Since I have referenced Jordan B Peterson in a couple of my blogs, you may have gathered that I am a fan. That may be putting it mildly, as I have listened to a lot of the content he pushes out to the world. I read his books and loved his lecture and debates. One of the true intellectual powerhouses of our time, and I am thankful that he is sharing his gifts with the world. I highly recommend you explore some of what he has to offer.
Being so well read, Peterson is always referencing literature that most of us will never bother to read. In a recent video of his I saw, he mentioned a quote from the famous psychologist Carl Jung, and it triggered some thoughts I wanted to explore. The quote goes:
“You have thoughts appear in your head, and then you believe them”
Since most people do not spend a lot of time critically thinking about topics, this can be problematic for many. We live in a world of overstimulation and where a multitude of things via for our attention. This is why down time and technology diets are so important; it gives you time to play Tetris with your thoughts and consolidate information you’ve had rattling around in your head for a while. This is what happens nightly when you sleep, but in this particular case, more is better. Every fly fishing trip I do acts a tech detox and a chance to do some deep contemplation. The Zen moments of standing in a river, focused only on what I am doing at that moment, allows my subconscious to come to the surface. Some of my most creative ideas have come during or right after a fishing trip.
We all have thoughts that pop into our heads and probably think that they are A. original ideas and B. a “conclusion” we came to about something. According to Jung, this is not the case. We have thoughts, and we must spend time thinking about them, questioning, digging, poking holes in, and then finalize them into a belief. For most people, this is a foreign idea and something that never occurs. Our brains filter out a LOT of daily stimulus, and necessarily so, as we would be overwhelmed with information just sitting in a coffee shop for a few moments. But the problem seems to be that we allow our brains to do this to a degree that is problematic when it comes to forming real thoughts and beliefs.
Here are some things to consider about this:
Look how much impact marketing has on each of us. Companies spend millions of dollars a year to get your attention and bend your thoughts about something. They want you to buy their product or use their service, and they influence your behavior accordingly. Now, extrapolate that to your thoughts in general and realize how many “garbage” thoughts actually run through your head in a day. You let go of thoughts like packing up everything you own and moving to live on the beach in San Diego because you know that isn’t practical or even possible in most cases. And yet you think thoughts that make no more sense than this does and act on them, thinking you have come to a conclusion.
Many people don’t really think at all, so they talk. By verbalizing an idea they have partially formed in their head, they are “thinking out loud”. The problems with this approach are several, such as this has impact on the person you are sharing your ideas with, and how they respond to you. And in turn, their response influences what you think and feel about that interaction. If someone laughs at an idea you express, you may feel badly about it and never speak it again. Or you may get defensive and double down, trying to “prove” to them that this idea of yours is valid. But without some real time devoted to looking into it, you are making things up as you go.
Now I realize that we can’t all become monks and spend most of our lives in deep contemplation. But there are things that we should allocate some brain power to and really dig into before we “make up our minds” about something. Let me give you an example, as I see a ton of this these days:
Our world has become so polarized and tribal that it seems we can’t even listen to words coming out of the mouth of someone we have previously disagreed with. We have a White House Press Secretary that shares information about things like the economy, and immediately the two camps interpret this information to mean two completely different things. One hears that we are not in an economic recession and that things are looking up; job growth is setting records and we are on track with the plan in place. The other hears nothing but lies and smokescreens, and digs their heels in further to the thoughts that this administration is selling us out to the WEF and furthering the one world government agenda of the elites. The other side is immediately tuned out, or worse, ridiculed. The art of constructive conversation has gone by the wayside. God help us if Trump runs again in 2024, as it could literally tear the country in half. We are to the point where the losing side of an election will likely not accept the results and there could be real chaos that ensues.
In relation to this, I wrote a blog quite a while ago, and it was about a video of President Trump speaking about COVID and some of the things (then) his White House was doing to combat this. The mainstream media did its usual bashing or praising of him, taking sound bites and twisting them to fit a specific narrative they are pushing. I wrote the blog and sent it directly to 50 people I know to get their opinion on it. I specifically asked that they put aside any bias as best they could and just listen. Some were able to, and understood my points about what the media was doing in terms of leading you down a path towards their interpretation of his talking points. Others could not, and wrote their thoughts back to me as such. It was an interesting social experiment; I don’t believe I lost any friends over it, but it was clear that some of us have very different opinions about the same topics.
Circling back to my original point, how many of the thoughts that you have are really yours? Do you ever sit and think about something before you form an opinion on it? Did you research primary election candidates before you voted for them, or did you base your choices on their TV commercials? I guess my real question is this: How often do you really think about something before you “commit” to an idea. As the old say goes…A wise man is never sure he has the answer, while a fool is convinced he does. Contemplate that one for a while….