Dismissing the opinions of people you don’t agree with is not very intelligent.
Positioning yourself to win an argument closes you off from learning new, possibly important, information.
Holding tightly on to a position means you’re overlooking alternative perspectives, which may significantly improve your knowledge.
Different perspectives can be right or wrong depending on context at different times. Dismissing one approach at the expense of another without full consideration is a lazy, unsophisticated way of thinking, and can be very dangerous.
Open your mind to hear all views, engage in discussion to thrash out ideas in full.
This is the sophisticated, grown up way of finding the best approaches and solutions.
If you can’t debate your point against an alternative, maybe you’ve not fully fleshed it out yet, or maybe it’s just a bad idea.
Better for it to fail early while it’s still just an idea, rather than failing later with real-world consequences, for you and possibly other people.
Stop EXPECTING – nobody owes you anything. Be grateful for the time, interest, and generosity of other people. You have no entitlement to anything in life, everything is a gift.
If you’ve been born into a loving family, count yourself lucky, many don’t enjoy that privilege. It’s not like you did anything to deserve it, you were and are just really lucky that circumstances fell in your favour.
If you were born with good health – physical and psychological – you were and are just lucky, many people aren’t blessed in that way.
Be grateful for every day you’re above ground and in the company of people who choose to spend their precious time with you.
Even if you’re not born into a loving family, or you don’t have good mental or physical health, look for the things you can be grateful for. Do you have sight, hearing, are you able form and maintain relationships with other people, are there things you can do that others can’t? Are you free of pain, at least some of the time? Do you have anyone who cares about you?
It’s okay to Feel sorry for yourself sometimes, you should face your negative emotions, but don’t let them consume you, because it doesn’t help you to make things better. Prolonged negative reminiscing will only poison your mind and body.
Be grateful for even the smallest blessings. When you change how you think about the world, the world changes.
It’s important to understand that your attention and perceptions are goal dependant. When you task yourself with finding the great things in life, the world lays itself out around that goal. Your perceptions are motivated to help you attain whatever goal you set your sights on. Here’s a little game to illustrate how that plays out.
So you can pick the goal of playing victim and wallow in self-pity or you can empower yourself with the goal of finding light in the darkness, using gratitude, the choice is yours.
If you’ve ever watched a political debate between a Liberal and a Conservative, you’ll know there isn’t much love lost between them.
You can see this in the US where the Democrats and Republicans tear chunks out of one another.
It is also evident here in the UK, between the Conservative and Labour parties.
The conflict rages between politicians on political stages and programmes, as well as between supporters on social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter.
These interactions are littered with point scoring and one-upmanship; the highlighting of examples of the other side’s failings, taken from a very narrow, self-serving perspective, designed to prove their point of view and enhance their own argument.
Here’s an example to illustrate the point…
Just a quick reference to the backstory for this example.
Leigh is an old mining town, which is located between Manchester and Liverpool
Leigh has always had a Labour MP, it was considered a Labour safe seat due to its historical mining and working class roots.
Recently a Conservative won the seat for the very first time, to the dismay of many of the labour supporting locals.
The local Tory MP voted to end school meal subsidies during the lastest half term holiday, something that went against footballer Marcus Rashford’s public campaign to make funds available for the most needy.
Many of the local people, particularly labour voters were in uproar on social media about The Tory MP’s vote.
Many of the posts on local Facebook groups raged about the nasty Tory, who was typically displaying a lack of empathy for children in need.
This directly plays into the long standing narrative that Conservatives don’t care for working class people, only for their posh, rich buddies who run businesses, and hold wealth and power.
A critical thinker would probably ask why a Conservative MP would take such a stand, knowing that many of his constituents would be up in arms about it.
Subsequently the MP’s decision for voting as he did was found to be because of funding constraints and the fact that other more targeted provisions had been made through local authorities and welfare payments to look after children and families in hardship. The Tory government had extended free school meals during the Easter holidays and again for the Summer holidays after pressure from Rachford’s campaign, but decided to draw the line for half-term holidays. This is against a background of needing to borrow £372bn to cover spending, in the face of the coronavirus outbreak, to date, according to the Office of Budget Responsibility.
The arguments on social media seemed to play out like this;
Labour- Tory’s being cruel to kids
Conservatives – not bottomless money pit, parents shouldn’t have kids if they can’t afford to pay for them
Labour- loss of jobs caused by covid19 and government handling of it to blame, not those parents who are struggling
Conservative – government have done the best they can in such brutal unforeseen circumstances. They have given massive support to people during the pandemic.
