Friday, 6 June 2014

Other People's Belief Systems

Other People's Belief Systems

Claire Aslangul - Friday, June 06, 2014

Other people's Belief Systems; Why Internet Arguments Rarely Result in Changing Minds.

We have all fallen for the trap of wanting to prove someone wrong on the Internet.  We read some absurd comment and we can't help but be inspired to respond at the wrongness of it all. It is oh so wrong, you wonder which planet the author is living on because it sure can't be the same one you inhabit. They need to be set straight because they are just spreading ignorance and stupidity and we know that those "diseases" are already in epidemic proportions in our modern society.

I ask you, how many hours have you spent formulating the perfect logical response only to find they reply with an even more outrageous statement?  Back and forth, back and forth. In the end all you can type is #headdesk and wonder how they could not get it.

The fact is, you might not be right and if you are does your right and wrong translate perfectly into someone else's life?

The very fabric of what makes you, you is a weave of your life experiences, your belief systems and even your ancestry. It is a complicated mesh that is ever changing but often holds tightly onto the threads that make up your identity and belief systems are an integral part of that.  Your brain understands the need for identity, it is essential for your self esteem, your sense of purpose and even for your physical health. 

Without identity you would quickly deteriorate into a mailable, sick, sad shell of a person.  This is a tactic that has been used for centuries in prisoner of war camps, concentration camps, prisons and even schools. To truly break a person, you need to get them to lose their sense of self. To protect you, your brain will fight tooth and nail to make sure what you believe, is true for you. We see this manifest in so many ways, confirmation bias is one of them.

For an example, Carla thinks her husband, Barry, is a lazy bastard that never does anything around the house and if he does, he does a half-arsed job of it. Over the years, this belief system has become more and more ingrained in Carla's identity. Her belief system becomes, "I can't trust anyone to do anything properly, I have to do everything myself." Who she is changes in her own mind and her identity suddenly becomes tied to what she does and no longer who she is. In sheer frustration of her plight, she posts on Facebook, "Seriously, men are useless. All we need is a decent sperm bank and we can ship all those with a Y-chromosome off to another galaxy. That way all of us women can get on with fixing the environment, stopping all the wars and we will never have to worry about being raped again. All the worlds problems will be solved."

For her rant she gets the usual "sing it sister" comments, most of the guys ignore it. One pipes in with a prescription for chocolate, naprogesic and a packet of pads. Another suggests that Barry is not performing his bedroom duties properly. A voice of reason pops up in the thread, Sonya comes back with, "Not all men are useless, my hubby did 3 loads of washing today, cooked dinner, bathed the cat, packed the kids school lunches for tomorrow and worked a full day in the office. He was even able to refrain from starting a war or raping someone."

Of course, this is refuted as being the exception rather than the rule and a back and forth begins.  No matter how "good" Sonya's husband is Carla will not change her mind and will argue using every crime that men have committed against women (that is a LOT of ammo there). It is not that Carla hates men, even if it looks like that, it is that Carla's essence and identity is tied up in the belief that she can not trust anyone else to do all the things that need doing. Her brain will seek out and focus on all the evidence to confirm that she is important because she does it all. Sometimes the evidence is a stretch to another's logical brain, but the connection is still there. Without that connection, she loses part of her sense of self, she is broken. Where Sonya is wrong, is she is painting herself, with her identity, into Carla's reality.
There are plenty of other examples of where identity and belief systems create disharmony in life. From things like sickness patterns, poverty patterns, being accident prone, drama patterns (people that always seem to be fighting with others), even things like fitness obsessions are signs where a belief system has written itself into our identity. Changing these things require understanding of where the belief systems come from and working from within rather than being told by someone else why you are wrong. There is no evidence in the world that will allow a person to willingly destroy their sense of self unless they feel safe enough to rebuild themselves.

What do you do when someone is wrong?

Think about what may have lead them to believe what they believe and how this ties in with their identity. Use empathetic statements to shine a light on a core wound that has lead them to this place. Ask questions that might lead to them looking at things from a different perspective. But finally, let go of the outcome. You are not responsible for trying to fix someone else's negative belief systems and if you think you are maybe that is something you need to look at within yourself...

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