The Herd and Changing the World

I’m forced to listen to pop music almost everyday thanks to the predictable tastes of the 13 year old girl I live with. The thing about pop music is that it’s palatable in the same sense candy is palatable. Most people love candy because it stimulates our animal brains; I don’t like candy that much, but it’s difficult to find candy that’s actively disgusting.

That candy contains no nutritional value is irrelevant. It doesn’t matter that you want people to like apples instead. Candy is palatable and gives them a jolt of good feeling, therefore it’s a huge industry.

Pop music is more insidious than candy, because it can stimulate our brain on at least two levels. The first level is the same as candy, the driving beats and catchy hooks stimulate our animal brain. But the real power of pop music is to give people a jolt of the warm and fuzzies by confirming what they already believe or desire.

The Secret of Popularity

It’s not a very good secret, to be honest. It’s obvious. If you want to be popular, make everyone around you right. If you want your products or art to be poplar, make it make everyone who sees it right.

Pop music is a case study in finding a market and catering to it. They sing to college kids about getting super drunk and blowing your rent money on drugs. They sing to 11 year old girls about everlasting love with a boy who is wealthy, cute, and malleable. They sing to insecure young men about how cool it is to be rich and tough and how many girls will fuck you if you are.

These aren’t revelations to anyone, they are deeply held beliefs and values that are simply being reflected back verbatim.

And it’s not just young, dumb kids who go for this, this is the human condition. Part of the reason I’m a fan of the band Tool is that they confirm my worldview that exploration of the mind and universe is worthwhile and that there’s more to experience than meets the eye. I like Alex Grey because his artwork reflects my experience of the world, verbatim, back to me.

Fox News faithfully parrots all the fear and certainty that their audience feels right back to them. MSNBC provides the same mirror for liberals.

Who’s right or wrong doesn’t matter. People buy what they want to be true.

The Anti-herd

On one hand, you’re weird because you’re reading a blog that consistently details the ways you are wrong. On the other hand, this is just another mirror. I’m just parroting your deeply held belief that that our lives could be more meaningful, and that society is flawed. I’m just supporting your value of curiosity, and perhaps your desire to feel aloof, intellectually superior to those chewing cud lost among the herd.

In what may be a feat of self congratulation, I believe there is a distinction between what we do here and pop music or Fox News. The difference is that we are capable of having this conversation.

Acknowledging this condition of perpetual confirmation would undermine the belief structures of Fox News viewers and pop music listeners, and therefore would disintegrate the whole enterprise (quickly giving way to new organizations that would gladly fill the void).

On the other hand, the same acknowledgement strengthens our worldview and method of being, much like science done correctly systemically and continuously exposes its own weaknesses, which keeps it strong. Our constant questions about what is truly real and valuable tends to fight against the entropy of human bias, even while it is driven by the very same bias.

Sales and Change

There are two lessons here. The first is never to let go of challenging yourself. If you have the inclination to join this anti-herd of introspection, grip it and don’t let go, because it can only make you stronger.

The other, more difficult, lesson is that your art, the product of your life’s work, will not be judged by you or by this tribe. It will be judged by the world. And the world wants what it wants, not what you wish it wanted.

The tastes and beliefs of the world don’t change all at once, much like an evolving species does’t change all at once. They make almost imperceptible shifts, and you can only see the effect over a long period.

If you want to be a strong person, question everything, and assume you’re not correct.

If you want to sell, confirm that your audience is correct, always.

If you want to change the world, sell, but subvert the message. Show them a mirror, but make it a funhouse mirror. Show them a reflection that’s recognizable but deliberately distorted.

Show them an apple, but make sure they see candy. You’ll sell the candy, and they’ll buy the apple.

Birth Defects and Superpowers

Nate has a secret birth defect that seriously impacts his life. He’s lived in fear of being found out since he was a preteen, and it preoccupies his mind when he’s with his girlfriend.

He was with that girlfriend of his for two and a half years before finally working up the nerve to tell her about his issue because he was afraid he would lose her when she found out his dark secret.