Labour- point out all the failings and wasted spending on track and trace etc, and point out the government could have done even more. Many stating Labour would have done better (no way of knowing this)
Conservatives – don’t think Labour would have done any better and may have done much worse under a Jeremy Corbyn led government (no way of knowing this)
Descends into insults and slanging matches
I don’t want to get into the rights and wrongs of this argument, I just want to use it to illustrate how the opposing views can play out.
The two sides are often talking past one another, with no point of connection.
I’ve tried to play devil’s advocate with both sides and a reasoned debate is just not possible most of the time. Exchanges nearly always descend into argument and name calling. This is also evident whenever you see politicians and/or supporters come together.
This isn’t anything new either, back in a 1968 debate between conservative thinker William F. Buckley Jr and liberal writer Gore Vidal, members of opposing intellectual elites, who had hoped to have a civilised political discussion, soon descended into name-calling and resulted in them suing each other for defamation.
The reason for such differences in opinion is because of the underlying belief systems each of the sides holds.
Conservatives and Liberals think completely differently. They perceive differently and interpret information and news differently.
When you consider that such differences have, throughout history, resulted in many thousands, even millions of deaths, you may and indeed should have cause for concern. If you think such comments are overblown, read a few political history books and see for yourself.
Liberals to the Left
Liberals lean towards the socialist side of the political spectrum. Both the Labour party, here in UK, and the Democrats in the US are positioned on the left. The further left a person is, the more they value big government running key services like education, health (NHS in UK), water, energy, transport, infrastructure building etc.
The government is the expected to redistribute wealth through taxes, taking from the more well-off members of society and giving to the disadvantaged and vulnerable in an attempt to even things up.
The narrative that plays out on the left revolves around preventing the oppressing capitalists exploiting workers. Workers being the ones who create the value within industry, but who often don’t share in the financial rewards as the capitalists do, because they don’t own the means of production.
Liberals also feel passionate about reducing inequality and creating a fairer society for all.
Far left political movements such as communism have proven to be very problematic in the past becoming politically corrupt and leading to most failing spectacularly.
Let me be clear, the majority of liberals are not on the far left of the political spectrum.
Conservatives to the right
The Conservatives types tend to value personal responsibility over socialist ideas. They have a “get what you work for” attitude.
Conservatives believe that if everyone is incentivised to work harder, then everyone benefits. They want to support those who have fallen on hard times for no fault of their own, but don’t like lazy people taking a free ride.
They like the idea of functioning free markets, with less government intervention and regulation, where value drives supply and demand. This is why Conservatives prefer the privatisation of the provision of energy supply, water, transport, postal services, and infrastructure, rather than the government providing them.
Far right people profess to be more patriotic, and believe in the government prioritising its own citizens, before helping other countries. The majority of conservatives are not on the far right of the political spectrum.
You may be asking yourself at this point, where conservative and liberal values and beliefs come from. Why do some people lean towards one end of the spectrum rather than the other?
The big 5 personality test is considered the most accurate way of identifying personality and is used widely in psychology fields. It’s made up of 5 parameters, which lie on a continuum, with one extreme trait at one end, and the opposite trait at the other end. For instance, extraversion and introversion. Individuals will have traits that appear somewhere along each continuum.
The big 5 personality traits
Extraversion > introversion
Neuroticism > emotionally stable
Agreeableness > disagreeableness
Conscientiousness > disorganised
Openness to experience > closed mindedness
Research indicates that traits are 50% biologically determined, and 50% influenced by social conditioning and upbringing.
It has been well documented in political psychology that conservative types tend to be high in conscientiousness and low in openness and liberals tend to be high in openness and low in conscientiousness.
Those high in conscientiousness
Value order over disorder, so tend to be well organised
Value getting on in the world, so are productive and organised towards a goal
Safety and predictability is important – don’t welcome surprises
Opposite if low in conscientiousness
Those high in openness to experience
Value novelty, so like new things, and are innovative
Value beauty and art, so are creative and artistic
Value new and engaging experiences
Like to travel and sample new places
Opposite if low in openness
Prefer bounded spaces, so like borders and walls, so they can feel safe in their safe space
Prefer order over chaos
Prefer to make and follow procedures and processes, so they know what needs doing and can be consistent in action and outcomes
Prefer to do the things the way they have always done them
Don’t want to be constrained by borders and walls, they want to be free and unrestricted
Prefer chaos over boring and predictable order. Routine is not their thing.
Prefer to wing it, and make things up on the fly over sitting down and making a plan
Prefer open borders, safety is paranoid
Prefer to try new things, change things up
It is easy to see how these personality traits can influence political inclinations. It also highlights the difficulty of bringing the two opposing viewpoints together.
