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How to Stay Conscious and Aware

The challenge in remembering to be mindful is that this isn’t about remembering at all. It is not like trying to recall a fact like the capitol of New Hampshire.  We are invoking a state of mind, emotion, attitude, and focus of our attention. In being Aware, Mindful or Conscious, we are using a different part of our brain to function, a part that might be turned off, or asleep when accessing memories or facts.

Being conscious so we can break old reactions and habits has more to do with focusing your attention inward while you take a long slow inhale and exhale. This is an act of consciousness and operates separately from actions of intellect or memory.

That part of your mind telling you to “remember” is focused on information about being conscious. It is not in itself aware. The part of the brain that does the “remembering” is by definition not able to be consciously present.

Conscious awareness is like a muscle. For muscles to be strong and not get fatigued you have to exercise them.  When they get fatigued, telling them to remember to be strong will not help. If you want your Consciousness to remain strong throughout the day then you have to train it with practices to make it strong.

When interested in being physically fit we don’t ask ourselves, “How can I remember to keep my muscles strong.”  We know that keeping our muscles strong is a matter of exercising them.  The same is with awareness.  We have to exercise our awareness muscles daily so that they have the strength to work longer hours for us. When the muscles of our attention, focus, and attitude become weak or tired our old emotional reactions and automatic behaviors take over and we are behaving unconsciously. This often leads to more emotional reactions and drama.

Practicing mindfulness is just that. It is a practice.  It is an exercise of your mental, emotional, and conscious focus.

Some people want to know when they will be done or can stop. I liken that question to, “When will I be in good enough shape that I don’t have to exercise anymore?” The problem is that when you don’t work out your muscles they become weaker. The good news is that when it comes to conscious awareness, once you are in shape, it is much easier to stay fit.

We can have a daydream that takes us away from where we are and what we are doing. During that daydream we experience a different world. The daydream can be an upcoming meeting, party, or a memory of what happened last year. Our emotions attitude, and attention are all there and even our nervous system is responding to being “there” in the daydream.  In that moment it is not a matter of remembering that there is a “here” but of being aware that you are here. Being present as “here” is an experience of attention and feeling not a fact.

When you get into a fight with your partner you don’t remember all the things you promised you would do to avoid escalation.  When you were conscious and present you promised that you would leave certain topics out, that you would lower your voice, count to ten, or leave room and cool off before confronting them.  But in the heat of that emotion, such as anger, anger is the consciousness of the moment and it is deciding behavior.  The part of you that was “Conscious” the week before making the promise of ground rules for arguing isn’t present. It is resting or asleep. Nor does the “Angry Self” want to listen even the aware part were there. The consciousness of the “Angry Self” does not ask your Conscious and Mindful Self for any information. It behaves as if your Mindful Consciousness didn’t exist.  The same is true for the other parts of your sub-conscious that operate as habit like the Judge and Victim Characters that I often mention.

Being conscious has very little to do with remembering. Unless you were to remember to bring your consciousness with you to the daydream. Remembering is a mental exercise of recollecting knowledge. Being conscious is an action of attitude and focusing your attention in the present moment. Being conscious might come without the mind chatter of other stories absorbing your attention. You can also be conscious and present while the mind is busy with chatter. You do this by splitting your attention. You are watchful of the mind running its daydreams, thoughts, emotions and beliefs while still having attention here in the moment’s activities.

Being conscious is holding a state of alertness, but while being calm and relaxed. It is like hunting.  You are scanning the trees and grass and you are vigilant. You quietly pick up on sounds, smells, and movements. You maintain a relaxed state and always have some part of your attention monitoring the area.  When being mindful you have your attention inward and notice movements of your emotion, breathing, and the sound of your mind chatter. As you pay attention for a while you might also notice that your muscles relax on portions of the inhale or when certain phrases are said. While in this state of awareness you do not have to remember anything. When you are in an unconscious state, you do not remember what being conscious is like.

You do not have to remember how to keep this focus. You are either doing it, or you are not doing it.  You are either vigilant, or you are distracted.  Your consciousness is focused on what is happening in the present moment, internally and externally, or it is being carried away in an opinion, or emotional reaction.  In that moment you have stopped “hunting” and stored emotions in your belief system have taken over your attention. One does not need to remember “how” to be conscious, just like when hunting one does not need to remember “how” to watch for movement.

