The Psychology and Philosophy of You

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Editorial and Opinion  |  House: Booksie Classic
This essay describes how an individual interprets their reality, and how that reality it is shaped by social conditioning and is subject to change as a result of peer pressure and the collection of various experiences throughout a life time.

Submitted: April 30, 2012

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Submitted: April 30, 2012

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The Psychology and Philosophy of You Kyle V. Anderson Stress Why do you have stress? You don’t have control over your reality. Every time you are late for school or work and find yourself in heavy traffic, you naturally start stressing because you have no control over the situation. Why do you not have control over your reality? You are out of your comfort zone and fear uncertainty. Questions start popping in your head, “Will my boss yell at me?” or “Will I be marked late?” etc. Why do you fear uncertainty? It’s a defense mechanism. You are risking your job or grade in a class for being late. Why is it a defense mechanism? Humans are programmed to be accepted by others. It was this mechanism that allowed cavemen to survive thousands of years ago. If they weren’t accepted by others they would be forced live and hunt for food by themselves which gave them a much harder way of living. By being late for work you fear not being able to keep your job and have the means to live. When does stress happen? When you are forced from your circle of reality and are required to face something that could hurt your ability to survive in the world. “If I lose this job I may have to declare bankruptcy and lose my house.” Why are you forced from your circle of reality? You feel threatened. The traffic threatens your future and you don’t want to face the possibility of losing it. What happens when you are faced with this threat? You either resist and live in moderate stress by not challenging the possibility of this new reality, thus always stressing out about the traffic, or face the challenge of accepting the fact that your reality might change, thus not stressing about the traffic because you have the confidence that everything will work out in the end. You’re no longer worrying about the possibility of needing to find a new job. I’ll go more into this later. At what point do you accept this new reality? When you pass the indifference threshold, the point that you are no longer afraid and are comfortable with yourself to not stress about things as simple as traffic. As you’re sitting there, you must realize that at this point there is nothing you can do about the situation so you might as well not think about it, call your boss telling him that you’ll be late and you’ll just have to make sure you leave home earlier next time. I’ll also elaborate on these principles later. What happens as you come to pass this point of indifference? As you face the problem that causes you stress, your anxiety level increases and you feel the need to return to the comfort of your reality. Once you realize that you’ve faced your problem and nothing bad has happened, you are no longer afraid of your problem and won’t stress about it. This graph illustrates this point. At first you are living at moderate stress level. The second you try to face your problem, you feel the increase in anxiety and want to return to your comfort zone. Once you’ve battled the stress and crossed the indifference threshold, your stress disappears now that you have faced your problem. Take surfers for example, the first time they paddle out to ride a wave they are constantly in fear of falling in the water or embarrassing themselves. It’s once they conquer this fear that they are having fun riding the waves instead of stressing about them. The longer you wait to face your problem (this new reality) the larger the mountain becomes and your mind finds more and more reasons not to tackle the problem. Instincts vs. Instincts The first time you face a problem or see something you want, your initial instincts are to tackle the problem head on because deep down you want to know the unknown and have the desire to have what you want. But then your defense instincts that prevent you from being hurt kick in the millisecond after that first instinct. Your mind instantly comes up with excuses and tells you why you shouldn’t explore into the unknown (a new reality) because there is a chance you may lose everything you have right now. You become stuck in your head trying to rationalize everything and question the outcome of every decision. If you had just tackled the problem when you were first encountered with it, you wouldn’t have built this huge mountain for yourself to climb and cause yourself a lot of stress when you eventually have to face it. When tearing off a band aid or jumping in the pool, what do most people do? They think it’s going to hurt or be too cold and instead they try to do it slow and painfully by pealing it away slowly or by wading in the water one body part at a time. Just get it over with quickly and save the hassle by ripping it off and jumping in. Unfortunately there are also more serious cases where people put off going to the doctor because they fear the diagnosis. Often times people with a spot on their skin or people who have had unprotected sex will put off going to the doctor because they would rather live in the unknown than to face their fears of possibly having cancer or an STD. If they just faced their problems by facing reality they could quickly find out a cure or, even better, find out that there was never anything wrong with them and they could have saved themselves the stress of worrying about it. Social Conditioning Social Conditioning