Our tendencies are largely built into our genes. It’s not easy to change who we are and what we believe.
Social conditioning is also hugely influential in what we believe and value. Social conditioning is made up of what our family and those we grow up with teach us and the stories we tell ourselves about our experiences.
Although education can improve knowledge around a particular subject or topic, it’s the core beliefs that influence the stories and narratives we emotionally invest in.
Very educated people can have completely opposing viewpoints. They know the issues in play, but choose to interpret them completely differently.
You may well ask yourself why this is?
People invest themselves, emotionally, into their core beliefs and values and often refuse to compromise on them. If you believe you’re right about something, why would you entertain changing that belief? You’re right and the other side is wrong. It’s easy to think the other side is foolish or ignorant and this comes more easily than questioning our own beliefs, but probability would suggest “they” can’t all be idiots.
The big danger in employing this approach is the risk of falling into the confirmation trap, where we look for evidence to support our beliefs and values and dismiss or ignore conflicting evidence. This is often referred to as “confirmation bias”.
Learn to apply critical thinking in such situations. Question why so many intelligent opponents think the way they do. Be curious. Listen without judgement and try to figure what is going on.
You have to be willing to let go of old beliefs in order to make room for new ones. You have to be willing to admit you were wrong so you can start being right.
Most people fall in between the polarised political positions we have discussed here. They want a fair society that works for all, that catches those who are vulnerable and in genuine need of help. People differ in how they feel this is best achieved. Make no mistake, there are also some people who are pathological; they are more concerned with making society worse rather than better.
There are two sides to human nature.
Because we are social animals who live in a social environment, our best chance to survive or even better flourish, depends on us getting on with other people.
We play the roles we’re expected to play in different social situations; a mother, a daughter, a friend, a neighbour, a work colleague, a boss, a supplier, etc.
Each role requires us to be a different version of ourselves. If we play them well, others are comfortable around us because we are predictable.
If we do random things at random times, other people will undoubtedly feel anxious around us and are less likely to interact with us.
Imagine being in a restaurant with your spouse and halfway through your meal, you jump on the table and start to make a big commotion, kicking cutlery around the room. What kind of reaction do you think you’d get from your spouse, the other diners, and the restaurant management? Better still, imagine your spouse doing it to you. It would probably freak you out. Other diners would probably back off and be very negative in how they look at what you are doing. The police might be called, and you would certainly be thrown out by the owners of the restaurant.
You might not consciously realise you’re playing roles and behaving in a way that others in society find preferable and acceptable, but you are. If you do things you shouldn’t, you’re certain to get reactions from others around you, ranging from disapproving looks to arrest by the police, depending on the degree of your misconduct. As we grow up, we repeat things we are rewarded for, and stop doing thing we are punished for. This is how social conditioning works.
The other side of human nature is the dark side. This is the shadow side we avoid at all costs. It’s the side of each of us that, given the right circumstances, can make us into monsters, particularly when possessed by high levels of negative emotions such as hatred and vengefulness.
We look back in horror at things like the Nazi party’s genocide of millions of Jewish people and think this would never happen again. This occurred not because one man, Adolf Hitler was evil, but because many others played along with his mad plan, having dehumanised the Jews to such a degree they thought they deserved what they got. Germans blamed Jews for their own suffering and were sold on the story that the world would be better once the Jews had been removed. Hatred took over and resulted in men, women and children being brutally murdered.
We might prefer to think those who perpetrated such crimes were evil by nature, but many were not. They had become so consumed with hatred for an enemy they believed was bringing suffering to their own lives and those of their families and friends. Hitler played to the crowd but also fed off the crowd. It was a mutually supportive escalation of emotions that led up to the horrors that resulted in the second world war.
Having a dark side means we have to be able to control it. Virtue comes from controlling our darker impulses, not from not having them. If I am capable of being cruel or even killing another person and choose not to, then that is something of a virtue. We need to have aggression to be able to be assertive, to be competitive, otherwise others will walk all over us, but it has to be controlled aggression.
If we become tyrannical and bully others into doing what we want them to do, against their will, we will be unpopular and eventually someone will have enough of the tyranny and take us out, maybe it will take two of them to do it or three or four but eventually they will do it.
So cohesion is not a long-term solution for anyone who wants to get on in life, and have healthy relationships. Cooperation and competition is required if people are going to keep wanting to interact with you in a mutually beneficial way.
How society works
Society works by encouraging the people who live in that society to work together for the greater good of all.
Each person brings something of value to the table that others want and are willing to pay for, and an exchange of value is carried out, usually in the form of money for a service or product.
Some are better at producing this value than others. Meritocracy results in those who are better at producing value, rising to the top of a hierarchical structure (triangle shaped structure).