What one has to do to improve is to remember to practice and through practice you will improve the way a hunter or athlete improves.

When you practice regularly, for a while it becomes a habit. When you live a habit for long enough it just becomes your way of life. In the beginning you will have to make a commitment to practice, and then after some months you won’t need to remind yourself or remember.  You will know how you feel, and you will feel better on days that you practice, and grumpy on days that you don’t.  Your own emotions and happiness will automatically guide you to keep your practice active simply because you like feeling better.

The Self Mastery Course provides a variety of practices to increase your Self Awareness, and change core beliefs that interfere with an elevated Conscious and Happy state.

How To Stay Mindful

When we learn something new it is important to note progress. It keeps our confidence up, and reinforces that we are doing the right thing. The most common sabotage to our mindfulness progress is the Inner Critic in our head, or what I call The Judge.  It criticizes everything, and rarely has a complimentary thing to say. This is the exact opposite of the confidence building that is needed. There are ways to counter this Inner Judge.

The judge will say you are not doing enough. It will say that what you did do won’t count or it won’t help or it wasn’t enough. It will lie to no end.  It will note all the times you didn’t practice or slipped up. It will not mention the things you did well, or that you are making progress. That Judge is anything but fair and just.  It’s time to call him on it.

Mindfully and Actively Counter the Judge’s Expectations

In learning anything like an instrument it will be a while before you can play a song all the way through. In the beginning you know you are not going for perfection and this helps. In the beginning you go for practice and lessons, and to get better. You know that in learning there will be lots of mistakes. You can even see every slip up is a chance to learn.  When playing the guitar and you miss a note, you notice, you see what you did, and you have a chance to slow down, focus your attention and consciously move your finger to the correct strings.  You take your time and get it right. You are building a neural pathway from what your mind imagines to making your fingers move a new way. Then you practice consciously moving that way over and over again until seeing the note on the page unconsciously makes your finger move. We learn to master something through incessant repetition. In reality you are not learning to play a song perfectly, but rather consciously make small finger movements until they are automatic. The practice of these small actions over time will build into playing a song. The Judge doesn’t seem to have much of a clue about this, or patience for it. It just wants the final product, but that isn’t how we get there.  This is important to keep in mind so you can manage expectations and stay on the task of practice.

In real learning you allow yourself time for this conscious to unconscious integration.  Allow yourself the same time for learning in your mindfulness practice. In the beginning of playing music you play more songs with mistakes than correctly.  In the beginning of the mindfulness practice allow your self the same latitude for missteps.

Somehow, because the work takes place in your head and emotions the Judge assumes that results should be instantaneous. This is a false belief of your Judge and does not allow for space and time of mistakes while learning. Therefore you will have to consciously make allowance for mistakes, learning, and time for integration.

The judge often has a ridiculous expectation of success. It expects that if you sit down to meditate that you will have some blissful experience in the first week or month.  It expects that new neural pathways will be built in the first week of any new practice.  The Inner Critic assumes that once you decide to have more positive thoughts that you “should” never have a negative one.  In short, the inner Judge is kind of crazy, or stupid, or both.  I’m letting you know that its expectations are ridiculous.  You can learn more about these false beliefs and become more skeptical of them by doing an inventory of the thoughts of the Judge. This process is explained in the Self Mastery program.

One way to give your judge a craziness check is to consider a friend working on the same mindfulness, behavior, or emotional stuff you are working on. Then assume that they were having the same kind challenges and are progress as you. Would you say out loud to them the same things your inner Judge says to you?  How would it go over?  Most people I ask respond with, “hell no, that would be mean.”  They would never talk to someone else the same way the voice in their head talks to them.   That’s how you know it is crazy or at least mean. It is not the kind of voice you want in charge of you or anyone else.

If you begin to put the sabotaging comments of the Judge in check by being skeptical progress will be easier. If you are having difficulty becoming the observer of the Judge you can listen to this podcast for some help.  You won’t feel like a failure every time the judge makes a comment about lack of progress. Instead you will be noticing how ridiculous the Inner Judge is. This is part of active mindfulness.

The second step in how to stay mindful is to positively reinforce your progress.

Take a post it note, or better yet, buy a pack of 3×5 cards. On a 3X5 card put down the couple practices you are working on. These can be long morning meditations, or small practices you build into your day during a commute, conversation, meetings, or exercise. List them along the left hand side. To the right put a number of boxes so you can check off when you complete a practice. Put in a number of boxes that you would finish in 2-4 days for each exercise.

