Perspectives: Changing our thinking habits

OPINION – We’re all familiar with the quote attributed to Albert Einstein that defines insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

We likely agree with this sentiment on one or more levels. For instance, if we find ourselves packing on extra weight we can choose to alter our current eating and exercise habits.

Or, if we wish to stop accumulating debt, we can choose to change our spending and saving patterns.

It’s unreasonable to think we could leave these habits unchanged and still expect to get a different result.

This principle is also true as it pertains to our thinking.

We tend to be creatures of habit in how we think about the world around us. We become so comfortable in our perceptions that we will violently lash out at anyone whose viewpoint challenges our own.

The mere act of exposing others to a different angle or viewpoint can nearly always be counted upon to provoke a disproportionate angry reaction.

It’s not just a matter of simple disagreement.

Anyone who works in the arena of public opinion and commentary experiences the wrath of others on a daily basis. There is no easier way to be accused of heresy than to step outside the boundaries of approved opinion.

For some individuals, being confronted with an idea that they don’t wish to see brings out genuine fear and loathing. They may not even understand why they are reacting with such vehemence.

They’re trying to protect their thinking from any contradictions that might force them to look beyond the boundaries of their mental pastures.

This is understandable considering most of us have been conditioned since kindergarten not to question certain things about the world around us.

In a sense, everyone’s thinking has been conditioned to some degree.

For instance, we’re taught that it’s necessary and good that those in power take our money by force and tell us what to do. We’re indoctrinated to believe that it is justifiable to punish or kill those who do not obey them.

These beliefs are deeply held and reinforced with fear of what may happen to us if we do not submit. For a person to even begin to question his or her beliefs about our current power structure is nothing short of an act of courage.

The good news is that no one is obligated to remain blind. Much like the prisoners in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, more people are finding their way into the light.

They are changing their thinking.

Paul Rosenberg explains why this is happening now:

Authority has become brittle and fragile. It remains in place, but the people who still believe in it are those who are least-informed, least-awake and least-alive. The more informed the individual, the more likely it is that they hold authority to be stupid and abusive.

Those who find their way out of the figurative cave often feel duty-bound to return and lead as many of their former captives to the light as will follow. This cannot be accomplished by engaging in rhetorical sword-play with those who are spoiling for a fight.

Only love and patience will plant the seeds that may eventually bloom into a new way of seeing things. This means that we must be willing to let go of our need to “win” the debate.

If we’re standing on sound principles, we have nothing to prove to anyone. Truth is already on our side. Now the challenge is to learn to see those opposing us as a prize to be won rather than a foe to be defeated.

Engaging in heated debates while snarling and snapping at one another to show dominance is a loser’s game. Persuading others to take a deeper look at their own thinking takes time and authentic understanding. There are no shortcuts.

There are, however, a lot of distractions and smokescreens that keep us fighting about things that we cannot change. The current media circus over a presidential election that’s still 14 months away is a prime example.

It’s part of the way we’ve been trained to see things. This is why so many willingly play along.

Does anyone honestly believe that political leaders are likely to change the way they’re doing things?

No measure of genuine freedom or personal progress can exist without the willingness to examine or change our thinking upon encountering a moment of clarity.

If we’re not actively creating those moments of clarity within our own lives then we’re in no position to help others discover their own moments.

We can’t share light that we don’t have.

Bryan Hyde is a radio commentator and opinion writer in Southern Utah. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

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Email: bryanh@stgnews.com

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

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23 Comments

  • Roy J August 17, 2015 at 11:17 am

    Not sure I agree. I would say that the problem with rhetoric and/or dialectic is that people seem to think that they are masters in a discipline which they have never been trained in…sort of the street fighting approach to martial arts. Part of the purpose of both rhetoric and dialectic is to learn how to distinguish between one’s self and one’s points. That most threads and comments are inflammatory and escalate into a fiery exchange of nonsense is evidence that this is so. Not many Socrates’ out there.

  • NotSoFast August 17, 2015 at 11:21 am

    Interesting article Bryan. Makes one think a little harder.
    Are you and Ed changing desks any time soon? Or maybe your Editor was instructed to downplay the division among readers comments? What ever helps the bottom line.
    As Rodney King once said after the Watts riots: ‘Can’t We All Just Get Along’?