Those at the top earn the most money in our current system. They are incentivised to provide more value in order to get more monetary reward.
Some on the left of politics would say they exploit employees by making more money from the value they generate then they have to pay out to those employees who actually create that value. Some on the right of politics would counter that everyone, given the right skillset, can do the same, so if you don’t want to be exploited, don’t be an employee, instead be a business owner/entrepreneur.
Anyway, those that are particularly good at managing this value exchange earn more money, and rise up to the top of the value hierarchy. If they are fair, not too greedy and look after their employees (those employees get paid more), everyone is better off from the arrangement.
If equality of opportunities is fair, then everyone has a chance of joining in and the value hierarchy is effective at allowing society to function reasonably well. What happens over time is those at the top of the value hierarchy defend their dominant position by stifling competition and use their power and wealth to game the system to their advantage. The hierarchy then becomes more of a dominance hierarchy rather than a value hierarchy and eventually turns tyrannical. All value hierarchies’ become tyrannical if left unchecked.
Both liberals and conservatives have functions to perform in keeping value hierarchies honest and preventing them from turning tyrannical. Liberals are good at coming up with ideas for solutions that bring value and solve problems. Conservatives are good at following through on these ideas, building and maintaining hierarchies around these solutions. Liberals are good at calling out hierarchies that are becoming tyrannical, holding them to account and protecting those disaffected at the bottom of them.
We need conservatives to …
To make ideas reality
To organise and grow businesses – the structures, processes and procedures that make up efficient systems
But we equally need liberals to…
Come up with innovative solutions to problems
To be creative and help make and sell products/services – the creative of marketing
To hold value hierarchies to account – stop them becoming tyrannical
You can see that we need both liberal and conservative types to keep society functioning effectively. We should value both sides of the argument as crucially necessary. We should guard against any one side gaining the upper hand, because society will not function nearly as well, and the consequences could literally be nightmarish.
So next time you feel frustrated at the other side’s lack of cooperation or understanding, realise society works because each side is pushing from opposite points of view and within that tension society is kept in balance.
Many conspiracy theories come out of the deep distrust of authority.
When people have the perception they’ve been lied to, and deceived, over and over again, it’s only natural that people becoming distrusting of the offending entity. It can be very difficult, if not impossible to build trust again.
This seems to be what’s happening with western governments and the media, at the moment.
All who side with the distrusted party are themselves distrusted and seen to be complicit in the lie. Even science seems to have fallen into this trap of late.
How do you get trust back? Can you? Are governments’ reputations damaged irreparably? Is the media reputation damaged irreparably? What about science?
I think science should take an independent stand, so as not to be seen as complicit in some government led deception.
Science should speak with one voice, not with dissenting, often conflicting viewpoints, that only act to muddy the waters. What is evidence based, and what is opinion? It’s important to address any contradictions, otherwise people won’t know what to believe.
I often see people on social media, calling others ‘sheeple’ as a derogatory term for those they perceive as being gullible for believing what government and associated science are saying. But not believing what the government or science is saying, is not an absence of belief, but rather a belief in some kind of conspiracy theory.
What reliable scientific evidence is there to support the belief in that conspiracy theory? Believing in some unfounded conspiracy theory, which runs counter to respected scientific evidence, could also be seen as an example of people acting like sheeple.
You can believe the widely accepted science, or you can believe often debunked anti-scientific opinion, but I know which one is probably more likely to be accurate.
It’s wise to be skeptical about what people tell you. It’s wise to be questioning. When someone tells you something ask them to prove it. It’s fine to use that principle when authority tells you something, but also question conspiracy theories, in the same way. Don’t reject one and then blindly embrace the other, that is just dumb.
When people don’t have reliable sources of information, they may become confused and hunker down into what they already believe. Better to seek out information from various sources. Read what the Political Right have to say, then read what the Political Left have to say about the same thing. The truth is likely to be somewhere in the middle of the two.
Science is usually a good starting point, spend time researching the latest knowledge on the topic. If you’ve not got the time, best to keep your opinions to yourself, rather than risk spreading misinformed misinformation, which doesn’t help anyone.
Follow the scientific advice unless you have definitive proof it’s a lie. Be even more skeptical of conspiracy theories. They spread because they are often sensational and fantastical. They ride on the back of the facts of the event or situation in a plausible way, but they are only a narrative interpretation.
Every intention and action can be interpreted negatively or positively if you so wish. The hero explorer is cast as the merciless invader, the protective government is seen as the oppressor, safety becomes confinement, a worried neighbor is seen as nosey.
Look for the facts and take the rest of the story with a pinch of salt.
