Information is meant to be a launching point. Not a point at which to come to a conclusion. Creating a world that works requires focus, intention, and thinking beyond where we normally think. When we read news, for example, we have to not come to a conclusion about what we read, but instead consider the news within a larger context and then think about how that information is relevant.
When we read fake news, for example, we mustn’t just disregard it. We must ask, “in what context does this fake news exist and persist? What is it that our society is creating and manifesting that makes this popular?” If we truly want to transform systems and create a world in which people are healthy, safe, and connected, we can’t simply disregard the threads that make up our fabric. We have to tug them…see where they lead…ask what structure they support…ask what wove them.
It’s not enough to simply hate Trump. It’s not enough to hate Trump supporters. It’s not enough to disregard Trump supporters simply because Trump didn’t win the popular vote. Trump being elected is a symptom not just of our electoral college (which I believe is indeed problematic), it’s a symptom of our society. It’s not just a symptom of ignorance, racism, bigotry, fear, or capitalism, it’s a symptom of a group of people (all of us) who have played some part in allowing such things to persist, thrive, and overcome other values. Even those things are symptoms of yet something else. (And I have to note that my hate for Trump should not be a stopping point for me. My hate for Trump is a symptom of something else and indicative of something in my heart, thinking, and way of being. My hate is a launching point for thinking more critically. Ideally, I won’t hold on to my hate for Trump, and I’ll instead use it as a way to think more critically about a more entrenched issue.)
We have to think. We have to move beyond our immediate and trained assumptions. We have to explore ourselves and listen to others. We have to dedicate ourselves to our own awakening and the awakening of others.
Actually, we don’t have to. But we could. And if we want to cause change, we must.
This doesn’t mean that causing change has to be full of arduous work and logical brilliance. It simply means that we have to be present to something other than the superficial level that presents itself. It means we have to be willing to tap into something other than what we already know. It means we have to remain open to curiosity and exploration and divorce ourselves from conclusion.
Even as I write, I wonder what the next evolution is of my thoughts. Is this post my conclusion? Certainly not. It’s part of the evolution. It’s a part of the fabric of one thread that’s the part of a fabric of one thread. And on it goes.
Here are some ways to expand your thinking:
- Notice your first thought. Label it as your first thought.
- Notice your body’s reaction to your thought. Said another way, notice your emotions. Are you happy? Sad? Angry?
- Ask yourself whether or not that reaction is familiar to you. If it is, it’s likely coming from a trained, automatic thought.
- Think something else. If you’re angry, try to think about whatever it is that triggered the first thought in a different way. Don’t worry–it’s just you in your own head. You don’t have to let go of your strong held beliefs or admit that you’re wrong. You simply have to try something else on.
- That’s it. For now. Just start there. Just NOTICE what you’re thinking and what you’re feeling about what you’re thinking. Then notice if that feeling is familiar. If it is, try to think and feel something else, even if for a moment.
Here’s an example.
A person says that while she hates Trump, she doesn’t want him to fail.
My immediate thought: Ugh. I hate Trump. I want him to fail.
My immediate feelings: Anger. Sadness. Resentment.
Are these thoughts and feelings familiar? Yes. They are the exact ones I’ve had every single time I’ve engaged with anything having to do with Trump.
Think something else: She’s right. We don’t want him to fail. His failing would be bad for our country. If Trump succeeds, maybe our economy will be better. Maybe we’ll resolve some of our issues at a systemic level.
Note: As I’m thinking (and now writing) these new thoughts, new feelings start to emerge. I’m now feeling anxious, resistant, and slightly hopeful. And I just became dizzy.
Are these feelings familiar? Yes. I feel them when I feel strongly about something and don’t want to change how I think.
When I notice that I don’t want to change how I think, I become aware that I’m attached and not thinking clearly. I notice that I’m more interested in thinking in a way that’s comfortable than thinking in a way that’s new.
Thinking in a new way is uncomfortable. Quite literally, actually. You think a particular way over and over again, and your brain becomes wired for that way of thinking. When you think something new, your brain is forced to break its conditioned wiring, and it literally perceives a threat of danger (death). It then sends your body an alert to run. Until the new way of thinking becomes a familiar way of thinking, it will occur as dangerous to the brain.
Discomfort can be okay. We can embrace it (note that as I type that, my body is saying, “no, no, no!” Straight up resistance to being comfortable with discomfort). Also note that discomfort doesn’t have to be discomfort. It could just as easily be unfamiliarity. Or newness. Or the space of creation. But it can’t be anything but automatic until we begin to be intentional with it.
Okay. I’ve reached the end of this new cycle of thinking. Now it’s time for me to step back and take the time to think beyond this. Might I change my mind? Yes. Might I discover that something about this is no longer true for me? Yes! That is the point.
In love and liminality,