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Old November 13 2012, 10:14 PM   #5
Deranged Nasat
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Re: What would it take to make you change your mind?

Interesting topic. I've certainly been in situations where I've concluded something like that myself, independent of reading actual studies. That people can be emotionally predisposed to notice one set of facts or evidence while downplaying or ignoring another seemed the only explanation for some behaviours I've seen from highly intelligent people. It's particularly notable when I'm evidently predisposed towards "the other", but find myself in a minority - and sometimes I believe I can see why most people's emotional instinct would pull them the first way, which helps.

I think everyone's mind is engaged in the process of fending off instability, nihilism or other threats to our ability to function by drawing on deeply held convictions regarding what's important to us, and the mind doesn't take kindly to those security structures being threatened. It's a matter of psychological survival. Thus, someone who is otherwise very quick to accept new information or consider new points of view can react with uncharacteristic aggression to something that undermines whatever it is that gives them that security. Emotional need and the comfort of safety overrides the other impulses to learn, consider and explore, I think.

What differs between people is what those "untouchable" things are - for some people it won't be politics or religion at all. However, to a lot of people, I think, it's still tribal identity in some form that offers assurance and stability, so the need to promote and defend the boundaries of that identity leaves them slow to accept challenges to their politics, religion, family structure, cultural traditions, race and all the other things that feed into that identity. Of course, what they consider threatening differs quite a bit, from simply having to confront someone different in the most vulnerable/intolerant through various degrees of interpreting other people's assertions or actions as an assault on them (rightly or wrongly). But I think that everyone has this need to hold certain understandings and aspects of identity sacred, whether its tribe/politics or not, and changing your mind on whatever it is is always going to be a tall order, regardless of how otherwise logical and open-minded you are.

I guess it depends on what exactly the emotional centres of your brain have latched on to. In my case, I'm intrigued by what I see as a positive process of personal growth that's nonetheless causing me considerable problems, because I think that in challenging my dysfunctional thinking regarding myself and my relations to others, I'm in the process of undermining my own defensive structures against that instability and nihilism. I knew who I was throughout adolescence, but that sense of what defined me and my personal history wasn't healthy. Yet, nonethless, I think that formed the core of my identity. I was a scared and hurt little boy who was rejected by the group and wasn't worth anything, and who was angry over it. It's quite telling that most things other people get heated about - politics, religion, history, etc - I was usually very chill about except if it in some way touched on my own identity as an adolescent male trying to find a place in the world. Then suddenly I was in there, eyes red and teeth bared. Because while I don't go in for the tribal mindset the way most people do, I'm still like everyone else in that regard - my brain clung selfishly to the security that came with knowing who I was and what was important, and nothing could be permitted to threaten that.

In a sense, I've been "changing my mind" a lot this last year, and I've had to learn to let go of strongly-held assumptions as they've revealed themselves to be less than healthy. The patterns into which I'd set myself in adolescence I've had to challenge (it's an ongoing process, two steps forward, one step back, etc ), and I've needed to confront a lot of my perceptions regarding what's important to me and how I construct my sense of my own life and history. Move into something healthier, having come to terms with my past. And the irony is that there's a troubling side effect to this positive awakening - I'm fending off a lot of nihilism and insecurity and general panic at present, because, I believe, I've basically been cleaning out the part of my mind that provided the sacred and the secure. And it needed cleaning out, no doubt about it. But now I have to replace it.

Does this make the slightest kind of sense?
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Last edited by Deranged Nasat; November 13 2012 at 10:34 PM.
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