Politics is very emotive because “division” is an important aspect of the human Ego.
The Ego’s default inclination is to either..
Seek ATTACHMENT or
SEPARATION, particularly when we’re not psychologically awake to what is happening.
Let’s just take a second to review how Attachment works – it inflates (false) sense of self – if we psychologically “have” more, we “are” more.
Separation works by also inflating (false) sense of self – by separating, we make an “other”, and there is no greater “other” than an “enemy”. We criticise, complain about an “other”, implying we are superior in some way.
So politics is about attaching to a party that represents our beliefs, our desires and goals, while separating from parties that don’t connect with us.
Because these things are important to us, they come with great emotion.
We become tribalist behind the ideologies of one party at the expense of others.
But politics isn’t as black or white as politicians and the media would have us believe.
Mainstream media is a hugely influential force, when it comes to shaping public opinion.
But it’s important to understand that the media craves drama, discourse, division and headline-making news, in the most emotive way possible. It does so because these things attract and engage viewers, and in doing so, the media can make money from sponsors and advertisers and justifies its existence to stakeholders.
As the public, we need not take sides, or get dragged into the overblown drama of the media.
If you’re emotional about something, anything, there is an underlying attachment at the heart of that emotion. Check out the following story to illustrate what I mean.
Mike is watching the news, sees a program where keir Starmer criticises Boris johnson with regards to one of his policies; the details aren’t important for the purpose of this story.
This elicits a negative reaction by Mike, as if he were being personally, verbally attacked himself.
But why does he have this response?
Mike is attached to Boris Johnson in some way – not to him personally, because he’s not a big fan of him as a leader. Mike is attached to some of his policies. Mike likes what he believes Johnson is trying to “do for” the country
Mike believes Johnson is going to try and “reform government” – which is important to Mike.
Mike believes Johnson is going to invest in northern towns and cities – by redistribute wealth to poorer, undeveloped areas, as he promised.
Mike believe Johnson represents “something important to him”
Mike reacts to an attack on his attachment; what he believes Johnson stands for.
Mike doesn’t want Johnson’s “mission derailing”
Mike is really attached to what he believes…
Johnson stands for
Johnson will do for the country and for him personally
#1 – Reform government
#2 – Investment in northern towns and cities – redistribute wealth to poorer areas.
Mike is putting faith in the person rather than the system. He may not trust the system.
Does the Johnson have the power to deliver on his promises? Does Johnson have the will to do this? Does Mike trust Johnson’s intent, capabilities, trustworthiness.
Remember, we judge politicians on the basis of their…
Mikes beliefs, in this instance, are based on FAITH rather than certainty and habit.
So it is with all of us, when we’re trying to make decisions about future events or situations, we can’t know with any certainty that we’re doing the right thing. We may give a leader or party the benefit of the doubt, but faith is usually what our beliefs are founded on.
I guess we could vote a particular way based on habit; we voted for them last time, we’ll vote for them again, or family vote for a particular party, so we do the same.
We might decide not to vote at all.
After all is said and done, whether you’re engaged in politics or not, it affects every facet of everybody’s lives.
Whatever your political persuasion, it’s important to understand the roles that all the participants play; politicians, media and the public.
It’s equally important to see through the often overblown drama stirred up by the media. They are running a business with their own agenda. Drama pays the bills for these organisations.
It’s equally important to understand that competing political parties are maneuvering for political power. It is in their interests to disagree with one another, to find fault in one another for their own political gain.
However, there is a difference between point scoring and holding each other to account, which is an important part of the political process. We want government to be scrutinised and held-to-account by other parties and the media, for their promises and actions.
But understand the underlying motives and learn to read between the lines. Scrutiny is good, point scoring, and political maneuvering is bad and self-serving by the politicians.
We shouldn’t focus on taking sides, by falling behind one party or the other and attaching with a vice-like-grip to a political position or engage in party politics. What we need to do, as a society, is to hold all politicians to account. Utilise the best policies based on merit and the reality of human nature in reaction to those policies, rather than ideology alone. We need to ensure politicians deliver on promises with effective execution. Question whether the policies are doable, and the politicians capable, and we should base these judgements on merit, not ideology.
Are you a nurse or carer emotionally overwhelmed with the current situation? Or are you someone forced to stay at home and watching from the sidelines, struggling to deal with the pain, suffering and loss of others?
Just a slight digression for a moment, I’d like you to think about the following scenario…..
If you saw a person (male or female) keep head butting a wall then complaining they have a massive headache, what would you say to them? What advice would you give them? Please consider this before reading on.