One night Nate swallowed the lump in his throat, and practically through tears, he said he had a confession. That before they have sex, she should know that he has a birth defect.

“I have type 2 triorchidism,” he said.
“It means I have 3 testicles.”

A Heavy Burden

It’s easy to think Nate is making a mountain out of a mole hill, and tell him to just get over it. “Birth defect” is a little dramatic, don’t you think?

Not so fast though. We all have a third testicle. We all have some defect or dark secret that we think makes us unlovable or not good enough. And the thing about having an extra ball is that it feels like a big deal to the person who has it. Even though everyone else can see that it’s nothing at all, that testicle hangs heavy on the person who bears it.

The Power of Perception

The problem is that we project our beliefs onto the world. Everyone knows that Nate’s triorchidism is no big deal, but Nate doesn’t see that, and his reaction to it colors not only his perception, but also the perception of the people around him.

You might expect Nate’s girlfriend to shrug the “confession” off, but imagine that your boyfriend comes to you and tells you he has something to confess. Your mind is racing, because it obviously something horrible—his palms are sweating, he can’t look you in the eye. His speech is halting, and the tension is palpable as he works up the nerve to reveal his secret. He cheated, or he’s a murder, or sex offender, or an energy worker or something. It’s going to be bad. You’re heart is pounding, you brace yourself.

“I have type 2 triorchidism,” he said.

Confusion. Cancer? A wasting disease?

“It means I have 3 testicles.”

Nate’s girlfriend stood up without saying anything, and left his apartment. She wouldn’t answer her phone that day.

Bizarro Defect

I told Nate that what his girlfriend did wasn’t cool, but I also told him that what he sees see as a dark secret, is really no big deal.

In fact, I told him, he could make a huge, awesome joke out of it. He could play at being 50% more manly. He could say he lost a testicle fighting a bear, so now he only has 3 left. Two for babies and one for good luck.

The possibilities are endless. If you make it no big deal, I said, it’ll be no big deal. It might even get you sex with curious girls.

It’s more than just getting over it—it’s more than deciding your defect won’t affect you. It’s deciding your defect isn’t a defect at all. It’s an advantage.

He told me later that he’d had a chance to catch up with her. She apologized, but they ended up breaking up anyway because her reaction was so extreme to such a relatively minor issue.

He told me that if she couldn’t handle his birth defect how could she handle something really bad?

He was right, but the thing that struck me was the term “birth defect” again. Words have power, they shape our perception of the world.

I told him days prior to make a big joke about it, turn it into a funny curiosity. Along similar lines, I suggested this time that he stop calling it his “birth defect.” He’s not defective. I suggested he begin calling it his superpower.

Imagine having this conversation:

You: Hey girl, I have a birth defect I want to tell you about…
Her: Eh, ok…?
You: I have 3 balls.
Her: eh, ok…
awkward/fin

Now imagine having this conversation:

You: Hey girl, did you know I have a superpower?
Her: Hah, yeah? What is it?
You: I have 3 testicles. [insert bear fighting joke at will]
Her: No way! Prove it!
sex/fin

If he were abnormally strong or tall or smart or had an extra finger or something, he wouldn’t call it a birth defect. It’s a label that’s not fair, and I think it’s hurting him more than it’s helping.

Your Superpower

But we’re not really talking about Nate or his amazing gonads, are we? We’re talking about you. We’re talking about your broken confidence, your sagging body, your dark thoughts, your failures, your depression.

Your third testicle. Your superpower.

The objection in your head right now is the same as Nate’s. He also feels like his third testicle couldn’t possibly be a super power. I demonstrated in this post how it could be, but Nate has to feel it before it becomes true.

And before you decide that you’re the exception and there’s no way to turn your defect into a superpower, consider who you’re trying to convince:

Pete Michaud Self Portrait

Self Portrait 2012

Trust me, I know a thing or two about fully owning physical “deformities” and if you make it awesome, it will be awesome.