If you aren’t sure what practices to combine, the Self Mastery course has many that work together. You can put in more or fewer exercises. In the beginning I suggest keeping it to 5 or less.

It should look something like this:

5 min of Gratitude   X  X
Relaxing Breath to Release Emotions   X
Journal for 10 min with neutral perspective   X
Be skeptical of Inner Judge’s Expectation   X   X   X
Practice listening in Conversation

 

Keep this card in your pocket during the day as a reminder to practice these mindfulness exercises.  As you finish one during the day, check it off as you see above.  It is your goal to fill out the card. You can put a different number of boxes by different exercises depending on how often you expect to do them.  In either case, don’t give your self a deadline. The Judge will create a criticism if you don’t finish on time. Don’t give him the chance.  It is your goal to practice. Don’t create a made up a race against time.

Mindfulness is an intangible practice and process. Therefore, progress is difficult to track and acknowledge. If you play guitar, you know the new chords you learned or the new songs you can now play. There is a sense of accomplishment that positively reinforces progress and practice. In mindfulness there isn’t always a tangible form of measuring progress so with this card you are creating one. This will help reinforce sense of accomplishment that the Judge attempts to interfere with.

When you finish filling out the card, post it in a place you can see it.  You might tape it to your bathroom mirror, or on your fridge. On it is a clear representation of the 15 or 25 steps you took and made progress. Your Inner Critic might have comments about what you didn’t do, but you will have a hard copy documentation of what you did do. When your mirror or fridge gets full of cards, you take the older ones down and begin to build a stack, and post the recent ones on the fridge and mirror.

Your Judge won’t remember the work you have done. It is forgetful. So you want a tangible reminder of the work you have done. When the Inner Critic wants to berate you for doing a lousy job on your inner work, you can look at your cards on your wall, fridge, or mirror, and use the documentation you collected to help you be more skeptical of the Judge.

Some information you may want to add to the card is the date. When you finish a card put the date in one of the corners.

As you practice, you will come upon insights and realizations.  Use the back of the card to write down what you discover about your self, thoughts, emotions, beliefs, and the ego characters that make up the voices in your head. The backs of the cards will be some quick notes of discoveries. Writing down these realizations will help reinforce them in your memory and consciousness. 3X5 cards are more practical to carry than a journal, and you can make the notes when you make the discovery.  If you wait until the end of the day when you are home, you might have forgotten by then. Once you get home, you can take the notes from the back and transcribe them to your journal, and elaborate on the details if you wish.

Periodically review the realizations written on the back of your cards.  You will have a catalog of insights to help you.  In a way you will be reading a book you wrote with all the helpful reminders you need to combat your false beliefs and ego. Each time you go back and read the back of those cards you are following the consciousness bread crumb you left for your self. You are giving your self the kind of consciousness you want to draw upon and cultivate. In the process you are also becoming your own teacher of wisdom.

There are as many ways how to be mindful as there are people on the path.  Try these two out and see how they work. You are free to adapt and change them in ways that work best for you.

I hope you found this helpful. Now go get your card for today and make our your list.

For practical steps on taking an inventory of beliefs and building mindfulness practices see the free lessons of the Self Mastery Course. 

Dealing With Political Fears

Be Mindful of Fear Based Beliefs Used In Politics

If you are afraid your nervous system shifts to a fight/flight/freeze response and this puts your mind in the same type of thinking.  You are in a mindset trying to protect your self, whether something is a real issue or imagined. You see threats, or imagine threats even when they do not exist. We have learned to trust our gut and so we take our emotions as reality. Once our gut emotions are activated with fear we are more likely to see imagined threats as real, and real issues that are small with exaggerated danger.

Once we do not feel safe we seek safety.  Seeking safety means building walls, or attacking threats, the press, the other party whether real or imagined. These are the forms our fight or flight response has taken on in today’s culture.

How our mind builds a false belief

Our mind seeks to create a congruent inner world.  We want things to make sense in a rational way that includes our emotions. When we have a gut response, the rational circuit in our brain makes a belief that explains our feelings and justifies it with something. In this way what we picture matches what we feel. We feel fear and our mind builds an explanation so the reason for our fear is connected to something. Our mind builds thoughts about the world being an unsafe place, people being dangerous, and justifies that we should fear them. We can build false thoughts and beliefs based on an emotional reaction from something that is imagined.