Back to your suffering and feelings of being emotionally overwhelmed, about the current situation. You’re getting upset that people are struggling and even dying, not just because those things are happening, but largely because you believe that others shouldn’t have to suffer. But this is not possible, death and illness are part of life, this is the way it has always been and will always be. None of us will escape the clutches of death, and will inevitably be ill at some point of our lives.
Holding onto the belief “people should not suffer”, creates an expectation/preference that can never be fulfilled, and will only bring suffering to the person that holds onto that way of thinking. It is metaphorically like banging your head against a wall. Instead shift your mindset. If dealing with sick patients, be grateful you can ease their suffering to some degree or help their passing be more tolerable. Grateful you are well enough to do be able to care for them in some way. If you were not there for them, their situation would be so much worse.
One final point I need to make, the difference between you and the person head butting the wall is that your suffering comes out of caring about others, not just as a result of some mindless act of self-harm. The fact you care so much, is in itself, something to be immensely proud of. Caring people make for a better world to live and die in. So keep caring, but don’t suffer for your caring. Take joy from your priceless assistance, we love you for it, and so do those you look after.
Beliefs and the values that stem from them are conditioned into us as we grow up, by the society we live in, by the family we are closest to and any other influential parties we are exposed to in our lives.
Many such beliefs exist outside of conscious awareness within our subconscious knowledge pool. They affect every decision we make, often without us realising they are doing so.
While some beliefs serve us, there are many more that don’t. It’s important we improve self-awareness so that we can uncover subconscious counterproductive beliefs, thoughts and behaviours. These may include..
Habitual thoughts and thought patterns
“The subconscious is motivated by emotion.” Anything you have a strong feeling or emotional response to passes into the subconscious. This is how phobias are formed, a strong emotional reaction to a very unpleasant event is anchored into the subconscious. Also wishing for something with deep emotion (positive or negative) can be embedded in the subconscious.
Habits are formed through repetition, good habits or bad habits can be either habits of thought or habits of behaviour. Break the underlying belief that formed them, and which continues to hold them in place, and you can break the habit. Bad habits are usually best removed by forming good habits to replace them.
Looking under the hood of BELIEFS
BELIEFS are generally built on shaky foundations. Often based on nothing more than ASSUMPTIONS and INFERENCES, rather than EVIDENCE and FACTS.
Think about the strongly held beliefs you hold. Where did they come from?
We might take the testimony of experts as fact, but in reality we don’t know if we’re being deceived and lied to, because of some hidden agenda, that we’re not privy to.
My own experience, is peppered with examples of being deceived by authority figures and so-called experts who subsequently were found to be profiteering from me following their advice, without providing any real value for me, a case of smoke and mirrors. It happened to me when I first started investing in stocks and shares, trusting stock analysts and regulators, many of whom where exposed during the 2007-2008 financial crash. Be very wary about putting money into anything based on what people tell you. Do your own due diligence first, always.
So if expert testimony can’t be entirely trusted, and I include the media, politicians and big businesses in this, what can you believe, other than your own first hand experience.
Can you believe what a friend of a friend tells you, or your parents, or your colleagues?
Well you have to be the judge, but what I would say is question everything. Ask “How do you know?”, “Where is the proof?”. An healthy skepticism is always a good thing. Don’t be rushed into making a decision, if someone insists you decide now, walk away.
From BELIEFS come VALUES, which are the things we judge as being important to us, in which we invest a sense of ourselves. By selected these values we also infer their opposites, our dislikes, pet peeves and such.
What we deem as relevant and important to us, shapes what we pay attention to. As a result our PERCEPTIONS and PERSPECTIVE are greatly influenced by BELIEFS and VALUES. As are our EXPECTATIONS, ATTACHMENTS, JUDGMENTS, LIKES and DISLIKES, REACTIONS and EMOTIONS.
BELIEFS and VALUES are the foundation of how we live our lives, so it’s vitally important to ensure they are well founded and grounded.
Any beliefs that helps us move closer to achieving our goals are generally okay, but beliefs that hold us back, need addressing.
Get out of your own way
Fears, self-doubts, insecurities, expectations and preferences are getting in the way, they are closing up the channel, blocking the bandwidth. It’s time to leave the prison of the mind. It’s not a matter of gaining anything, in fact it’s about losing everything that is cluttering up your life and stopping you achieving your GOALS.
One of the building blocks to getting results is the “acquisition of knowledge”.
In philosophy, the study of knowledge is called Epistemology and the definition of knowledge most popular with Epistemologist, came from Plato who famously defined it as “True Belief with Logos (a reason)”, or “justified true belief”.
So now that we’ve defined what knowledge is, how do we acquire it?
More often than not, knowledge is acquired through the testimony of other people.
