Psychological Pitfalls

I’ve noticed a common theme from the side that is trying to counter this movement about justice for George Floyd, specifically, and social justice and equality for systemically oppressed populations, generally. That is, I noticed a theme of one-sideness and selection bias being rampant.

For example, to the latter point, people are selectively choosing to focus their attention toward anything but the deep, painful, raw, and pervasive issue at hand; instead, people resisting this sort of societal change are gravitating toward anything that they can use as a suitable straw man. Therefore, their arguments are usually highly fallacious, so it is better to limit engagement in these psychological trenches so the forward momentum can remain unified and targeted on the true goal: Justice.

The former point of one-sideness is intertwined with the biased selectivity outlined above; however, it delves somewhat deeper into the human psyche. Cognitive dissonance is the state of holding two opposing beliefs simultaneously, and it is well-documented that this phenomenon influences a multitude of human behaviors, because it makes people so uncomfortable that they are motivated to seek change. Unfortunately, inherent to life is constant change. Therefore, trying to resolve the tension produced by opposing forces through fortifying, or doubling-down, on a single point or node that is polarized toward a specific side is ultimately self-defeating. It is as if one is so disturbed—and, consequently, dysregulated (out of balance)—that balance is subjectively restored through the solidification of a single position. Furthermore, this single position is then fallaciously used and treated as if it is inherently self-sufficient.

Let’s take an example to further illustrate what is being said by this point. Take the example of rigid and flexible. If I were to resolve the tension between these two opposing forces by deciding that rigidness is all that matters, then this would be an example of being one-sided. However, if I were to take one more movement in this cognitive direction and decide that I was so happy by the security and comfort from believing in only rigidness, then I can start to discredit the existence or the necessity of flexibility.

We should pause at this point. It is quite easy to carry on from this line of thinking, transforming into subsequent arguments; however, at this point in the example, we have reached a point where, if we were to proceed, it would be rooted in a false dilemma; that is, there is not an argument originating from categories that exist in pairs of opposites. To belabor this point further, one cannot start with a premise that is rooted in a belief that the end is better than the means; particulars are better than universals; permanence is better than change; product is better than process; and individual is better than social.

For any of the above examples, as well as any other family of oppositions, to proceed with an argument that one side is better or worse than the other is starting an argument from a false dilemma; therefore, nullifying any subsequent arguments, premises, or conclusions made after the fact.

Warning: Contains Political Content

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I have refrained from talking about the current political climate in America because the polarization of the “Us vs. Them” mindset seemed impossible to surmount. Out of fears of my inadequacies, I have chosen to remain silent, rationalizing to myself that my silence was justified: Peoples’ minds have chosen sides, and there is nothing that can be said or done to sway peoples’ opinions.

Upon recent reflection, I realized that I had let my cowardice get the best of me. Moreover, I discovered that within this presumption outlined above was the implicit acknowledgement of the “Us/Them” false dichotomy. However, even after this revelation, there still have been persistent beliefs within myself that allowed me to continue to bite my tongue: “You have nothing to offer, and, even if you did, it wouldn’t matter. No one would read it, even if they bothered to read it, it wouldn’t change their minds.” It was this last part that has compelled me to break my silence and finally write.

I am a counselor by trade, even so, it is still fascinating to discover irrational beliefs that produce internal (psychic) tension. The last part of this negative self-belief is where I illuminated a fundamental error in my line of thinking. Similar to the counseling process, the goal is not about changing someone’s mind, rather it is about providing new perspectives, experiences, reflections, etc. that further inquiry and help to refine and better define their beliefs, values, and aspirations.

Furthermore, this shift in my perspective about the starting point for political discussion has also allowed me to reflect upon the array of experiences I have been collecting. I am a member of groups and organizations that would be deemed “far-right,” as well as ones which lean towards the “far-left.” Initially, these group experiences produced a great sense of tension within me that was further exacerbated by the division being portrayed within the American news. However, through maintaining the delicate balance between being open-minded while, simultaneously, having the courage to hold to certain deeply held convictions, I have been able to resist the pull of absolutism; that is, the tendency to want to resolve my internal discomfort produced by the tensions of both sides and foreclose on one of them as the absolute truth and guiding principle that all people should adopt.

