Inner wall, mental block: stronger than a cement block, than an evil spell. How to break spells, break mental blocks invisible to those who live inside them?

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    elsa with ideas  

We're born with the capacity to learn how to think.
All too often, people don't develop that capacity.

Instead they develop one inner wall after another -
often live within a maze of inner walls, mental blocks,
as confusing to outsiders as a labyrinth - and unmarked.
It does not say: inner spells, enter at your peril.
Instead mental blocks are not experienced as mental blocks
by those who live within them.

Breaking the Spell of Inner Walls -
which outwardly manifest in Stupid Opinions

 

STRATEGY ONE to BREAK THE SPELL OF AN INNER WALL

So, someone has an extremely stupid opinion - meaning totally out of line with reality. How does one get the information through to the person that the opinion is not in line with reality?

Saying "Well, what a stupid opinion you have" does not work.

In fact, it shouldn't work. It doesn't go into why the opinion doesn't make sense, how it goes against the facts. "What a stupid opinion you have" is nothing more than another unbacked opinion - no data, no information, no supporting arguments, no reasoning. Plus, people are inclined to take it not as a simple statement of fact, but as an attack and to attack back.

STRATEGY TWO to BREAK THE SPELL OF AN INNER WALL

On the other hand, giving information rarely works either, or not quickly, at any rate - not with most people anyway.

Many people hold onto stupid opinions, unfounded opinions, as if their lives depended on them - as if caught in some powerful evil spell:

- God supports slavery (because Noah's bad son and all his descendents were cursed by god, and of course that son was black, and so of course it is fine to enslave black people).

- Education makes women sterile (because there is a fixed blood flow, and if it goes to a woman's head, there is not enough left for her uterus).

- A conspiracy of Communist Jewish bankers is plotting to take over the world. (Communist bankers - a contradiction in terms - but totally irrelevant to the prejudiced.)

- Homosexuality is unnatural (though it is found all over the world, and in a huge range of species - which would mean to many of these people who believe homosexuality is bad, that their god is going around creating unnatural species that are part of nature!!!).

Valid information is often easy to find. Logical analysis is often elementary. But you might as well be talking to a brick wall. Mental blocks - much harder than cement blocks.

HOW CAN ONE GET THROUGH A MENTAL BLOCK?

Recognize that you are not up against poor thinking, bad thinking. You are up against a spell cast, usually by a culture or religion.

- Jews are anti-Christ.
- Islam is anti-Christ.
- All infidels who do not convert to Islam once they hear the message will burn in hell.
- Kill the infidels.

Remember that the evil spell cast on Snow White lasted a hundred years - no one thought of vaulting over the thick hedge of thorns she slept behind. Inner walls can last forever, be passed down, generation to generation, the thorns ever thicker.

When someone is outside the hold of what I am calling a stupid opinion, its lack of sense, its inanity is so apparent that one wonders how it could ever be held by anyone.

But when people are caught believing something that isn't reality-based, most believe it far more rigidly than they believe facts. After all, one doesn't have to believe a fact. One can check: yes, if you drink water, this relieves thirst. Yes, if you get a good night's sleep, this makes one less tired.

STEP ONE: RECOGNIZE THIS, NOT AS BAD THINKING, BUT AS AN INNER WALL

Something other than bad thinking or not thinking has happened to make someone hold an opinion that isn't reality-based. Maybe they're just used to believing something they've been told (the inferiority of some group). Maybe they've had to turn off their emotions - not feel for someone in a despised group. Maybe some quality or other hasn't been developed - like critical thinking. In many parts of the world, people are taught to memorize and believe whatever they are taught. In other parts of the world, people are taught mainly to express themselves, rather than also to think things through.

****

STEP TWO: RECOGNIZE THAT IT OFTEN TAKES A LONG TIME
TO DISMANTLE MENTAL BLOCKS

So how does one break the hold of a stupid opinion. In North America, it took almost a century of agitation to get women the right to vote. Gay rights are still being fought for in much of North America - because many people are holding onto poor thinking, just as so many did about women and people of color. So, it's not easy to get through to many people.

****

STEP THREE: ONE STRATEGY, BUILD A BETTER OPINION

The strategy I have found most effective is to build another opinion - a better one, - and to get that better one deeply reinforced - not with inner walls, but fortified with facts and good thinking and emotions. Then when the old opinion comes up, people often just dismiss it.