is the origin of stress. It is the process of learning from others and taking their feedback as a way of knowing what is accepted by society. Remember when you were a little kid and you picked your nose for the first time? The kid next to you gave you a funny look and you immediately stopped doing it. It’s been going on your whole life. People see rich, good looking people having fun and you think that is what you need to be happy. Often times the media is to blame as they suffocate us with ads of what we should aspire for. But most of our daily conditioning is from our peers, creating your self-identification. Self-Identification As kids, no one cared about what people thought about themselves. You could say whatever you wanted, do whatever you wanted, you didn’t care what other people looked like, and you could become friends with anyone. Your imagination was free and you felt like you could do anything. As we got older, social conditioning played a larger role in our life with the need to fit in. In middle school if someone said you weren’t good at a sport or weren’t cool enough to hang out with them, you would immediately concede to that bubble of thought in order to fit into the reality that others placed upon you. Eventually you find friends with similar qualities to you and that becomes your social circle, your clique, your circle of reality. This leads to the identification of yourself based on your differences from other people. The final formation of your identity reveals itself in a visual separation of groups in high school: jocks, nerds, Goths, band geeks, sluts, druggies, preps, etc. It becomes out of your reality that you could relate to anyone out of your circle and you blame others for not being able to do what you want. The second you try to change your image, you are instantly looked down upon and teased. This is because you are defying their sense of reality and they will do whatever it takes to keep that from changing. Bullies will even resort to fighting you in order to maintain their reality that they are powerful and have control over others. Good Social Conditioning Social conditioning is a short cut for people. In one life, you do not enough time and energy to test, learn and experience everything for yourself. The people that have come before you have a wealth of knowledge that you would be wasteful not to trust. For example, nobody has the time to learn/ understand how to make an airplane fly and know how it works, yet people believe others that it will stay up in the air. It would actually be logical for people to question how planes work and should want to know how they stay in the air. In reality people trust what others say and believe them out of the need to get somewhere quicker. This is an example of good social conditioning where believing what other people say saves you a lot of time and energy. If an alien were to visit Earth and you told him that he needed to get on a plane, he would probably need a lot of convincing to board it because he would wonder how such a machine could possibly be safe. How would you convince him it to get on? You wouldn’t be able to easily show him how it works and why it’s safe; you’d simply have to tell the alien to just believe you. Other examples of good social conditioning start when you’re first exploring outside your house as a kid. Your mother, who has years of experience, tells you not to cross the street without looking both ways and not to talk to strangers. If you learned these lessons first hand there is a very good chance that you could die. Knowing not to jump off a building is also taught to us by others. Even though you’ve never done it, you still know it’s a bad idea. Self-Fulfilling Prophecy There are countless examples of these in our everyday lives. Self-fulfilling prophecies are predictions that become true based on the conditions you place upon them. For example, if you think all rich people are greedy, you are only going to focus on cases that prove your theory. You’ll see oil executives and CEOs who are caught in scandals and claim that your theory is true, thus further perpetuating your beliefs. Even if you saw a contrasting instance where a wealthy person did a self-less act such as donating to charities, you would think of it as an anomaly so you can maintain your reality. Men and women often think that their spouse is cheating on them and they are constantly “finding examples” that prove their beliefs; maybe they see the other talking to someone else or find an email that can be misunderstood. Eventually the accused spouse understands that the other thinks they are cheating anyways so there is no point in holding themselves back from others, thus proving to the jealous man or woman that the spouse was cheating. If everyone didn’t assume the worse in others and saw the good in them, the people would be less likely to do such acts. For example, if as you leave to go to a party and your mom tells you, “Have fun, I know you’ll be responsible,” you’ll probably be more inclined to be safe because you don’t want to disappoint her. But if she says, “Be careful, don’t do anything bad,” you’ll feel like she already thinks I’m going to act recklessly so I might as well do what I want. This is known as the Pygmalion Effect, where by placing expectations on people, they are more inclined to perform better. By seeing the good in others they are more likely to behave in a way that is congruent with the way you think. This leads to my next point. Reticular Activation System This is the theory that your mind only focuses on what has the highest value to you. Often times you see a couple talking to each other as an attractive woman walks by. The man’s RAS makes him turn his head as the girl walks by. Another example is when you’re hungry and waiting for your