“Opinions are dangerous to their owners because they are emotionally charged triggers for dissent, strife, argument, and positionality.”
All humans have a difficult time not knowing. We want answers. We want to predict the future. We want to control the outcome. Our well formed systems and societies help us to believe in the certainty of our plans. We think that if we follow the right rules, take the right steps, maintain the right course that we will end up where we want to go. This creates a longing and yearning for verification that our beliefs, our systems, and our plans are the “right” ones. We then develop defense strategies to prove and maintain our own perspectives constantly reconfirming that we are “right.” This leads to rigid mindsets that fail to learn from and adapt to new conditions. We continue on old paths that have become harmful within our new environment. In contrast, the educated mind is one that remains open and available for new ideas ready to change and adapt to new situations. By staying in tune with nature and the external world we can find new and innovative ways to interact with it creating a harmonious ever changing reality.
In a time of mass media and social networks we are continuously turning media messages into belief systems. A study by Hawkins and Pingree found that the verification of thought by comparison with distorted media versions of social reality can foster shared misconceptions of people, places, and things. (1) Once our beliefs are formed we reaffirm them by feeding ourselves with more and more information that aligns with them. Then, because we lack the intrinsic capacity for self-correction, the mind believes in the reality or truth of its own programs limited only to data collected in its internal processing systems. The mind begins to misidentify opinion as truth and actual reality. (2) What we are absorbing from our environment leads to the formation of our beliefs and then we seek out more sources and groups of people who reaffirm these beliefs making them stronger and stronger.
An inflexible mind creates beliefs and perspectives from its own subjective reality and then aims to verify them by changing the world to fit into those beliefs leading to cultural groups trying to impose their view of the world on other cultures. (3) The more we forcefully change the world around us to fit our erroneous beliefs, the more we create social environments that confirm the misbeliefs. (4) Essentially, we begin to shape our reality with our own beliefs. This leaves us vulnerable to acting and connecting in ways that align with old erroneous beliefs rather than observing what our current situation is calling for. If we keep an open mind and observe what the world needs we can act and connect in ways most beneficial to our well-being.
The way out of this harmful attachment to our own beliefs is to open ourselves up to as much exposure to different experiences as possible. As John Taylor Gatto says “the educated mind is the connected mind, connected to all manner of different human styles, connected to all sorts of complex experiences, some of them frought with psychological and physical peril, connected to a dizzying profusion of intellectual ideas which interconnect with one another. Most of all the educated mind is connected to itself. Knowing yourself is the foundation for everything else. (5) By coming in contact with difference, we give ourselves the opportunity to understand the world from varying perspectives and in varying contexts. We can then use this information to create a broader version of reality and healthier ways of relating to it.
Contact with different opinions and lifestyles also allows us a deeper look into our own selves. When we realize that not everyone thinks like us or sees the world like us, we are given an immense freedom to reexamine our own beliefs. We see that we are not trapped in our own views and perspectives but can choose how we want to experience reality. We become more mentally flexible, welcoming new ideas that may serve us better than old programmed ones. This gives us the power of adaptability which will keep us alive and well in an ever changing world.
By actively observing the world rather than forcing our beliefs onto it, we can see what it really is rather than what we want it to be. This involves us in a harmonious communion with life rather than a dominion over it. When we try to dominate and control others or our environment we are acting on our own erroneous beliefs that may not be the most beneficial to us or the planet. By putting down our need to be right, our need to know, our need to control, and surrendering to be guided by the life around us, we see, act, and contribute in ways that lead to true healing.
- Hawkins, R. P., & Pingree, S. (1982). Television’s influence on social reality. In D. Pearl, L. Bouthilet, & J. Lazar (Eds.), Television and behavior: Ten years of scientific progress and implications for the eighties (Vol. II, pp. 224–247). Rockville, MD: National Institute of Mental Health.
- Hawkins, D.R (2013) Reality, Spirituality, and Modern Man. Hay House Inc., U.S.
- Doidge, N. (2007). The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science. United States: Penguin Publishing Group.
- Snyder, M. (1980). Seek, and ye shall find: Testing hypotheses about other
people. In E. T. Higgins, C. P. Herman, & M. P. Zanna (Eds.), Social cognition: The Ontario Symposium on Personality and Social Psychology (Vol. 1, pp. 105–130). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
- Gatto, J. T. (2010). Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher’s Journey Through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling. United States: New Society Publishers.