When the World Ends

The world ending today on December 21st, 2012 reminds me of one of my favorite songs, called “H.”

Western culture is steeped in Abrahamic cosmology, and one fundamental difference between the universe of God, the Father, and that of say, Brahman or Buddha, is that it only flows one direction. God created the things, the things did stuff, then God came back and everyone died or lived forever or whatever. That’s a fairly unusual perspective in the context of other world religions, who mostly go with the cyclical rebirth of the world.

So it’s no surprise that when a bunch of westerners hear about the end of of this Mayan K’atun (era), they focus on the “end” part.

But what comes after this fiery apocalypse? According to the Mayans, an auspicious time begins. 13 is a holy number for the Mayans, and 12-21-2012 by our notation is written by the Mayans as 13.0.0.0.0 (using their own numerals, of course).

H.

In the song, a snake is taunting him, tempting him, and draining him. The snake wants him to close off, to turn away. He’s also tempted by his “blood” to open his heart instead of closing off.

The conflict comes over him like a storm, and both forces, he says, are killing him. He’s living in fear of his death, until he has an epiphany:

My fear begins to fade
Recalling all of the times
I have died
and will die.
It’s all right.
I don’t mind.

With all its references to religion it’s easy to think this song is somehow religious, but it’s much simpler than that. It’s not literally about death and rebirth.

The singer and songwriter is Maynard Keenan, and this song was written around the time of his son’s birth. (Devo H. Keenan, hence the song title).

He struggles with being ready for fatherhood, until he remembers all the personal apocalypses he has had, all the times his old way of thinking and being and living have “died” before. And yet here he is, alive. Ready for the next death and rebirth into a new and better version of himself.

Apocalypse can be scary because the ego works overtime to avoid change. But the apocalypse is not the end, and in fact doesn’t mean “the end.” The word apocalypse actually means “revelation.”

Whatever is revealed changes everything, its purging fire destroys what was there before, and creates it anew through the surrender of grief.

So it is with the world, and so it is with you.

Welcoming the Rain

Meru is a rural region of Kenya about three and a half hours outside of Nairobi, the capitol.

When my woman was growing up in Meru in the 70s, picking coffee and going to primary school, she walked places instead of driving. Very few people had cars, and the roads were all dirt anyway.

Sometimes she knew it was going to rain while she was walking, and she started walking anyway.

Why?

Because in Meru, if anyone wants to get where they’re going, they have to walk, and if they wait for a time that they’re sure it won’t rain, they would be waiting forever.

So many people never start walking because they are afraid of the rain. They don’t like where they are, and want to go somewhere else, but they don’t go because they might get wet.

But the reality is that when you do get wet, you normally don’t get that wet, when you do, you dry off quickly. You won’t even remember being wet in a little while, unless you unexpectedly had a lot of fun splashing in the puddles along the way.

Hint: I’m not talking about rain.

On Needs and Violence

Shut the Fuck Up

The cat’s litter box is stinky, and she’s sick of it. She’d asked her boyfriend to clean the thing, but he just didn’t do it enough. Plus when he did do it, he didn’t do it with soap and water or anything, so it continued to smell.

So the argument started when she told him the litter box was making the room smell because he wasn’t cleaning it right. It escalated when he said that he does clean it, just not to her standards, and that if she wanted it done a certain way, she should do it herself.

She told him it wasn’t her responsibility, and it devolved into a litany about the things that she doesn’t do. For example, she doesn’t do the dishes every day like she’s supposed to. But that doesn’t matter, she says, because the dishes don’t stink up the room. It’s not the same. She said it was stupid to turn everything around on her, to which he replied:

Shut the fuck Up!

The Wrong Game

First, his reaction was obviously crossing a line between lovers and partners that should not have been crossed for any reason. But the more interesting question is, why did the conversation escalate to such a base level in which two people who apparently love each other are yelling and angry and crossing boundaries?

It’s because they started playing the “Oh yeah? Well you’re wrong!” game.