food at restaurant, when you see the waiter walk by with someone else’s order you immediately focus your attention to the food. This theory can be applied to my previous point of self-fulfilling prophecies. People only focus on what they believe. The kid who was told that was told he was ugly or fat focused on what others thought about him and all of a sudden began noticing things about himself that proved their points, this just reinforced the feelings of not looking good enough. Think of your RAS as a net where you control what does and does not affect you. If you choose to let negativity pass through your net, you won’t be affected by what other people think about you. New Realities New realities are constantly being established. Who determines what reality is? It depends on who has the stronger sense of reality. Have you ever been led, or misled, by someone simply because you thought that this person knew what they were doing? History has fell victim to this way of thinking numerous times. The Salem witch hunts are a famous example of this. Out of fear, people looked for a leader to explain the strange behavior in their town. You know the story: people began blindly accusing and killing others without questioning the logic behind it. This pattern of thinking is the basis of prejudice and racism in the world where people are so convinced that they have the stronger sense of reality and refuse to change their ways. But can you blame them? This has been the reality of their whole life; to tell them that they are wrong to be racist towards others would mean that they would have to reevaluate every aspect of their life that they thought to be true. Imagine if everyone in the world all of a sudden told you that 2 + 2 = 5? You would fight what everyone was telling you because you would have to undo everything you had learned throughout your life because almost everything you know is based off the fact that it should equal 4. Religious zealots are the same way. It all comes down to being open minded. If Christopher Columbus didn’t have the stronger sense of reality, everyone would still believe that the world is flat. Self-Identification and Stress When your self-identification is based off what other people think, your self-esteem forces you to think and act in a limited fashion. When you are constantly seeking approval for your actions you are constantly stressed to get the acceptance of others instead of acting through our own intentions. You’re always questioning yourself and pinging off others for approval. Freeing Yourself Learning to drive for the first time or being dragged to the doctor office are times when people must face their problems, and the stress involved, through necessity or by force. An example of taking action by necessity or force follows the first graph I showed and is based on the theoretical life of a spider. Suppose a spider’s entire reality is his web, each fiber acts as a pillar of this reality. Every gust of wind threatens its destruction and his response is to make it stronger by adding more strings to his web, further cementing his reality. One day he sees some punk kid knocking down neighboring spider webs. The spider starts freaking out and fears that his home, his reality, will soon cease to exist. The kid comes closer and closer. The spider becomes more stressed than ever as he sits there in shock; he is not sure what he’s supposed to do. Finally the kid gets to the spider’s web and begins shaking it off. With no other ideas, the spider jumps knowing that wherever he lands will be better than where he is. Initially the spider will be unsure of what to do, he’s just lost everything. Eventually though, he’ll realize that nothing bad has happened to him now that he has faced his fear (indifference threshold). He’ll realize that he has the power to make a new home, or new reality, wherever he wants and he can pull it right out of his ass, literally. He sees that he’s no longer confined to that one web, he can build a new one wherever, whenever and as big as he wants. He knows that if that kid ever came by and threatened to break it down he would no longer be scared because he knows that he can just build a new web. He’ll even try to explain this new freedom to other spiders. But since this philosophy is beyond the scope of their reality, they don’t want listen to him at the risk of losing their home. It sure would have saved the spider a lifetime worth of stress if he had just let go of what confined him to his web. Instead he suffers a panic attack as a result of waiting to the last minute. School work is an example of that. Students don’t want to face the daunting task of a large project and they procrastinate by pushing it to the deadline. Stress and anxiety levels spike when they finally realize that it is due tomorrow and they haven’t even started. For a story that is similar to the tale of the spider, read Plato’s “The Allegory of the Cave” with the previous analysis in mind. Trusting Yourself Glossophobia, the fear of public speaking. Why do people have this fear? It goes back to my original points about stress, people fear the unknown of whether their peers will like them. As a result you go up shaky and nervous and are not resolute about what you are saying. The audience sees this lack of confidence and doesn’t buy into what the speaker is saying. If the speaker chooses to allow this negative reaction to get caught in his RAS he will have further proof that he is bad at public speaking, thus creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Eventually, as with every skill that you learn, practice makes perfect. By the third and fourth time he realizes that nothing bad has really happened and he will start to feel more comfortable with it. This is called progressive desensitization. Confidence