In fact, just this past week, my 18-year-old son Ryan brought his girlfriend over to the house to have dinner and watch a movie. As I came into the living area, Ryan said jokingly, “Nice reading material there, Dad, thought I would read some to Molly.” He was referring to the books and articles on the table that covered subjects such as sexually aggressive youth, adolescent psychopaths and violence, and finally, compassion and loving-kindness in psychotherapy.
I replied sarcastically, “Well, how do you expect me to be normal when those subjects are part of my work?”
While I was, of course, joking with my son, there was also a lot of truth in my statement. The truth is that working with certain clients has influenced the way I see the world. I no longer find it difficult to believe what behaviours some people—including high-profile individuals—engage in.
Consider the following quote by Adolf Hitler in Mein Kampf, regarding lies and propaganda:
All this was inspired by the principle—which is quite true within itself—that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying. [emphasis added]
Given the mass manipulation that Hitler was able to perpetrate on such a grand and deadly scale, perhaps we should pay heed to some of the methods he utilized. I believe it’s true that the vast majority of people don’t fabricate colossal untruths and do, in fact, have a difficult time comprehending some of the falsehoods perpetrated by others.
This is where my profession may give me a bit of an advantage. In my line of work, I frequently cross paths with individuals who engage in behaviours that would be unbelievable to some people. While working at one facility, a staff member very new to the employee population stated, “I didn’t think people really lived like this; I thought it was just in the movies!” That staff member didn’t make it too long in the field.
Here’s what I can tell you about most intelligent psychopathic and/or narcissistic violent criminals—the vast majority will be caught due to dumb, careless mistakes.
If they’re intelligent, why do they make dumb, careless mistakes? Well, they’ll often make these mistakes due to their assumption and belief that others aren’t intelligent enough to catch them.
Some of these individuals actually take great pride in the extravagance of their lies and manipulations. The bigger and more blatant the lie, the more respect and status they receive. Fortunately, these individuals often become overly brazen and careless when committing their crimes. They begin to relax in their belief that no one will ever catch on to them, and that’s often when they get caught!
Few of us would like to think that we’re the type of person Hitler referred to when he stated, “Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation.”
Most of us like to believe that we’re the type of person who examines the facts and comes to a logical, reasonable conclusion most of the time. We fully acknowledge that we may get it wrong sometimes—after all, we’re human and that’s part of being human—but for the most part, we believe we follow reason and facts the majority of the time.
A rationalizing animal
One of my favourite quotes is by psychologist Elliot Aronson, when he stated, “Dissonance theory does not rest upon the assumption that man is a rational animal; rather, it suggests that man is a rationalizing animal—that he attempts to appear rational, both to others and to himself.”
Ouch, so much for the rational, logical, reasonable argument!
I personally believe that one of Sigmund Freud’s greatest contributions to our understanding of human beings was his insistence that the unconscious mind was the “primary guiding influence over daily life.” In other words, Freud was also stating that we humans aren’t quite as rational and logical as we like to believe we are. Instead, according to Freud, most of us are controlled by unconscious internal forces that are mostly beyond our awareness.
That statement should make you pause for a second and consider its implications. According to Freud, Aronson and many others, much of your behaviour is due to internal forces you’re not even aware of. I believe there’s a great deal of truth in that belief.
If you practice mindfulness, these statements shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. As the great Buddhist teacher Atisa said, “The greatest precept is continual awareness. … The greatest action is not conforming with the world’s ways. … The greatest wisdom is seeing through appearances.”
As practitioners of mindfulness, is it still possible for us to unknowingly become one of those Hitler spoke of? One of those who, even though presented with the facts that prove a lie, will still doubt and waver and continue to think there may be some other explanation? Are we simply too afraid to examine all the facts and come to a conclusion that makes us uncomfortable or threatens the way we prefer to see the world?
It’s about money
In one of my most recent articles, I chose to write about the supposed “rape culture” that’s present on college campuses. In the article, I discussed the distorted definition of “rape” the researchers used in a particular survey, as well as the actual number of students who completed that survey.
Furthermore, the article also discussed how the ratio of one in four women being raped on college campuses was also used almost 30 years ago, and was heavily criticized back then for the use of poor and misleading research methods used to obtain it. However, certain organizations, back then, received over $30 million in federal grants to be used for educating people on, and fighting back against, the alleged rape culture.
Would universities and researchers, along with the media, misrepresent the results of a survey to ensure that an estimated $489 million in federal grant money would go to these schools and programs? More importantly, would these individuals deceive parents and students into believing a falsehood for $489 million?
Is it difficult for you to consider the possibility that the “scientific community,” the media and our political representatives perhaps misrepresented the facts for financial gain?
In the article in which I discussed rape culture, I provided links to information that’ll allow anyone to view the evidence for themselves. If, in reading this, you’re not at all surprised that people would misrepresent research outcomes for $489 million in funding, what else are you willing to question? Where do you draw the line and for what reasons is the line drawn?
Upcoming article series
In the following series of articles, I intend to present the reader with information and evidence that’ll likely challenge many of the accepted beliefs that are prominent in Western culture. Some of the subjects to be covered include psychology and science, along with politics, to a certain degree.
In the first article, I’ll present information regarding the current state of scientific research as it pertains to psychology and medicine. I’ll discuss the concepts of “Evidence-Based Research” and “Evidence-Based Practice,” and examine if they’re as evidence-based and scientifically formulated as their proponents lead people to believe.
In reading the material, I ask that you mindfully examine your response to the information. Examine how you react to information and become aware of how you want to respond. Ask yourself if you’re the person who, even though facts that prove a falsehood may be brought clearly to your mind, still doubts and wavers and continues to think there may be some other explanation.
Our courage to question and resist does, in fact, influence the path our world chooses to follow. I encourage you to leave comments sharing your experience.
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