Generally we learn through the people we share our lives with. Those who have greatest influence on us growing up, are parents, siblings, friends, teachers, authority figure, who we look to and trust. More widely, we take knowledge from the media and science as reliable sources of knowledge. Although many people question the honesty of media these days.
There is knowledge about the fact of things. Things like the earth is round, things fall to the ground because of gravity, your name is [whatever your name is], your birth date is [whatever it is], you are male or female. We believe them and they are accurate, so we have knowledge, providing we haven’t been lied to about them.
There are also beliefs that come out of inference. Your parents might say to you “None of our family are rich, people like us just don’t get rich, so you’re not likely to get rich either”. The knowledge that “none of our family are rich”, might be accurate, but the inferences that “people like us don’t get rich, so you’re not likely to get rich either”, can’t be counted as knowledge, they are not fact, but they may well be believed. Many self-limiting beliefs are formed this way. We hold them as truth, we may count them as knowledge, but they are not, they are no truer than saying “none of our family are rich, but there is nothing stopping us getting rich, with education, effort and a sound plan of action, you can be as rich as you want to be.”
When we’re considering moving away from what we’re currently doing, to go somewhere else, or do something else, whether that is building a new career, starting a new business, moving to live somewhere new, whatever it is, there is likely to be a requirement to gain some new insights, learn some new knowledge, to help us along the way.
So we require finding reliable sources of accurate information to help us do that. We are also required to have enough self-belief and self-confidence to take action. If you don’t believe you can do it, you’re unlikely to put yourself in the way of possible failure and disappointment.
Social conditioning includes all the sources of testimony of knowledge we’ve identified previously; parents, teachers, peers etc. The term social conditioning also includes negative connotations, particularly concerned around somewhat restrictive, self-limiting beliefs we may have picked up along the way.
If we haven’t experienced it directly, we’ve all heard of people who have been told they won’t amount to much, or shouldn’t try to stretch themselves, so as not to experience disappointment and failure. If we take these kind beliefs onboard, they can become intertwined with our knowledge and it can be hard unpicking fact from fiction.
So, the way ahead includes finding reliable sources of accurate information, and unpicking your limiting beliefs enough to find the confidence to take the necessary action to follow your dreams, or at the very least, chase down your goals.
We now have more access to knowledge than ever before. We can learn so much through the internet these days. There is soo much information available, the biggest problem is there is also a lot of dross and misleading information to wade through, and it’s difficult to identify who and what to believe and who and what to ignore.
We need to find sources of information who have credibility, ideally people who have done what it is we want to do, and so have direct knowledge about what is required, or what was required for them to do it. They have a track record that we can model. We may call these people role models, or if we can get personal access to them, even mentors.
We need to make sure sources of information and knowledge are not serving some hidden agenda, which doesn’t have our best interests at heart. Sure there lots of courses out there that will teach you to do something, but there are many more who promise to give you the world, to make you rich, but who have no intention of doing anything other than lining their own pockets. When you spend a certain amount of time online you begin to recognise the signs to watch out for. These often include outrageous claims of success. The general rule applies, that if it sounds too good to be true, or promises to be really easy, then you can bet it’s a scam more often than not.
Remember one thing, the road to success is a journey, try to enjoy the journey as much as the destination. Learn your trade, keep trying to make improvements, so you grow into the person you need to be to succeed, and don’t look for shortcuts. There are very few overnight successes in any areas of life.
So, in summary, learn the difference between knowledge that is fact, and beliefs that you treat as knowledge, but aren’t and that often only serve to hold you back from chasing down your goals.
Find reliable sources of accurate information and knowledge, which helps move you closer to achieving your goals.
Do you believe death is the end, that there is nothing more once we die? If so, the thought of death might fill you with dread.
Alternatively, If you believe that after death, your spirit goes to be with the spirits of deceased family members, who you love and miss, you might look forward to the prospect of death.
Both these are thoughts. Which ever version you believe to be true, determines your feeling about the consequences of death. Fear or anticipation. You have no way of knowing which version is true ahead of time. Yet which ever you believe, has an impact on your life and how you live it.
It colours the background of your life, maybe resulting in a feeling of fear or worry in the back of your mind, that is always there. Many spiritualist believe the fear of death is a major part of the human condition and the reason people struggle with dealing with the Ego (self preservation part of the mind).
Let’s look at another common debate, the debate about whether life is on your side versus life is constantly testing you.