He’s wrong for not taking care of the litter. She’s wrong for not doing the dishes. He’s wrong because the dishes don’t smell, and plus he’s stupid. Etc.

It’s not really their fault though.

Most people in the world are socialized to make everyone around them wrong. Someone wears perfume that’s too strong, they are wrong, you don’t like it, and they should stop doing that. Your wife is too clingy and you feel suffocated, she’s wrong, she should get a life and leave you alone.

But what if that perfume is the one your mom used when she was alive, and it brings back all the great memories you have of her, so you love it when that woman walks by wearing it? It’s the same stimulus, but now you feel something different about it. What if you feel special and secure when your wife wants to be around you and you feel loved when she checks up on you? The stimulus is the same, but your feel good about it.

What’s different in these situations? Only one thing is different: You.

So obviously your displeasure isn’t really caused by the other person, even though the other person stimulates it. Your displeasure is a fact about you, not a fact about them. In other words, they can’t possibly be wrong for what they are doing, since it’s you who is choosing the reaction. And beside that, no one likes to be made wrong for living their life how they see fit.

But this isn’t an essay about just “choosing” to feel good about people being shitty to you, that would just be abusive. This is an essay about how to get what you want and help everyone feel good about it in the process.

The Right Game

If she wants to convince him to do it her way, she cannot make him wrong for doing things his way. He’s perfectly satisfied with the way he does it, and doesn’t notice or mind the smell. If she were like him, she’d agree with him, and there wouldn’t be any problem at all.

But in this case, they do have clashing opinions on the matter. To come to an agreement, they need to learn a new game. The game is called Nonviolent Communication, or NVC.

The core of NVC is simple: everyone has feelings and they have needs based on those feelings. No one but the person who has them is responsible for someone’s feelings, but anyone can get help with their feelings by asking other people to help meet their needs. Feelings are never caused by other people, only by observations or experiences.

In other words, when you observe something, you might have a feeling about it. That feeling could give rise to a need, and to meet that need you might make a request of someone else.

For example, she could approach her boyfriend with that pattern:

Observation, Feeling, Need, Request

  1. Observation: Sweetheart, the smell of the cat litter is becoming overwhelming to me. [It's not a judgement, it's just an observation.]
  2. Feeling: When I smell it I feel disgusted, and I feel worried that that smell is going to seep into our things and our place will smell like cat poop forever. I’m also afraid that no one will want to come over to our house because it stinks, and we might not even realize because we’ll be so used to it. [Again, no judgement, just feelings about the observation.]
  3. Need: What I’d really like is for that litter to smell better, so I don’t feel disgusted and I can be sure our things don’t start stinking.
  4. Request: Would you be willing to help me with that? Maybe we could move the box somewhere less central, and maybe get a self cleaning box, and make sure it gets cleaned more often? I know how hard you work, so I’d really appreciate you helping me with this.

I promise you, just like I promised her, approaching it like that would not have led to “Shut the fuck up.”

I recommend this book frequently to people like her, and it’s called (surprise) Nonviolent Communication. It has nothing to do with anger or anything, it’s just a weird title. It really expands on the core concept I wrote about here, and talks at length about needs, and different strategies for communicating with everyone from your child to your boss. It’s really thorough. For about $11, this book is likely to send you on a dramatically different and better trajectory in your relationship and in your future love life. I believe anyone would be happier for their whole life if they read this book, so I really hope everyone does:

Buy Nonviolent Communication From Amazon.

(By the way, that link is an affiliate link, so if you buy the book the price you pay will be the same, but I’ll make like $0.25. Fiji here I come!)

How to Get Over Grief

I was 21 years old when my dad killed himself.

Dad had left after a big fight with my mom. I had been talking to my mom for the whole week he’d been missing, and that morning was no different. I had to hang up with her to go to class, and I called her back afterward to keep her mind busy while we figured out where dad was driving to.