This has been a difficult endeavor to undertake, especially considering the political and cultural climate of America growing more rigid and extreme by the day. However, I am grateful for being able to be a part of the “in-group” for both groups of the left and the right, because it has allowed me to understand some of the more mundane experiences, issues, and concerns that are at the root of the larger movements and politics that flood the internet and media. It has provided me with faces and verbalized expressions of the people who hold certain ideologies, instead of the abstract, dehumanized, and dogmatic view of such ideologies that are often portrayed through media. The importance of the medium through which information is absorbed is often overlooked. When ideologies are provided, devoid of any relation to actual experience, it allows the individual’s assumptions, preconceptions, unconscious biases, and a host of other psychic content to be combined with their imaginative capacity. In turn, this perpetuates ideologies and beliefs as having a sort of life in and of themselves, outside of the lived experienced of individuals.

Moreover, this separation between ideologies and actual experiences is doing damage to our democracy, for many individuals have become so certain of the absolutism of their beliefs that there is no room for common ground. While the overt differences in beliefs are emphasized, the nuances within the ideologies of either side are overlooked or disregarded. Furthermore, these nuances have become beyond reproach, since they are entirely overshadowed by the perceived irreconcilable schism of the defining features of each ideology.

Therefore, the impetus for my writing about the topic of politics in America is to emphasize the aspects that are being overlooked. While the differences in ideologies and beliefs between the right and the left are being magnified–and, in fact, personified through the attack or defense of President Trump– the similarities of experienced shared by being a human being living in a world of struggle, change, uncertainty, with feelings of isolation, desire for belonging, and striving for purpose and meaning, are being entirely overlooked. Insofar, that these aspects that comprise life are being eliminated from communal discourse, unless both parties identify with one another politically and ideologically. This lack of communication between members of opposing sides will only deepen the divide that is already present, and it will erase the opportunity to live and interact as fellow citizens of a democracy, learning from one another and enriching each other’s lives through the sharing and celebrating of differences, as well as those of similarities.

The Paradox of Existence

We are always being torn in two. We live within the tension between opposing forces. Life involves both the processes of living and dying happening simultaneously: Some live to die, and others die to live.

We live a paradox and we are one. We both desperately want to be free but are paralyzed by the true totality of what freedom means. We want to find love but find it terrifying once we are actually truly in love with someone whose well-being directly dictates our own. We seek truth at all cost, except when the truth is far more unbearable than the majesty of our fantasies.

We live this way because existence comes with the knowledge of knowing that we may someday not exist (or, at least, exist in an entirely different form). In the forefront of our minds, we live; but, in the background, we know that we may cease to exist someday. To some this may scare, while others don’t care; but, nonetheless, the thought is ever presently there.

Missing The Point

If religious laws and piety produce nothing more than judgement and elitism, then they are not from the spirit but rather the ego. They are societal parameters to regulate appropriate decorum determined by individuals crudely attempting to construct their ideal reality.

Aspects of the true spirit will produce fruit that manifests in forms of love, freedom and peace, not judgement, rigidity and angst. No man made laws, institutions or religious righteousness will bring you to God, but they certainly can distance you.

When you find your religious perspective is one from a high vantage, you should reevaluate what it is that you believe and what it is that you want from others. We are all equal in the eyes of God. We are all imperfect in our own ways, and to judge others for their specific imperfections, only deepens our own. And, deepening our own imperfections, deepens the chasm that divides us from God’s absolute perfection.

We should shift our eyes from societal things and the eqoic mind which feeds off of comparison and judgement, and instead turn inwards to gaze upon ourselves. Not from the point of view of judgement, but simply from the perspective of an impassive observer.