An extreme example of this is a person that is paranoid. They are overwhelmed with fear, and they see threats and danger everywhere.  In this extreme case the disconnect between their beliefs and the real world are obvious.  In milder cases of fear this separation takes more effort. In either case the person with the fear has the most difficulty separating their beliefs from the emotion. In most cases we don’t even look to be skeptical. We look outside and see people as threats and say that is why we are afraid. In effect our mind works to confirm an existing belief even if it is false.  In politics the culprit is from another country or religion, or the other party. Unfortunately there are many people who can stand up and agree with our fears because they have the same ones. The proposed enemy is offered as being the source of our fears, yet the opposite may have happened. We had fear on the inside, perhaps from something imagined, and then our mind built a story about someone to justify our fear.

Why Be Skeptical about our belief?

The way we feel matches the way we think so we feel confident in our explanation. There is no reason to check a fearful belief when it seems so certain to be true. The fearful picture in our mind is assumed correct, it fits with our gut feeling, and makes it difficult to see if reality is different. There is nothing to question here.  Yet this is the most critical time to be mindful of thought and emotions. After we act is too late.

Resistance to Questioning a Belief

Questioning our fears and beliefs take time. We must quietly sit, ask questions, and pursue other avenues of possibility. We have to will our imagination to other points of view, explanations, and emotional states. This is hard, particularly when we are afraid. When we are in fear, we are in a fight or flight mode and our primal instinct is to act with urgency. There doesn’t seem to be space time to sit and evaluate our beliefs or consider other sources for our emotions. Again, if we wait until after we act it will be too late to reconsider.

Questioning Our Beliefs Takes Will Power

It takes will power to override our primal survival emotional response. Fear subjugates our will power and directs our energy to come up with a plan for safety.  We must flee, or we must fight.  In today’s political world flight takes the form of isolationism. We build walls with our neighbors, cancel trade agreements and replace them with tariffs.  Fear becomes the architectural approach for our foreign relationships. Yet fear isn’t a healthy emotional basis for any relationship.

When our fear is not busy planning on isolating our self, it goes into fight mode. It pushes our mind to seek ways to attack anyone that might hurt us or even just limit our freedoms.  Those people it imagined as threats, or anyone that can be imagined as threatening us, seems reason enough to attack them.  We go on drone strikes, build walls, or invade a dictator nation thousands of miles away. Were they a threat, or did we just imagine them to be? The will power to question your beliefs and appropriateness of your actions may take less power then sending in the military or building a wall. We have to fight the urge and urgency to pause. Afterwards we say we did it for protection of our people, but if we look closer we might find that fear made us do it.

We fear what they might do in the future and so there is a rush to attack them before anything has happened. We imagine being attacked and feel we can’t wait. The only violence against us was what we imagined in our mind. Our mind is the source of fear. Our mind is where the attack took place. Most often, our mind is where the violence is happening. It is there that we must prevent the chaotic attack of fear, not outside. Yet our mind then does a clever trick. It deceives us by suggesting someone else in the future is the perpetrator of the fear we feel today. It is a deception of time frame, and of responsibility. If we are mindful we can notice.

We falsely believe our mind is predicting the future. We invade and attack with drones as a response to the fear in our imagination. We become the creators of real violence and real death in an effort to protect us from our imagined scenarios.  What will protect us from the fear running amok in our imagination and causing us to react unnecessarily?

Do we have time and attention to notice the fear that is driving our behaviors and how others are being treated?  Yes, but we have to make ourselves take that time. Our time, attention, and will power is under the tempting influence of fear and the fight and flight strategies it pursues. If you want to solve violence in the world, in your neighborhood, or even an argument with your spouse, then you will need to address emotions and what goes on in our imagination. Building schools, education, health care, and a healthy economy will help, but even countries with all of those things are susceptible to fear as a source of violence.

What path are you on?

You might not be afraid of other countries, or people in other countries.  Perhaps you are afraid of the other political party, their ideology, or candidate, and what policies they might enact or repeal. Whatever the justification for the source, the emotion of fear is still inside you, and that is your fear to deal with. It is not the change in policy or the candidate that makes you afraid. If that were the case then everyone would feel the same way.  Fear is your creation, and your response to what you believe about the issue. Each person responds with their own emotion because of how their beliefs interpret what is going on.