A man picked up the phone and asked who I was. The detective passed the phone to Mom when I told him I was her son, and that’s when she told me they’d found Dad at a reststop a few miles outside of town. His body baked for 2 or 3 days in the back of his Denali before someone found him. His toxicology report told me what I already could’ve guessed: cocaine, narcotic pain medication, and a bottle of red wine.

My family had been normal. In his youth my dad had been wild, but he was sober since before I was born, he was a middle manager at a major corporation. He was a good dad, always joking, everyone liked him.

When we lived in Mexico, he decided to have a taste of the old times while he could, and he got just a little coke. Five years later, his body rotted in the back of an SUV at a rural Ohio reststop.

The news literally knocked the wind out of me and knocked me off balance for a moment. That’s why people need to sit after news like this. I remember the exact view I had when I fell into my office chair, looking at my wife at the time, who immediately understood what I’d heard on the phone. Grief instantly struck her face as she fell back onto the couch. She, like everyone else, loved my dad.

A couple of numb hours later, I picked up a video game controller and pretty much didn’t put it down for the next three days. When I stopped playing, I’d start crying.

Reimagine

Grief is the process of reimagining what your life will be like now that something or someone you expected to be part of it, no longer will be.

You had one idea before your dad died, or before your husband left you, and now that idea doesn’t make sense anymore because those people aren’t in the picture anymore. They aren’t there, and the needs that were being met by their presence will no longer be met by them. Your subconscious goes into overdrive, deep down into the recesses of your brain, and has to tear that whole future narrative out from the root.

That whole process hurts like hell, and we call it grief.

I flew to my parents’ house to help with the funeral, and I was busy for about a week. I felt nothing really, I was just doing things like writing the eulogy, and arranging flowers and that sort of thing.

Someone had picked up a Stevie Ray Vaughan CD to play at the funeral, as that was some of my dad’s favorite music. I popped it in to figure out what song to play. I was sitting on my mom’s couch when “Life Without You” came on, and I lost my shit. I bawled like a heart broken toddler.

Distracting myself felt better than sitting and dwelling on my dad, that’s for sure. But remember what all that pain is for: it’s rebuilding the mental image of your life.

It’s identifying needs that used to be filled by someone, going through the pain and fear of feeling that those needs will no longer be met, then connecting with new resources to get those needs met in lieu of the departed.

So all those video games, busy work, alcohol, long work hours, only serve to slow down and stop the process of grief. You’re trying to make it go away, but the way you’re doing it is just making it stay longer.

Take breaks from the pain if you must, but let the tears, rage, and desperation flow through you until it’s said its piece. Then you’ll be free.

Highlights and Humans

1.

When you look at a sphere that’s glossy, you normally see a white point of light, called the highlight. You can measure the highlight. You can see that it’s white, not, say, purple. You can say that it’s half an inch tall, and three quarters of an inch wide, and roughly oval shaped. These are empirical, verifiable, undeniable truths.

When you move, the highlight moves with you, and from some vantage points you can’t see a highlight at all.

The reason is that the highlight doesn’t really exist. The highlight is empirical, verifiable, undeniable, and also doesn’t exist. Not exactly.

There’s really a sphere, and there’s really light hitting it and bouncing into your eyes. But the highlight appears where it does from your perspective because you’re standing in the right position for a lot of the light that’s hitting the sphere to bounce off directly into your eyes. The highlight is just a coincidence—an accident of how the whole scene with you, the sphere, and the light are arranged and how your perception is built. The highlight only exists insofar as you are present in the right context to perceive it.

In fact, the light that creates the highlight in your perception is in a lot more places than you can see, and the “highlight” is just an artifact of your limited ability to see all that light at once, even though it’s definitely there and you could see it if you had the right equipment. Instead you can only see a point of that light—the point that happens to be at exactly the right angle from the light source to the sphere into your eyes. But there’s a lot more light than that.

So the highlight is more a fact about you than it is a fact about the sphere or the light.

2.

You exist in the world. You have a gender, a brain, a history. You probably have an appendix. I can see you and measure you. These are empirical, verifiable, undeniable truths.

