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Changing the world-the psychology of belief

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Rick Staggenborg, MD     Permalink
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From http://www.flickr.com/photos/38928586@N07/12291344203/: A child's world is booming, buzzing confusion.
A child's world is booming, buzzing confusion.
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It is impossible to build a movement without having a shared understanding of the problem we are trying to solve.  The difficulty in doing this is that all of us view the world from different perspectives, often radically divergent ones. To build a movement of sufficient influence to change the dangerous trajectory the world is currently on, we need to be able to get the broadest coalition of individuals of differing philosophies possible. 

We are up against a powerful coalition of wealthy and influential individuals with the simple goal of consolidating their control over the nations of the world and their resources. Our objective has to be as simple and must appeal to people across the spectrum of political ideologies. In this third in a series of articles about how to dismantle the New World Order, I consider how opinions are formed and use my experience as a psychotherapist to explain how even deeply held beliefs can be challenged and changed.


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Listening to self-identified "liberals" and "conservatives" debate, it almost seems like you are listening to people who live in different worlds. In a very real sense, they do. That is because each of us exists within a mental reality we construct based on concepts we acquire early in life and that far too often, we do not challenge. The more divergent our most fundamental beliefs are, the more it seems that we are speaking in different languages when we try to discuss politics. The solution is not to avoid the subject, but to recognize the source of these differences and try to find a common language with which to discuss possible solutions to problems that affect us all.

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It helps to understand that we are fundamentally more alike than we are different and that it is our commonalities that make us human. Thinking of ourselves as humans first and members of any other group second helps us keep in mind that we all share important basic values and concerns. We must use the awareness of our common interests to stay focused on the task of building a future in which all can thrive. Rather than fighting each other, we must remember that our differences are a source of strength if we are willing to listen to each other with respect, learn from each other and integrate diverse points of view into a formulation of a problem that we can agree on. If we then put ideology aside and develop common strategies based on shared goals and values, it is possible to change the world. We have to try, because the alternative is almost certainly the self-destruction of human civilization.

We are all born into a world that is an undifferentiated confusion of sense impressions. We only gradually come to make sense of it by forming concepts that approximate what we perceive and experience. When a young enough child sees something round, it sees "a ball." It doesn't matter if the round thing is a baseball or a basketball. The concept serves the purpose well enough until the child is old enough to understand that various balls are used in different sports for specific reasons. But what if a child looks at the sun and sees only a ball? It certainly looks round. The child has to learn to develop more sophisticated concepts about round things  to understand how an apparently round object that they cannot touch is fundamentally different from the "ball" it resembles. Understanding such differences is essential to building a personal model of reality that corresponds to "objective" reality as defined by logical conclusions based on observations and the applications of internally consistent theories about the world.

So it is with all simple concepts. As we grow and acquire more information, we have to modify and refine the concepts by which we construct our views of reality. Failing to do so in a changing world leads to increasing divergence between our personal world and objective reality. When people who disagree start to rely on ideological arguments that conflict with observable fact, the collective consciousness becomes literally "schizophrenic" in the sense that it is a "split mind." That is the key to understanding why those who think themselves liberals and conservatives really do live in different universes. Only when they find a common language to share their world views can they come to a common understanding of how the world works and how we can change it together.

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The fundamental obstacle to people uniting around common values and goals is the nearly universal conservative impulse. Far from being unique to those who identify as conservatives, it is based on a fear of change that most of us have whether we are conscious of the prejudice or not. Any psychotherapist knows this from experience. Many if not most of the people we work with come to us with problems so painful that they are willing to ask for help, yet seem to reject any suggestion that solving the problem requires sometimes painful questioning of basic philosophical beliefs that form the core of their identities.

This tendency is of course even more pronounced in those who blind themselves to the fact that they are in pain. It is even harder to address this pain when the individual insists that he must solve all his problems on his own. At least those who seek help in psychotherapy have taken the first steps of admitting that they have a problem they cannot solve on their own and are willing to seek help thinking through the problem from another person's perspective. When therapists encounter what they call "resistance" from those who find it difficult, they may throw up their hands and place the blame on the patient. However, the effective ones try to find ways to help motivate patients to change. That is the essential task we face in awakening our fellow citizens to what they have to do to change the political reality that is the ultimate source of our pain.

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http://www.soldiersforpeaceinternational.org
I am a former Army and VA psychiatrist who ran for the US Senate in 2010 on a campaign based on a pledge to introduce a constitutional amendment to abolish corporate personhood. Now that the general public is beginning to understand the (more...)
 

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