No one can take on that challenge inside of you but you. The stakes might not be so violent as life and death as in some cases with the world, but still, you don’t need to serve fear.  Sometimes you may still need to take action on issues, but do so wisely. In the effort to not be blinded by fear you first have to consider that fear is obscuring our outlook. Take a moment to consider that your fears may be causing your mind to project political scenarios and thus obscure your vision. Take time to be skeptical. Some people thought it was the end of America when President Obama got elected.  Now, a different group of people fear it is the end of America because Trump got elected.  Neither are true.

You can be without fear, and still act. There may be dangers in the world, but there are fewer than the ones that show up in your imagination. There may be policies that you want to fight for, but you can do so without the victim fears. In a clear mind you can take actions and have positions, without the fear.  If you really want change, fight the fear inside you as much, or more, than you fight others.

When you become adept at changing emotion, thoughts, and beliefs in your own mind, you will be better at changing others.  If you can not change the fear, thoughts and beliefs in your own mind, then you will not be very skilled at changing anyone else’s. Inside you is where real change happens. Don’t be afraid to try.

 

For practical steps to address your fears and false beliefs, check out the Self Mastery lessons. The first four sessions are free. 

Fear Based Beliefs In Politics

Be Mindful of Fear Based Beliefs Used In Politics

If you are afraid your nervous system shifts to a fight/flight/freeze response and this puts your mind in the same type of thinking.  You are in a mindset trying to protect your self, whether something is a real issue or imagined. You see threats, or imagine threats even when they do not exist. We have learned to trust our gut and so we take our emotions as reality. This means we are more likely to see imagined threats as real, and real issues that are small in exaggerated danger. We do not feel safe and we seek safety.  Seeking safety means building walls, or attacking threats, the press, the other party whether real or

Our mind seeks to create a congruent world. We want things to make sense in a rational way that includes our emotions. When we have a gut response, the rational circuit in our brain makes a belief that explains our feelings and justifies it with something. Most likely it will use a justification from the world outside. We feel fear and our mind builds an explanation so the reason for our fear is connected to something. Our mind builds thoughts about the world being an unsafe place, people being dangerous, and justifies that we should fear them. An extreme example of this is a person that is paranoid. They are overwhelmed with fear, and they see threats and danger everywhere.  In this extreme case the disconnect between their beliefs of the world and the real world are obvious.  In milder cases of fear this separation takes more effort. In most cases we don’t even look for it. We look outside and see people as threats and say that is why we are afraid. In politics the culprit is from another country or religion, or the other party. The person appears in our mind and we say it is the source of our fear, yet the opposite may have happened. We had fear on the inside, and then our mind built a story about someone outside and used it to justify our fear.

Why look for questions when we feel confident about our belief?

There is no reason to check a fearful belief when it seems so certain to be true. We have a belief in our head congruent with our emotions about why we are afraid, and it seems connected, but we can no longer tell which order it came in. We can no longer tell if it is true. The fearful picture in our mind is assumed correct, it fits with our gut feeling, and makes it difficult to see if reality is different.

At that point it seems unnecessary to be skeptical. The way we feel matches the way we think so we feel confident in our explanation. There is nothing to question here.  Yet this is the time it is most critical to be mindful of thought and emotions.

Questioning a Fear Based Belief Takes Time

Questioning our fears and beliefs take time. We must quietly sit, ask questions, and pursue other avenues of possibility. We have to will our imagination to other points of view, explanations, and emotional states. This is hard, particularly when we are afraid. When we are in fear, we are in a fight or flight mode and our primal instinct is to act with urgency. There doesn’t seem time to sit and evaluate our beliefs or consider other sources for our emotions. But if we wait until after we act it will be too late to reconsider.

Questioning Our Beliefs Takes Will Power

It takes will power to override our primal survival emotional response. Fear subjugates our will power and directs our energy to come up with a plan for safety.  We must flee, or we must fight.  In today’s political world flight takes the form of isolationism. We build walls with our neighbors, cancel trade agreements and replace them with tariffs.  Fear becomes the architectural approach for our foreign relationships. Yet fear isn’t a healthy emotional basis for any relationship.

When our fear is not busy planning on isolating our self, it goes into fight mode. It pushes our mind to seek ways to attack anyone that might hurt us or even just limit our freedoms.  Those people it imagined as threats, or anyone that can be imagined as threatening us, seems reason enough to attack them.  We go on drone strikes, build walls, or invade a dictator nation thousands of miles away. Were they a threat, or did we just imagine them to be? The will power to question your beliefs and appropriateness of your actions may take less power then sending in the military or building a wall.