    • anybody home August 17, 2015 at 1:12 pm

      The editor was busy getting arrested.

  • BIG GUY August 17, 2015 at 12:00 pm

    Since I respect the authority of government even when I disagree with some of its actions, that puts me among those Rosenberg calls “least-informed, least-awake and least-alive.” In my vegetative state, let me offer the following:
    .
    Being “taught that it’s necessary and good that those in power take our money by force and tell us what to do” is called democratic government in this country. To restate Bryan’s provocative accusation, most of us are willing to pay taxes and obey the law. Bryan doesn’t have much respect for those that do so willingly, but at least he’s willing to use persuasion rather than force to promote change. So far, while I find common ground with him on occasion, most of his libertarian “persuasion” has been unconvincing to me.
    .
    Yes, Bryan, I “honestly believe that political leaders are likely to change the way they’re doing things.” Example #1, Obama has certainly changed the way things are done. A country as large and diverse as the U.S. only slowly makes significant changes but we are governed today in far different ways than we were 50 or even 30 years ago.
    .
    There is plenty of “violent lashing out” on this site and too little reasoned discussion. But that doesn’t make those who lash out necessarily wrong. Instead, they lack the civility that Ed Kociela called for some time back and which I applaud. Here’s to a reasoned discussion of today’s issues on this site and elsewhere.

    • Brian August 17, 2015 at 12:50 pm

      “Does anyone honestly believe that political leaders are likely to change the way they’re doing things?” Bryan was talking about politicians changing THEIR ways, for the better (ie. becoming better, more principled, less corrupt politicians on their own). Obama hasn’t improved one single bit in office, and in his second term has become worse. He’s every bit as arrogant and tone-deaf as the day he took office. What he HAS done is change the way WE do things as a country (way more regulations, way less checks and balances, way less respect for our Judeo-Christian heritage, way worse race relations, etc). The same can be said for GOP leaders (Boehner, McConnell, and their ilk in both parties are also tone-deaf and corrupt), further proving Bryan’s point: we can’t change politics or politicians, we can only change ourselves, and that change will trickle up very, very slowly (unfortunately I don’t believe we have the time or the fortitude for that kind of positive change, so the change will come much more abruptly and painfully, and relatively soon).

      • fun bag August 17, 2015 at 1:25 pm

        repeat after me,Brian, “It’s all Obama’s fault”. Rinse and repeat to infinity…

        • Brian August 17, 2015 at 3:21 pm

          I trashed Bush on things I disagreed with him on, and I’ll trash the next president on the things I disagree with them on. I’m for principles and issues, not parties or politicians. I can’t understand why the left gives obama a pass on everything. Repeat after me, fun bag, “obama can do no wrong”. Rinse and repeat to infinity…

          • fun bag August 17, 2015 at 3:57 pm

            Well Bri I’m sure we can agree on at least a couple things: all these illegals need to be shipped the heck out, and something should have been done when they gave those chinamen all the manufacturing jobs, and the gays shouldn’t be coddled and given all this special treatment, and the Bush administration shouldn’t have collapsed the economy in ’08 (but if you ask BIG GUY, that was all the liberal’s fault)

    • fun bag August 17, 2015 at 1:18 pm

      BG, no lashing out here, but I don’t know how we can have a reasoned discussion with those that present misinformation and outright lies as facts for the basis of discussion. For example claiming that it was the fault of some liberal congressman from the early 90s as being the reason the Bush II admin collapsed the banking system and economy in 2008–that’s just complete kooky nonsense…

      • ladybugavenger August 17, 2015 at 2:33 pm

        Trump for President!

