Finding your path through deconstruction.
Moving forward in your own way. My experience with belief constructs through a detour into conspiracy theories.
Yesterday a friend of mine admitted in a subtle way that he now understands my past behaviour. I used to envy him a little for his straightforward walk through every college class. Not asking many questions and diligently doing what was demanded.
We talked about the classes and he told me that he didn’t want to get his degree as fast as possible, because there is still so much he wants to learn.
Me on the other hand, the opposite. Soon after starting college, I renounced the conviction that getting my degree was priority number one. Facing resistance and non-understanding as to why I cared less and less about practicing for the tests only fueled my protest.
If you’re not there yet, I suggest you choose something in between. Flaring out a little, because school won’t teach you your passion. But not going off track for the sake of it. It’s largely thanks to family and friends that I managed to come back from the bad place I plunged into.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret this detour (Mostly because I don’t have a choice XD)
That’s why it felt good to hear him say he wanted to learn other things. Because that’s what I did. I was wondering about chakras when the volume integrals bored me. Conspiracy theories also fascinated me. Partly because they were more exciting than daily life, but I followed a more fundamental concept. The weirder someones approach to life, the more interested I was.
I can be pretty stubborn. In my own mind I was a “searcher for truth”. Over time I dismantled many core beliefs. All those elaborate concepts I built while growing up, just do to now be deconstructed. It felt ironic.
That is probably what led to my near-breakdown. The dissonance between what I felt and what I practiced eventually became to large.
Remember, it all came from that one standpoint: I don’t know s***.
All the different views and resulting fights are rooted in a lack of information. It’s hardly possible that on a fundamental level there are two opposing solutions. The other guy isn’t wrong, I just can’t follow his thinking process.
That’s probably the second important turning point while growing up. The first one being the realization that grown-ups aren’t perfect and know everything.
So once you start questioning yourself, the insecurities start. It is tempting to put an end to it by identifying with some world-view and living accordingly. But I suggest that you go deeper.
Find your own truth. Only then you can live a life that feels real.
Here’s my attempt:
1. I absolutely suggest watching some conspiracy theory videos, because they perfectly demonstrate how an extreme belief construct is formed and then defended.
You will get a feeling for the way they hinge on a few basic beliefs.
For example, it’s necessary to buy into the assumption of an evil elite controlling everything. The good (bad) thing about these fundamentals is that they are hard to be definitely disproven. It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that if it’s not wrong, it must be true.
A recent light shone on that for me when I had a class about complexity and complex systems. A number of components and their individual behaviour depict a macroscopic phenomenon with very different characteristics. Just think of a flock of birds. That strangely behaving cluster, almost seeming as if it had a mind on its own. But it’s not one or even ten birds in control. In fact no bird controls anything at all. It’s just what happens if birds are in a group and each following their instincts.
Probably it’s the same with humans. Our collective behaviour can be interpreted as if it is controlled by some magical force, but in the end, no one is really planning anything. It’s just what happens, with each individual making their own decisions based on their beliefs.
2. Identify the principles that led you into the situation you’re in. Don’t try to define them as right or wrong. If you do that, you’re back to constructing.
An example for me was that I needed to get a job in a respected field. That’s why I chose engineering. I traced it back to a belief coming from my parents that everybody should carry one’s weight. Combined with a societal opinion that engineers are productive and useful. It wasn’t about following my passion. I was good at math. Studying at the national technical institute implied that you’re not hanging around and being a sponge. That was important to me, especially coming from a rural area where not too many aspire higher education.
3. Now comes the challenging part. Try to imagine what your life would look like if you didn’t follow the rules you identified before.
It’s where ultimately that feeling of lostness comes about:
“I could be doing anything then. What is it that I really want?”
There won’t be an answer right away. Because this is all new. Only one way to find out. Trial and error.
4. The next step is actually pretty fun. From my experience though I suggest you do it discrete because you will get judged. Waste time as if it didn’t matter. Practice a state of non-judgement. Always ask yourself: “Could I see this differently?”
The tale of the dog who walks into a room full of mirrors. One walks into a room full of barking dogs and the other into a room full with happy, tail-wagging dogs.
You can believe the world is flat. You can believe it is round. Why do you need to choose sides?
How about: I don’t care, because it doesn’t really matter.
Just go with: Evidence suggests strongly that it is round. On the other hand, if it were flat, antarctica (and other stuff) would become a lot more interesting.
With that, you can move on. No need for definite prove.
I nowadays resort to this “schrödingers cat-approach” quite often. Could be that the Kennedy assassination was a lone shooter. Could also be that an organization wanted to get him out of the way. I’m not going to waste time trying to prove either one. Instead I accept that it is A and B at the same time.
Or rather, that there are different opinions about it, which can be assumed in a discussion. Choose whichever makes live more interesting.
5. With a bit of practice the “not-defining” of things becomes very pleasant. Instead of making overlong pro and con lists in your head and weighing arguments you just relax and let it be blurred.
You can save a lot of energy. Do I like the hat she’s wearing? Off you go into minor/major discussion with yourself. Most of the time you don’t get a definite answer anyway, so there is no need to bother in the first place.
If you have trouble because the process is very automatized, try this: Pull an all nighter and still do your usual programm the next day. Because you are so tired, you don’t have the excess energy to care about every little thing. Same goes for intense exercise. For more on this I suggest to read : The subtle art of not giving a f*** — by Mark Manson.
Not judging others will eventually enable you to not judge yourself anymore.
6. A newly acquired form of decision making. When that voice talking in your head finally has shut up, you will be able to hear what before drowned under all the noise.
Over time you can observe almost every child turning into an adjusted person that will rarely follow it’s instincts. Imagine you see a group of people having fun. Child-you would just join the group and have fun to. Adult-you can maybe do it with the help of alcohol.
7. Congratulations! You did it. Enjoy the freedom from unnecessary sorrows through un-understanding.