is the key to accomplishing your problems. This is a zoomed in version of the graph I first showed. It shows how you must take baby steps to complete your goal. Just like when you try weight lifting or a new sport for the first time, you need to steadily build your skill-set. This involves slowly evolving yourself, plateau, then pushing further. Having the confidence that you can do it is what makes it easier and it allows you to have fun in the process knowing that you’ll have success in the end. Every little victory on the way motivates you to keep pushing. Acting Through Your Own Intentions Where does confidence come from? Confidence is the belief you are right and no one else can tell you otherwise. Sometimes this can come off as being stuck up or cocky or a know-it-all but if you remember to have an open mind, like I said earlier, you will sure about what you are saying but are still open to change. Like I also said earlier, are you confident enough to have a strong sense of reality so that you aren’t swayed by people who claim to have the answers? Confidence allows you to act through your own intentions and become a leader in life, whether people follow you or not, it doesn’t matter, as long as you believe in what you’re doing. If you come from a submissive point of view you are looking for others to take the leading role so it takes the pressure of being wrong away from you. Whatever these people do, you do so you can be accepted. Eventually you’ll realize that if you act through your own intentions, people will gravitate towards you because they think you have your life in order and know what you want. This is why women are attracted to a confident man. They can see him as a provider and will not be afraid to protect her. This is a survival technique from cavemen that allows them to have the healthiest offspring. Acting through your own intentions displays the confidence you have in yourself and you naturally become a leader of those who are followers by nature. Responsibility Alright, now you have confidence, you’re acting through your own intentions and no one can stop you from doing whatever you want. Now what? Are you going to go drive 50 mph over the speed limit just because you’re acting through your own intentions and are confident that you won’t get in an accident? You still have to take responsibility for your actions. If you were to hit someone what are you going to say to the judge? The reality is that there are consequences for when you do something stupid, and acting through your own intentions isn’t an excuse. This somewhat contradicts what I was saying earlier where people use excuses to justify why they can’t get what they want. Now that you have confidence and are the master of your own life you may feel like there are no excuses to do whatever you want. Now that you have this power of control you must act responsibly, like that scene when Spiderman is talking with his uncle, with great power comes great responsibility. For example, if a physicist was to confidently claim that he was correct about a part of a nuclear reactor that he was helping to build, and then sees it blow up, he would try to find someone to put the blame on because “his part was perfect.” If you blame others for your failures, do you credit others for your success? The blame falls on you. You have to take responsibility. True confidence comes from the internal knowledge that you have done everything in your power to prepare for something. The physicist may have been confident that he was right about his calculations but it’s his responsibility to double check them. If you succeed at something, you should celebrate the process of accomplishing what you wanted, not the outcome. By focusing on the outcome you become responsive to your environment. You become needy of validation for your hard work, thus putting you back in that submissive role that you just fought to release yourself from. It’s all about controlling your Reticular Activation System. If you focus on failure you’ll constantly be frustrated and stressed that you are not accomplishing what you want. If you fail at something, think of it as an anomaly, don’t let it get caught in your RAS, take responsibility for it and try harder next time. Enjoy the process of what you are doing. This goes for the macro perspective of life in general. If you’re constantly stressing about studying, getting into the best school, getting the best job and retiring so you can finally be happy when you’re old, you’re not going to have very fun life. Enjoy each day for what it is. Conclusion I’ve given you a lot to think about, several different philosophies and psychological theories. But just keep in mind that everything that I’ve given you are just as I said, theories. I posed a somewhat Socratic method of questioning for you to analyze your preconceived notions of reality and understanding. You can choose your own reality over my own. You may have a million counter examples to my own. All that I ask is that you don’t get too entrenched in theory and philosophy; you begin to forget your purpose, which is living your life. Stop analyzing everything. I realize this kind of dilutes my thesis. It’s like Citizen Cope’s song, “Let the Drummer Kick,” it lists series of theories that people think would ultimately make the world a better place, but in the end they say to just let the drummer kick. Let the heartbeat of life keep beating and stop worrying about everything else. Have you ever tried staring at one petal of a fan as its moving? Eventually you’ll just become dizzy and frustrated. Life is like a fan, don’t worry about the individual parts, just enjoy the breeze and let it continue its circle.


© Copyright 2020 KyleAnderson. All rights reserved.

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