I may have seen you or talked to you at some point, and I may see you or talk to you in the future. There was a time when I couldn’t have perceived you because I wasn’t here or you weren’t or neither of us were. A time like that will probably come again.

The reason is that you don’t really exist. You are empirical, verifiable, undeniable, and also don’t exist. Not exactly.

There’s really a world, and there’s really a vast, intelligent light that you can perceive with your ego. But your ego, your body your life appear where they do from your perspective because You the Vastness are standing in the right position for a lot of that light to project directly into the pinpoint of your trip. The ego is just a coincidence—an accident of how the whole scene with You the Vastness, the world, and your ego are arranged and how your perception is built. You the Ego only exists insofar as You the Vastness are present in the right context to perceive it.

In fact, You the Vastness that creates the ego in your perception is in a lot more places than you can see, and the “ego” is just an artifact of your limited ability to see all that you are at once, even though you’re definitely there and could you see it if you had the right equipment. Instead you can only see a point of that light—the point that happens to be at exactly the right angle from the source of your light to the world and into your ego. But there’s a lot more light than that.

So the ego is more a fact about You the Vastness than it is a fact about the real world.

Chickens of the Southern Wild

My woman brought me to see Beasts of the Southern Wild yesterday, which is a really interesting and gripping movie. Very minor spoilers ahead.

A guy in the movie was preparing for a hurricane. He was running around in his yard trying to catch one of his chickens, to put her in a coop and bring her somewhere safe. He wasn’t making it easy, he was chasing after her, yelling at her, and generally scaring the shit out of her.

The thing that struck me was that the chicken was just like us.

We run away from the big, scary shit we don’t understand and that scares the crap out of us. But it’s that big, scary shit is what’s going to put us in a safe place to weather the storms we don’t even know are coming. So we get temporary relief when we somehow dodge the things that scare us, but then we’re left out in the cold when the storm comes.

I say embrace your fear. I’m always telling people to move toward whatever terrifies them. That’s where growth is.

The Science of Self Help

One aspect of the self help industry that turns a lot of people off is the lack of a truly scientific basis. I’m writing about the 6 Fundamental Human Needs right now, but there are no rigorous studies to back that up. In fact, there’s no way to even design a rigorous study that would support or reject any actual hypothesis about them. There are no physical structures in our brains that correspond “certainty” or “variety.”

But none of that matters, because understanding your motivations in terms of those general “need areas” is useful. It helps us introspect about what we’re doing, and helps us change our behavior if we want to.

There’s very little objective truth about the psychology that you can learn from hard sciences. Ok, great, now you know about the pentose phosphate pathway in the brain, how does that help your marriage? How does it enable you to be happy?

The unscientific stuff works because it deals in subjectivity (you are the subject). The self help stuff I write isn’t meant to be a true fact about you, it’s just a new connection in your brain to integrate and see if it works.

I write a lot of stuff on this site that’s objectively redundant, but it’s always written differently. Different stories, different tones of voice, different explanations, different analogies. When I’m writing those, I think about all the people who are suffering, and some of them need a gentle hint, and some of them need to be slapped. Some people just need an example of something working. Some people need to see a mirror for their dysfunction to change it.

Depending on where we are and where we’re trying to go, we all need something a little different to get there. And that’s what “self help” is. It’s not a scientifically rigorous way to usher the 2 central standard deviations into ever greater enlightenment. It’s a nudge for the right person at the right moment in the right direction, and it only works for that person in that context and for that one purpose.

And that’s fine, I’m not trying to make it anything more than that.

The reason I’m writing this, is to say that neither should you try to make it more than it is. Nothing I write here is meant to be rigorous, object fact. It’s meant to move you in a positive direction. Don’t latch onto it, and don’t over think it. If it’s useful, use it. If it’s not useful, try the next one.