    • fun bag August 17, 2015 at 1:31 pm

      I’m sure BG blames the “liberals” completely for Bush II’s failed Iraq war as well. Be glad Obama didn’t get us tangled up in some Syria mess. I’m sure that would’ve been great. That Bashar Assad guy’s rule in Syria that all the right wingers thought Obama should take out of power is probably the most stable thing the region has going for it

      • Brian August 18, 2015 at 7:38 am

        Didn’t get us tangled up in some Syria mess? WE created ISIS by screwing around in Syria and thinking we could change things there (again with the arrogance)! (http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-08-17/officials-admit-isis-al-qaeda-was-creation-us-foreign-policy) We need to stop being the world’s police. For every terrorist we kill with a drone we create 5 more by killing a bunch of civilians. Things have gotten way worse in the middle east in the last 6 years.

        • fun bag August 18, 2015 at 11:51 am

          well Bri, I guess the only solution is to pour hundreds of billions more $$$ into middle east cess pools and get 100s or 1000s more american soldiers killed. Thanks Bush Jr. for starting these never ending wars…

    • SSTEED August 18, 2015 at 1:01 pm

      Hey BigGuy,
      You seem like someone who thinks for yourself so it surprises me that you still “respect the authority of government”. That said, I would recommend looking into the Federal Reserve. Its a private company that owns all the US dollars, yet we have no idea who even owns the fed. Our government sold us out long ago; and ever since, they have been working for the highest bidder. The banks own the government just like they own the rest of us who borrow money from them. After the 08 crash that seems obvious, so I’m slightly bewildered that you don’t get that by now; and if I’m honest, I think you probably do to some degree. We are all so distracted with life, that its hard to keep up with everything.

      • fun bag August 18, 2015 at 8:26 pm

        The Fed is likely controlled by the same group that control the too-big-to-fail banks. They control almost all economic policy of the country and control most of the politicians. I see a few “far left liberals” that want to put regulations on the major banks, but i see the right-wing wanting to remove every single banking regulation. Both parties answer to wallstreet, but at least the D-party didn’t collapse the entire economy by completely turning these banks loose. AND BIG GUY DOES NOT THINK FOR HIMSELF AT ALL, HE IS A PARROT OF RIGHT-WING PROPAGANDA!

  • Mike August 17, 2015 at 12:07 pm

    Too bad the little boys fighting in the school yard of the comments section won’t read this.

  • fun bag August 17, 2015 at 1:02 pm

    Wow Bryan Hide, are you finally starting to research the truths of your own LDS religion, the truths that the LDS leaders don’t want the members looking into? Are you finally finding out about all the lies that the hard-right wing media feeds all the fooled masses?

  • tomgarrison August 17, 2015 at 3:46 pm

    Bryan, I compiled and edited a book of 23 regular people who were once strong liberals/leftists and evolved into libertarians (“Why We Left the Left: Personal Stories by Leftists/Liberals Who Evolved to Embrace Libertarianism”). If a person is open to counter evidence and are willing to question themselves, it is possible to make what seems to be a very big change in political identification. For example, I was a card-carrying very active member of the Socialist Party for about 15 years before I became a libertarian. My story is in the book.
    Here is a link to the book, you might find it interesting.
    http://www.amazon.com/Why-We-Left-Libertarianism-ebook/dp/B008H7HH0Y/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1357702346&sr=1-1&keywords=why+we+left+the+left

    • NotSoFast August 17, 2015 at 6:19 pm

      Mr. Tom,
      Haven’t looked up your book yet. However, being a past Democrat, then a Republican, I took on the self- title of a Independent American because I see self serving hypocrites on both side of the podium. So far, I like what the Donald has been saying about the donkeys and the fat ass elephants. Funny, They both frequent the same salad bar with the lobbyist. (hum) And, It’s funny how both sides snicker and always seem to change the subject when a Libertarian ask a sincere question.

    • fun bag August 17, 2015 at 6:53 pm

      Sounds to me, Tom, like you’re just advertising your book here. Socialists and hard-left liberals becoming libertarians?… sounds outlandish and kooky… Do you even live in the So. UT area?

      • Brian August 18, 2015 at 7:41 am

        Feel free to read his bio on Amazon, which tells his story and says he’s from the Sandy, Utah area.

  • Dexter August 17, 2015 at 3:48 pm

    TRUMP FOR PRESIDENT.!

  • sagemoon August 18, 2015 at 8:55 am

    Another great piece, Bryan.

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