We fear what they might do in the future and so there is a rush to attack them before anything has happened. We imagine being attacked and feel we can’t wait. The only violence against us was what we imagined in our mind. Our mind is the source of fear.  Most often, our mind is where the violence is happening. It is there that we must prevent the chaotic attack of fear, not outside. Yet our mind then deceives us by suggesting someone else in the future is the perpetrator. It is a deception of time frame, and of responsibility. If we are mindful we can notice.

We falsely believe our mind is predicting the future. We invade and attack with drones as a response to the fear in our imagination. We become the creators of real violence and real death in an effort to protect us from our imagined scenarios.  What will protect us from the fear running amok in our imagination and causing us to react unnecessarily?

Afterwards we say we did it for protection of our people, but if we look closer we might find that fear made us do it.

Do we have time and attention to notice the fear that is driving our behaviors and how others are being treated?  Yes, but we have to make ourselves take that time. Our time, attention, and will power is under the tempting influence of fear and the fight and flight strategies it pursues. If you want to solve violence in the world, in your neighborhood, or even an argument with your spouse, then you will need to address emotions and what goes on in our imagination. Building schools, education, health care, and a healthy economy will help, but even countries with all of those things are susceptible to fear as a source of violence.

What path are you on?

You might not be afraid of other countries, or people in other countries.  Perhaps you are afraid of the other political party, their ideology, or candidate, and what policies they might enact or repeal. Whatever the justification for the source, fear is still inside you, and that is your fear to deal with. It is not the change in policy or the candidate that makes you afraid. Fear is your creation, and your response to what you believe about the issue.  If it was the candidate or policy that created your fear, then everyone would have the same fear.  Each person responds with their own emotion because of how their beliefs interpret what is going on.  Your emotional response is because of you.

No one can take on that challenge inside of you but you. The stakes might not be so violent as life and death as in some cases with the world, but still, you don’t need to serve fear.  Sometimes you may still need to take action on issues, but do so wisely, not blindly by allowing fear to obscure your vision. You can be without fear, and still act. There may be dangers in the world, but there are fewer than the ones that show up in your imagination. In a clear mind you can take actions and have positions, without the fear.  If you really want a or change, fight the fear inside you as much, or more, than you fight others.

When you become adept at changing what emotion, thoughts, and beliefs go on in your own mind, you will be better at changing others.  If you can not change the fear, thoughts and beliefs in your own mind, then you will not be very skilled at changing anyone else’s.

Biased Beliefs in Your Politics

When I was a kid I rooted for my home team.  If the referee made a close call against the other team, I agreed with him.  If he made a close call against my team I was sure he was wrong. Was it really possible that all the bad calls went against my team?  Why did I see it that way?

I expect that someone rooting for the other team had the exact opposite reactions.  He felt good when the call was against us, and got upset when the call was against him.  It seemed neither one of us seemed to see it in the middle ground sort of way that the referee saw it. We just wanted to win. We felt better when the advantage went to ourselves. This probably wasn’t fair, but it felt better. Somewhere in our pre-teen and teen age psyche we wanted to win and that felt better. I learned to be biased from an early age. I just didn’t know it.

Now that I am an adult I see the same thing. When I am watching sports with people and they are rooting for a team I rarely see them admit when they get a bad call in their favor.  They might justify and write it off by saying something like, “Well that makes up for earlier call against us.”  But if they watch the replay and can justify it, they will be outraged about the injustice of the refs against them.

I think the opinions on referees range from the victim version of, “They screwed us over” to the middle ground of, “they called it bad for both sides.”  I don’t recall ever hearing anyone say, “well, the refs handed us the game on that one.”  That would be like admitting that you got a win that you didn’t deserve. We like to believe that we earn everything we get. The other side claims they got ripped off, but the winning side doesn’t see the same thing. If we really saw it fairly you would hear an equal amount of both.  I think it is safe to say that there is bias in how we see our sports teams.

It is hard to see our own bias. It is hard to see how our mind has filtered our interpretations and our reactions into certain funnels of responses. But maybe this bias in our perception is only difficult to see because we don’t look for it. Yes, we look for bias in other people, but how often and how hard do we look inward for our own belief bias on issues? Are we afraid of what we might find? Or, do we just assume our perspective is right and so we don’t have to check it for calibration?  If you agree with either of these answers, you have already discovered the beginning of your belief system bias.