Ending the Cycle of Abuse

“You’re nothing without me”
“If you even think about leaving me…”
“You don’t deserve me”
“You’ll never find anyone as good as me”
“You brought this upon yourself”
“I know best”
“You’re a terrible person, and you need me to be better.”
“You’re not worthy of my love”
“I’m only doing this because I love you”
“Don’t listen to anyone who doesn’t understand what we have, they are just trying to poison you”

Abused men, women, and children hear these phases every day, all over the world from the sad, broken people who victimize them.

These statements undermine a person’s self-esteem and their capacity for rational thought. They lead to depression, and create a perverse dependency on the abuser, who continues to undermine the victims.

It’s a tragic cycle and it’s very difficult to break. Even if the victims escape, the deep conditioning they receive lingers. It twists their thoughts and relationships, potentially forever. The feeling of despair, emptiness, and brokenness can stay with a person long after they are separated from the abuser.

Here’s the left hook:

Christ the Redeemer

Everything I wrote above is true, but these actually aren’t phrases out of the Abuser’s Handbook. All of those quotes are actually Christian teachings.

From childhood in the church, we are taught that we are broken and wretched. That we’re nothing without Jesus’ love and forgiveness. That if we stray from the light of the church, we’ll burn in hell. That we’re not worthy of Jesus’ love or forgiveness, but he’s awesome, so he gives it anyway… as long as we submit to his loving will. Anyway, it’s because we’re shitty and we can’t stop sinning, so we need him or we’ll die an eternal death. He’s doing us a favor. And to anyone who tries to tell you otherwise, that’s just Satan trying to tempt you away, so expect it, and guard against it.

And it’s a cycle. Very few pastors, priests, bishops, etc., wake up one morning and decide to break and demoralize others. They do it because they’ve internalized it so very deeply that they don’t know anything else, and the thought of anything else scares the shit out of them. That’s why it’s a generational cycle.

It’s not just Christians, this is essentially how dogmatic religion must operate to remain “in business.” Throughout history the most quickly expanding religious sects have taken it as a sign from God that they doing good, but really all it means is that their brand of religion is the most aggressive and abusive (and have the strongest “make babies” norms). The brand that hooks people most deeply, scares them the most thoroughly, and renders them the most compliant. I think Mormonism is the fastest at the moment, but that’s not really important. It’s a fundamental feature of all similar ideologies.

Expansion

Here’s a conundrum for free thinkers who want to spread light, love, and reason. By their nature, freer forms of thought and spirituality do not spread as aggressively as the abusive ones, because they do not as strongly create a cycle. Combine that with thinking people having fewer children than religious people, and you have a generational abuse expansion problem. The abusers are multiplying faster than the lovers.

What can we do about that?

I’m not sure what the answer is, but maybe there’s some way we can subvert or commandeer the machinery of fear and turn it into a force for good.

Brainwashing Instructions

What we’re talking about here is essentially brainwashing. The basic steps of brainwashing are:

  1. Assault on identity. “You were born with sin, and you’re a sinner unworthy of His love”
  2. Guilt. “Jesus died on the Cross for you. You owe him!”
  3. Self-Betrayal. “Admit that you’re unworthy of his love!”
  4. Breaking Point. “Who am I? Maybe I am going to Hell.”
  5. Leniency. “But it’s ok… We can help you walk with Christ and have a place in Heaven.”
  6. Compulsion to Confess. “I’ve lived a life of sin…”
  7. Channeling of Guilt. “It’s not you, it’s Satan’s grip that led you to a life of sin.”
  8. Releasing of Guilt. “Maybe it is Satan who encourages my sin… maybe Jesus will set me free”
  9. Progress and Harmony. “Let us show you how you can be born again and enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”
  10. Final Confession and Rebirth. “I invite Jesus into my heart!”

But how can light and goodwill harness such a fundamentally negative approach? I honestly don’t know. But I do know that just playing defense by inoculating our children against blind faith, and congratulating each other for how open our eyes are isn’t going to cut it. I do know that if we don’t learn to powerfully mobilize, this hopeful era of people opening their eyes will be washed away in a storm of ignorance, hatred, and fear.

I’m really looking for actionable insight here, what do you think?