Do you believe that life is looking to support your endeavours and successes or do you believe life is designed to test and challenge you, so you grow? Or do you believe life is just a fluke and there is no purpose, rhyme or reason to it? It’s just a random occurrence and we make things up as we go along. Again which belief you fall behind, will have an impact on the way you live your life, the emotions you feel and how you deal with setbacks. Can you not enjoy your successes because you’re waiting for things to go wrong? Or do you feel you have the power of the Universe behind your efforts, the Universe is working to help you?
Okay, let’s consider your beliefs about people. Are people inherently good or bad? Or are people a mixture of both, capable of great feats, amazing accomplishements and acts of kindness and altruism? While also being capable of selfishness, destructiveness and the capacity to carrying out monstrous acts of devastation to fellow human beings, animals and the planet.
Let’s consider your beliefs around your government. Are your government acting to secretly enslave the population or are they doing the best they can for the good of the country and its people?
On a more personal level, are you capable of whatever you set your mind to or are you not really very good at anything?
Are your beliefs generally more positively or negatively orientated?
Are you a glass half full or half empty person?
Are you always striving for more, wanting more and better or grateful for, and contented with, what you have in the here and now?
Sure we’ve covered a lot of different areas of life here, but the underlying thing behind each of these, are your beliefs, what you believe to be true or not.
Beliefs are generally held with some level of faith or certainty. You have to believe it to be true, for it to be a belief.
The power in this little word can not be understated. Beliefs shape everything you do, how you interpret incoming stimuli, the meaning you give to it. What you pay attention to and what you choose, either on a conscious or subconscious level, to ignore or filter out.
Beliefs are used to judge what is good or bad, what should be pursued and what should be avoided.
You must question your beliefs, bring some conscious thought to how they work in you. Question them, where did they come from, what are their intentions?
You’ll find that many beliefs are driven by fear, they come from the instinctive, self preservation part of the mind, that is doing its best to keep you safe and well. It’s very good at what it was designed to do.
The secret is to use your intellect, the rational part of your mind, to control the instinctive part of your mind. Don’t let irrational fear drive your actions or dictate your thoughts and emotions. Take back control!
It’s interesting isn’t it, beliefs are a fascinating topic. What we believe guides our decision-making in every aspect of life.
There was recently a post on Facebook with the following maths problem..
(7+7+7)-(7+7)x 0 = ?
On reading the comments, it was funny to see how some people were arrogantly quoting zero as being the answer, while others equally arrogantly quoted 21 being the answer.
This observation got me thinking how people were so sure in their belief in the answer, that they were happy to comment to the world, and potentially in front of their friends, family and other associates, without ever doubting that they may be wrong, and the possibility of looking stupid.
Now I’m not judging people who got this wrong, as being stupid, but I’m sure that if they found out they were wrong, they would feel a little embarrassed that they didn’t know the answer, after all “it’s something you learn in 3rd grade” – and I’m quoting a comment of someone who got the answer wrong.
But people do this kind of thing all the time, particularly on social media. They believe they know something when they wrong – they have false knowledge.
Having false knowledge can be problematic for decision-making, if you’re basing your decision on that false knowledge.
Doing a quick Google search will undoubtedly give you the right answer to a simple maths question, and the consequences of getting it wrong is nothing greater than a little social embarrassment, but there are situations where having false knowledge, while believing you are right, can cause significantly more serious consequences.
The answer to dealing with false knowledge and misguided belief, is not to hold beliefs with such certainty. Question them, look for proof that you are right or wrong, before acting on them.
The moment you believe you are right, is the exactly the same moment you stop looking for evidence of contradiction. You look for confirmation you are right, which further entrenches you into that belief mind-set.
One solution, drawn from a famous insight of philosopher Karl Popper, who argued that in science, evidence against a hypothesis, called
disconfirmation, is much more important than evidence for that
hypothesis, called confirmation.
So, let go of beliefs, and instead look for evidence that disconfirms them. If you believe “all politicians are self-serving”, then you only have to find one that isn’t self-serving, and you’ve disproved your belief, good luck with that, only joking. But you get the point, it’s easy to fall into the trap of finding evidence that supports your belief, after all, there are many politicians who you can find evidence of being self-serving, if you look hard enough, and this further embeds the belief.
A word of warning before I finish this post, if you find yourself using generalities such as “all”, “most” or “none” you’re over-relying on stereotypes and biases, and this is a lazy and foolish way of forming beliefs.
Comments like “All BMW drivers are arrogant”, and “most politicians are self-serving”, play on stereotypes, prejudices, biases and vastly overgeneralise, so stop holding such beliefs, and start looking for contradictions. You’ll undoubtedly find that many of your beliefs are based on false knowledge.
Just one last point, the answer to the maths question, if you didn’t already know, is 21 – the rule that makes it so is called “order of operations”, so now you really do know the answer.