Some people say: build a better mouse trap - but I'm not out to trap anyone. I want more inner freedom. I want to break spells, not cast spells. I want a breath of fresh air, good fresh thinking - as fabulous as fresh baked bread.

Re: building a better opinion. I am not good at this strategy when I am surprised by a stupid opinion. I have a tendency to roll my eyes, gnash my teeth, and speak directly against the offending opinion. Most people are shocked to have bad thinking - not thinking - challenged. They take it for granted that it's a good opinion (or at any rate, as good as any other opinion).

But when I have time to plan, I've found - by trial and much error - that building a better opinion is what works best for me.

****

For example, when I teach Valuing Diversity, many students come in with the idea that the whole class will be a boring and basic course on Everybody-Is-Equal. Many also come in with the opinion that all diversities are equal, and that we have no right to judge values, behaviors, etc. In our opinion, they may be wrong, but it's just an opinion. After all, our opinion is only our opinion, and all opinions are equal. So if in some societies, a woman has her fingers cut off if she is caught wearing nail polish, who are we to judge that culture? The same same goes for slavery, genital mutilation, etc.

I have had black students argue that, yes, we believe slavery is wrong, but it's just an opinion. I have had women students argue that who are we to judge if another country does not allow a woman to drive. Each country has the right to set its own standards, and everything is just opinion. The same goes for just about everything.

Where does that opinion - the opinion that all opinions are equal - come from, I have asked. Did they learn it at school, from friends, from home?

Most students answer that they've just figured this out on their own. It's obvious.

Most students also hold on to this opinion as if their lives depended on it.

****

unless ...

Class one. I ask what kinds of diversities they value and what they don't. Obvious things they don't value include stuff like beating babies to death.

We go on to explore why they value some diversities (diverse styles of music, different races, different interests, different aptitudes and learning styles) and not others.

An underlying difference between valued and non-valued diversities: those which harm people tend not be to valued; those which allow people to express themselves and develop themselves (different career interests, different sexual orientations) tend to be valued.

In fact, throughout the course, quite a number of students spend time looking at why they value some diversities and not others, why some diversities should be valued and not others.

So they are building an opinion - based on thinking about human nature, about what constitutes harm, about what might make a culture more beneficial or more harmful.

At some point, the question always does up - but aren't all cultures equal, like aren't all people equal? Well, I may say, take a quick glance at some pretty horrific cultures, societies, ideologies.

Some students suddenly freeze up - one cannot say any culture is better than another. Who are we to judge?

Most students though hold onto other things discussed in class, other views and ideas. No, it's not as good if there's no equality between women and men, than if there is. No, it's not okay if the culture harms many people, stunts them intellectually, emotionally, psychologically, physically, cuts them off from basic needs like health care, education, or if people are starved to death, etc.

Phew.

The more solid their opinion that some opinions are more valid than others, the more it has a lot of backing, the more they can call on many examples, images, stories, the easier it is for them to dismiss (and even present arguments against) the opinion that all opinions are equal.

****

STEP FOUR: A SECOND STRATEGY TO BREAK SPELLS, CRACK AN INNER WALL

Something else can also work against inner walls, mental blocks. Contact. Empathy.

This has been the route most artists have used to persuade. Uncle Tom's Cabin - a powerful nineteenth-century anti-slavery novel - worked by making readers care for Uncle Tom, a slave. Philadelphia - a powerful 1990's gay-rights movie - worked by making audiences care for a gay man dying of Aids. Both the book and the movie also give good arguments. But most importantly, they work on the emotions.

****

In everyday life as well, contact and empathy can be crucial. It's easier to believe a stereotype about a group if we don't know and don't care about anyone who belongs to it.

Don't count on this one, though. (Don't count on any particular strategy, in fact - just find out about as many as you can, and also find out relative success rates.)

Back to empathy not always working, if one knows and is close to someone from a group. People strongly against homosexuality often reject their own children, when they find out about a supposedly beloved child's sexual orientation. People reject supposedly beloved children for a whole range of reasons when the child (now an adult) breaks a prejudiced parent's beliefs. A child chooses a partner from a lower caste. A child chooses a partner instead of acquiescing to an arranged marriage. A child marries someone from a different religion, from a different ethnic group, from a different race. A child does not marry, but instead lives with someone. A child has a baby without being married.

****

In general, the weaker a belief, the easier it is to topple it. Some beliefs though are so rigidly held, that no matter how stupid they are and no matter how good the counter-arguments are, the belief triumphs easily.

