Saturday, October 17, 2009

True or Untrue?

Here is something I learned:

If something comes from an authority, from internal reasoning or carries emotional weight it is not the same thing as being true. Neither is the popularity of an idea or way of believing and thinking.

Also: if you fear some form of ostracism or punishment for expressing or even having doubts, that's another sign. There are so many!

To get around this I tried raising my standard of evidence (would an independent and impartial observer or test find the same thing?) and learning how to stand outside of myself and putting it all in perspective. Not easy, and I had to swallow some bitter pills as a consequence, but it's entirely worth it!

I had a couple of watershed experiences when I was about 7. As a result, I told myself that I that I should always be willing to be wrong, even if I had invested years and resources into something I believed was right.

At that age I first learned about the Nazis and was stunned. The other experience was having brainwashing explained to me. When I heard about these, I remember staying awake at night thinking that if I were careless, it might even be possible to brainwash myself!

All this leads me to a film recommendation. The film that sparked the brainwashing revelation was a Charles Bronson and Donald Pleasence flick called Telefon (1977).

It's about sleeper spies who live in suburban North America. They have no idea that they are in reality Soviet spies programmed to destroy The USA's infrastructure. They were activated by these words by Frost:

The woods are lovely, dark and deep
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Miles to go before I sleep.

It shook me that someone could live a lie so thoroughly and not know it. It's funny, the things that shape us.

1 comment:

  1. First off... A blog popped up on my blog-watching-thingie for "Grab Your Pants and Go." Grab Your Pants and Go? What the hell is Grab Your Pants and Go, I don't remember subscribing to that! Then I realized it was you. You always keep me on my toes.

    For me the big "Wow, I could be brainwashed" moment was watching V for the first time. I knew that if a bunch of aliens showed up saying they were friendly and offering a "Visitor Youth" program, I'd have been the first in line to sign up! Would I be willing and able to see what was really going on, or would I have swallowed their explanations because it was what I wanted to see?

    I think we all have the power to brainwash ourselves. It's easy to see things how we think they *should* be, and then categorize everything we see as either true or false based on that definition of "should." Then what we see that matches with "how things should be" reinforces our definition of true, and what we see that doesn't match reinforces our definition of untrue.

    I think that's a big part of why we, as a country, have become so politically divided-- between the pundits and the blogs and the biased news channels (FOX News and MSNBC, specifically) we all now have people appealling to that sense of "should."

    My DBT therapy says that "should" is a word that signifies a judgment. By saying "Well, they should know not to do that!" or "I shouldn't have to deal with that!" you're trying to fit the world into what you WANT it to be, and not accepting it for what it really is. And so when we listen to Rush Limbaugh or Al Frankin, they reinforce our shoulds or shouldn'ts, and we help brainwash ourselves because we've got them telling us we're right. (For the record, I won't listen to Air America or watch MSNBC for this very reason... I'm naturally liberal enough on my own, I don't want to have it reinforced!)

    DBT calls the answer to this "Radical Acceptance"-- being willing to see a situation for what it simply is or isn't, without our assigning values to what we feel it should or shouldn't be. It doesn't mean you're giving approval to it; you're refraining from approving or disapproving, and trying to see it simply for what it IS. From there you can make a more rational decision, rather than just reacting from your gut. I think it helps us to break through the self-brainwashing that we've been unconsciously doing to ourselves our entire lives.

    I think your method of trying to look at a situation as an impartial observer is along those same lines. You're right, it's definitely not easy, but boy is it worth it!

    (Hey, this is pretty good stuff. I think I'm gonna post this reply on my own blog!)