We should focus more on who we are and what we are becoming in relation to the absolute source that is God, and less about the faults of others in an attempt to falsely build ourselves up.

Proof of Life

Have you ever had a moment where you questioned your own life – no, I don’t mean like existentially question your life, but rather experience something that makes you question whether you’re alive or not?

If you have, then think back to that moment (or a similar one), and, if you haven’t, try and imagine.

So, you have this thought of uncertainty about whether you’re alive or dead, nothing too strange with this experience. What is strange is that we determine that we are indeed alive. You might say, “Why is this strange?” Well, it is strange because what is it that caused you to quell the idea that you are dead? What signs did you look for? What evidence did you need to verify that you were in fact not dead, but alive?

I don’t know the answer to this. My answer is simply that I know, which sounds tautological (and is), but it’s the best explanation I have.

What are your thoughts?

Leap of Faith

We separate ourselves from Christ by emphasizing his divinity and undermining his humanity. Instead of seeking to imitate him, we are actually avoiding him by alienating ourselves from him.

We choose this because it is easier than wrestling with the paradox that is Jesus: man and God, meek carpenter and savior of the world, blameless but convicted. We struggle with gray areas, and we are hardwired for dualistic – black and white – thinking.

We logic our way into believing in God instead of surrendering our way to having faith in God. The former is a test of memory, facts, evidence and proofs, while the latter is one of pure intuition – fear and trembling in the face of the reality of what existence is truly about.

 

Standard Form

How does believing in multiple realities and multiple perspectives automatically justifies the idea that there can be no absolute as well? I feel these ideas are not in contradiction. A simple maxim for summarizing the postmodern viewpoint is that “the only absolute truth is there are no absolute truths.” However, this statement in and of itself demonstrates that an absolute truth can exist within the same system as that which believes all truths are relative. This very maxim uses the word ‘only’ which signifies that this can apply in every case, except this one. This maxim shows that at least a single absolute truth can exist within a reality ruled by no absolute truths. And a rule with one exception does not look the same as a rule with no exceptions.
If my assertion above is true, all I am really saying is that there are rules that can exist that appear paradoxical when looking through the lens of a two-value truth system (true/false). However, if when looked at through a three-value truth system (true, undetermined/unknown, false), then there exists no opposition between the fundamental assumptions put forth by modernism and postmodernism.

Binary Oppositions

“You are an expression of your culture.” – Stephen West

Binary oppositions help us navigate the world but breakdown when forced to interpret the signified or thing referenced. If you say is this shirt clean or dirty? We know but if we say is mars clean or dirty we don’t know what to do with it. The binary opposition of clean or dirty are still there but the signified object has changed from shirt to mars. The meaning then does not lie in the terms or the rule but in the relation between the terms and their governing rules.

How does the term operate under those perimeters? Can it be answered? Or does it need further inquire? Better yet, how many signified objects do we use daily that more than likely need further analysis? We need to first understand both the operator and operated upon before we can understand their byproduct of meaning.

Writing About Writing

Grammar is what always stopped me from writing. I had never formally learned proper grammar and punctuation and it stunted me or retarded of delayed my progress in that area.

But it actuality, it allowed me to not get bogged down by being right in how I use the rules, and instead I use the rules to do what they were meant to do: express a precise purpose. Writing is a creative expression. And in a truly creative expression I needn’t have rules that are rigid but better rules that are flexible. It’s my voice my message. I know where and what kind of pause I want my reader to have, not because it’s correct in a rule sense, but because it’s correct in a purposeful sense.
So often it is the case that with rules, they are originally established to help with precision,  but later, it becomes more about the rules themselves and not their purpose. Such is the case with grammar that can be traced back to Ancient Greek, Protagoras and the sophist movement – but their reason for creating such a system was for my precise communication; more accurate expression of ideas.
Therefore, when writing, use the rules, but don’t let the rules use you by limiting your means of expression.