Our biased beliefs filter our interpretation of a referee’s call. They filter how we see our players and how we see and interpret what an opposing player did.  We want our side to win. We are invested emotionally in an outcome of winning and losing. If we win, we feel good, and if we lose we feel bad.  We don’t want to feel bad.  Our mind biases us to see the game in a way that would make us feel good. If the refs see it differently, then the refs call the game unfairly against us.

 

Definition of Bias and Prejudice

Bias: prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair.

Prejudice: preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience.

Bias causes us to distort our perception. This causes us to dismiss facts and reality.  The result is that we take a position that is unfair and harmful, either to someone else, to our self, or both.

How We Identify Ourselves shifts our Perception.

Our emotional responses to beliefs and identity cause our mind to favor one interpretation over another in an effort to feel better.

In high school I played basketball and we were the Wolves.  When you fouled my team mate I could feel it.  I was a part of that team. Unconsciously I interpreted it as a foul against me.  If you fouled or took a cheap shot at someone on my team, I emotionally personalized it to my identity.  I could feel my nervous system respond as if you hit me. If I was watching another one of our teams play, and they won, I felt like WE won. I felt like I won. I identified with the team and I identified with the school. If it happened to the team or the school then it happened to me.

Over many years my mind was trained to identify and personalize with groups. This is good for building community, connecting and caring for people. It’s bad when you feel personally attacked even when you aren’t.

Notice what this unconscious act of identifying does to our behavior and emotions.  In a way my consciousness is projected to this other person’s experience and I respond from that frame.  I’m no longer a person in the stands watching the game.  I’m emotionally experiencing the ups and downs of the game including winning and losing from the perspective of the player. In the same way I projected my consciousness into they idea of a team, we can also project or imagine our selves into a politician, political party, or principle.  These are all just concepts the same way our school mascot was.  In our imagination we can do both.

Why the Emotional and Visceral Reactions in Politics?

What if I am identified with beliefs or principles of a political party? What if the ideas and ideology are what I support?  What if the principles I believe in are like my team. The politicians are my team captains.  I support them, I uphold them and I defend them.  If you so something in opposition to my principles and team mates I will feel personally attacked.  You didn’t attack me, but I would respond emotionally as if you did. I could feel threatened, or hurt. In feeling threatened I’m inclined to defend my opinions as if I was defending myself. If my party wins the election, then I feel like I win. If my politician loses the election, then I feel like I lost. If it is the Presidential Election, then it is like playing for the championship. These are the dynamics of escalation from a political discussion or debate to an argument. If you take sides with a party or policy then your feeling of winning can be threatened by a political opponent.  It will be difficult to see the media, which act as referees calling the game, as being fair. If you take the debate in this emotionally invested way to your family relationships you may end up not talking to them very much.

At its worst we can become more closely identified with our ideas and concepts of principles than with ourselves as human beings. We feel we represent and connect with ideas and political policy concepts instead of connect with other human beings. We ignore our human identity and connection with one another and attack others in defense of our ideas, policies, and “principles”.  This is what happens when we lose our consciousness to the mental state of ideas. Our beliefs bias us against humans through attack and defend conversations, arguments and Facebook posts of opposition.

Identity and investment in beliefs.

If you join the team of Libertarian, Republican, Democrat, Labor, or Conservative party etc, you are giving up some of your personal identity. You are transferring your consciousness into a collective organism made of other ideas, emotions, beliefs, and group identity.

What happens if someone protests, or disagrees with your party platform of ideas?  If you identify with those policies it will have the same effect at a belief system level as them disagreeing with you.  It might even feel as if they are attacking you. An act of building a wall will feel like an attack for some and not building a wall will feel like an attack against others. Banning immigration from Muslim countries will feel like an attack on a group of people, even if they are not from that country or Muslim.  For others, it will feel like a win. It is unlikely that you will notice the role of your identity and beliefs in your reaction. It happens very fast.  We typically don’t notice our emotions, and our unconscious beliefs in these situations. We just feel offended or feel and impulse/need to act before knowing what created that impulse. Yet, if we are going to change how we interact with each other it is the mechanics of what happens in these micro-moments that will have to change.