I recently say Downfall, about Hitler's last days. Many of the officials around him wanted him to surrender. His only concern was for his own life, for as many hours as he could still live. Sometimes he fantasized about regiments coming to the rescue. Sometimes he counted the hours he could still have, if thousands of barely armed children died for each hour. His greatest pride was that he had killed millions of Jews. There was not even a shred of hope of getting through to him about the value of the lives of the German people.

****

I suppose though that every little bit of softening helps, every bit of chipping against a stupid idea - and many people do have their rigid opinions softened bit by bit by evidence and experience.

****

General conclusions. I've found that a head-on confrontation isn't most effective - because most people do not give thinking much weight. They don't say, oh let's check the evidence. They response viscerally, not to acknowledge that even the intensity of the visceral response means there may be something particularly crazy at work, but to act as if the strength of their response means they are right.

I experience being up against a rigid wall. They experience themselves as not just right but, it's my guess, attacked - and as they say, offense is the best defense. So they attack.

****

But what happens when I can't get through hasn't been the question. The question has been: what have been effective ways of getting through?

One - helping people build a better opinion that they can not just believe in, but that they can justify.

Two - contact and empathy - working to build empathy for those people have been cut off from, in other words, not working with logic but with the emotions.

AND THAT GETS ME TO STEP FIVE:
A THIRD STRATEGY TO BREAK SPELLS, CRACK AN INNER WALL

Strategy three - working to get people to understand how to reason, how to think logically, how to evaluate information, so they can see the strengths and flaws in arguments, including their own.

This isn't a strategy to be used just to break spells, but in life in general.

****

I'm going to conclude by asking: what's worked for you, in terms of getting through to people with opinions un backed by reality? Also, what have been, for you, totally ineffective strategies? Live and learn. Live and laugh.

smart comments


signed,

Elsa
August 21, 2006

copyright © Elsa Schieder 2006, 2009 - all rights reserved

 

Click here for a "favorite" stupid opinion
surrounded by an inner wall,
backed entirely by bad thinking
.

Click here for an attempt to understand
politically correct crazy mental blocks -
Political Correctness Gone Mad
.

Click here for more on
inner barriers, mental blocks
.

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blue green idea

THE IDEA EMPORIUM EXPLORES HOW TO BREAK SPELLS, DEMOLISH AN INNER WALL *
GOOD QUESTION: HOW DOES ONE BREAK THROUGH INNER WALLS, MENTALS BLOCKS?
HOW DOES ONE BREAK SPELLS?
HOW DOES ONE GET SOMEONE TO REALIZE THEY HAVE BEEN CAUGHT IN A SPELL?

blue green idea

Inner wall, mental block: stronger than a cement block,
than an evil spell.
How to break spells, break mental blocks
invisible to those who live inside them?

 

People rigidly hold onto totally unfounded opinions.
The Idea Emporium: How to break the spell of stupid opinions,
like the opinion that all opinions are equal?
Strategies, thoughts, ideas.


The Idea Emporium on
WHY inner walls
and HOW break through an inner wall

One of my lifelong concerns has been trying to make sense of reality. One of the realities I see is people holding onto bad thinking in the face of every bit of evidence. A detective goes, give me the facts, nothing but the facts. Here - as in so many cases - the facts are the symptoms of the underlying malady. A mental barrier, mental block, inner wall.

Perception - not easy with mental blocks in place. The can block everything - including awareness that one is trapped in a maze.

So, a big undertaking: to explore HOW the inner wall was put in place, HOW the inner wall is kept in place, and most of all, HOW to vaporize inner barriers.

Elsa
August 24, 2009

copyright © Elsa Schieder 2009, 2011

 

Inner wall, mental block: stronger than a cement block,
than an evil spell.
How to break spells, break mental blocks
invisible to those who live inside them?


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blue green idea

THE IDEA EMPORIUM EXAMINES STRATEGIES THAT MAY EVAPORATE AN INNER WALL *
THE QUESTION: WHO DOES ONE BREAK A SPELL INVISIBLE TO THOSE WITH MENTAL BLOCKS?
MIRROR MIRROR - YOU MIRROR NO INNER WALL
MIRROR MIRROR - YOU BREAK NO SPELL

MIRROR MIRROR - YOU DON'T TELL HOW TO BREAK THE SPELL

blue green idea

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