold onto a mentally constructed position with unwavering determination. Those that oppose your view, are considered ignorant, racists, cowards, undemocratic, or uneducated, depending on which side of the fence you find yourself on.
Have you ever wondered why you feel such affiliation to your position?
Eckhart Tolle is a revered spiritual teacher, his books talk about escaping the control of THE EGO. The Ego is the unobserved mind, it is identification with thought. It is the illusion that your thoughts are who you are. He recommends bringing awareness to the process of thinking, and by observing thought, you remove yourself from it. The moment you start to observe it, you remove yourself from within it, and from this perspective you can take control back.
His explanation for why people hold mental positions and the emotional responses they inevitable experience when challenged goes like this….
“Two or more people express their opinions and those opinions differ. Each person is so identified with the thoughts that make up their opinion, that those thoughts harden into mental positions that are invested with a sense of self. In other words, identity and thought merge. Once this has happened, when I defend my opinions, thoughts, I feel and act as if I were defending my very self. Unconsciously I feel and act as if I were fighting for my very survival, and so my emotions will reflect this unconscious belief, they become turbulent. I am upset, angry, defensive, aggressive, I need to win at all cost, lest I become annihilated, that’s the illusion. The Ego doesn’t know the mind and mental positions have nothing to do with WHO YOU ARE, because the Ego is the unobserved mind itself.”
So, if you do find yourself holding very rigid mental positions, bring awareness to them, observe them, question their underlying purpose. What are they doing for you? If you feel a negative emotion, next time you are challenged, step back from the emotion and observe it, and bring yourself out of the control of your Ego, step out of the emotion. You will feel better for it and mankind will only benefit in the long term. Emotional reactions don’t serve anyone.
Also question the accuracy of such beliefs and opinions, how much is built on assumption and inference driven by fear, compared to hard facts you know to be true, not from the testimony of authority figures and so called experts but from your own experience. After all, authority figures might be telling you only what they want you to believe, for their own gain, rather than in your best interests. Question everything you are being told, and be more flexible with regards to your beliefs. Science takes the approach of trying to disprove rather than prove hypotheses and this is a more effective approach to uncovering THE TRUTH.