If someone disagrees with an issue of your party, you might feel inclined to defend it as if someone fouled a member of your team. The impulse response happens before we can ask to look at the replay. There is no process to objectively evaluate whether a referee made a good call. You have to create one in your consciousness.

You will have to take a time out to review the play in slow motion from multiple angles and make an informed call. You may not have had this technology available to you in the past, but it can be learned.

If you don’t take a time out to review the way your mind jumped to a conclusion you will likely end up in an attack and defend state of mind. You will have the sense of being under victimized by people that believe differently as you, and tempted to attack them with words and emotions in response. Based on how things look around the political landscape, it is a pretty unhappy way to live.

If you are unaware you fall into defending an idea, and an idea isn’t a legitimate member of your team.  In an extreme case you will challenge a person for challenging your team’s idea.  This is a case of making something personal that isn’t. An attack or a disparaging of an idea, is not an attack on you.  But it might feel that way if you have sacrificed your own sense of identity for a group of beliefs, but feeling that way isn’t always a measure of truth. It can also be a measure of a lie.  Believing that you have to defend an idea when the idea is questioned, is a measure of how we have lied about our identity being attached to that idea, party, or politician.

Further  Escalation of Belief Bias

Once you advocate for a position there is a psychological tendency to reinforce that position. We don’t want to be seen going in one direction and then stop and walk the way we came. So the human tendency is to double down on our position, even if we weren’t that strongly committed to it originally. Once someone challenges our position on a political issue, we are likely to continue defending it. We push back against their side and as a result we are more attached to that positional belief.  The end result is that we are more divided against the other person and see them as an adversary.  Are you becoming more divided with some of the people on Facebook, or another group of human beings like as you express your political opinions?

Challenge Beliefs and Build Human Connections

How do you evaluate if you are biased in your beliefs

You might be biased if you dismiss every gripe against your party or candidate. You might be biased if when you read someone’s opinion that diagrees with you your mind counters with an objection of the other party policy or candidate.  If his happens, and it can quickly, your mind is defending and attacking opposing beliefs before you can measure the validity of their point.

I find it unlikely that someone’s political beliefs would agree across the board with their party. How likely is it that you would agree with another person on every issue?  Not likely, not even if it were a friend.  It is statistically unlikely that you would agree with another person on taxation policy, trade, supreme court selections, human rights, gay marriage, education, alternative energy development, global warming, women’s reproductive choices, the NASA budget, public radio financing,  and 10 other things.  It’s just not likely. So, in a sane way, you should disagree with your party on some issues. If you don’t, then consider that you are abdicating some honest critical thinking and just “going along” with the group consciousness.  In short, your mind has been biased not to think, but just to go along with the group/team bias.  The group/team/political party “identity” have replaced your own.  This might feel good as being part of a community and connection, but it also means you could be in a fog and not thinking clearly for your self.

I thought my team should win and the other team should lose, even though I never got to meet and know people from the other school. I wonder if I went there that maybe I would have made friends and even liked them. I at least wouldn’t have been rooting for them to lose. This is the same as I did in high school. If you get to know some people in the opposition, and their viewpoints and reasoning you have a chance to open your mind and challenge the fog of your own beliefs.

If you are always on the side of your political party or canditate it is likely that your belief system has biased you and you can no longer see the game clearly.  If you believe every decision President Obama made was bad, then you are in a bubble of bias. If you believe everything President Trump does will be for the worse, then you are lost in a bias of beliefs. If you feel under attack from either direction then you will find attachments to policies and concepts that aren’t human. You will feel the refs (news media) calling the game are biased and are against your side on most days. These are clues that your imagination has carried your identity into the concept of a policy decision or a politician. You are likely interpreting disagreements and decisions of policy as attacks on your self and through the group you are identified with.  Your reactions are likely to be to “need to jump in” or “straighten someone out” will own you and have you escalate the debate before you can question your side. A victim mindset or a perception that the other side is attacking you is a clue to a fog of false beliefs on your part.

If you find them consider that your opinions and attention are controlled by beliefs. You might think of it this way. It is no longer a matter of you having opinions, but rather your opinions have you.

I think we should have vigorous debate over the issues.  But when we lose identity and consciousness to the issues, we see our fellow human beings as adversaries. We stop looking for the best policy and decisions and oversimplify our mindset into looking for who is for us, and who is against us.  This is the fog to avoid.

If you want to know what group I belong to, I am first and foremost a human being.




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