The two bodyguards of old habits and negative beliefs that create the most damage are stubbornness and cynicism. They condition us to greet every great idea or technique with the assumption that it is flawed and will not work. Their initial response to a new concept is to declare that it will not work. If we cannot immediately find some defect, we will move on to ponder why this will be too difficult to pursue, or that it may cause new problems if we attempt to use it.
Every good idea and technique can be sabotaged by a clever mind committed to skepticism. Intellectuals and stubborn people will find this easy to accomplish—especially when they cannot bear to be wrong. Admitting that a mistake in judgment or choice has been made is just too painful to bear. Thus these “defensive thinkers” cling to their favorite beliefs, however flawed, and miss the benefits of better views.
We do not want to be among their ranks. Unfortunately, we unwittingly join them sometimes because we are not always aware of how we automatically shift to a cynical and defensive mode of interpreting new ideas. The infinite power of rationalization becomes the bodyguard of all the other bodyguards that protect our current beliefs and habits and prevent change. When we are too aware of past wounds, failures, and defeats, we tend to become averse to anything that might risk more of the same. This sets our psychic radar to search for even small threats that could end in disaster. When we are looking for trouble, we will usually find it before it finds us, and the result is—surprise—more trouble. Moreover, our obsession with avoiding threats and risks can distract us from engaging in many good possibilities. While we are searching for what is wrong or might disappoint us, good opportunities may move on without us.
We can read this book and all of its constructive suggestions and reap absolutely nothing from them— but only if we regard them with aggressive distrust and disdain. Effective learning and change often requires us to make room in our hearts and minds for better ideas. This requires us to engage in unlearning those views and methods that have outlived their usefulness. Only when we fully appreciate that we have much more to learn can we honestly entertain new ideas and ways. This shift of attitude includes the ability to admit that we can be wrong—possibly very wrong about many things. This insight opens the door to recognizing better ideas and methods.
Clever people are often the most successful in fooling themselves that they have always taken this very open and thoughtful approach to new ideas. They assume that the fact that they have not found any good ones in the last few years is proof that they are very discerning. If this is the way you often think, then it is likely that you have a big problem and are refusing to recognize it.
The last defense to be overcome before we get to the serious work of reversing our psychic self-destruction is to stop being a blockhead. A block-head can be a very intelligent person who refuses to learn anything new. All current and past beliefs are regarded as the cosmic standard for truth. Anything that differs from this is rejected. Zap! End game!
It is amazing how so many people who are very successful in many areas of their life behave this way. It is as if the ego gets filled up with a sufficiency of good ideas and techniques, and then the doors are closed to everything thereafter. The most common areas where the doors are shut tight and welded are politics and religion. Thereafter, no amount of logic, bad results, or even disasters will sway them from any fundamental change in their beliefs.
What many of these “true believers” miss is that there are severe penalties for stupidity and stubbornness. Reality has a way of penetrating propaganda and delusion to cause terrible wreckage—even to devout believers of nonsense. It is sad to watch the self-immolation of these individuals, but these events remind us to “keep it real.”
Keeping it real means we understand the difference between theories and reality and between our intentions and the results we get. Yet there are those who cling to their ideologies and fantasies no matter how badly these concepts fail to match their dreams and expectations. If we continue to impose our wishes and prejudices on reality, we will guarantee massive amounts of psychic self-destruction and defeat. This mistake applies not just to individuals but also to large groups and whole nations that can be misled by assorted delusions.
The responsible person will eventually come to realize that the only effective way to evaluate new ideas or methods is to observe what happens when we apply them. Of course, really clever people know how to avoid giving “dangerous new ideas” a fair test. They set up phony tests they know will fail, so they can declare them invalid and forget them. An honest test would not be some quick, shallow “show” that guarantees failure, but instead, a sincere effort to apply ideas in appropriate situations.
We also must be intellectually honest about analyzing the results. For instance, we might leap to the conclusion that unwanted results are not proof we are wrong—just an accident or a rare exception to what we prefer. This includes the sleazy tendency to assume some obviously bad idea or ideology needs more time for the “experiment” to work. For some, there will never be a time when they will admit the failure of their cherished beliefs. Of course, any single test cannot guarantee one hundred percent accuracy. However, a series of fair tests will give us the evidence we need to accept or reject key ideas, methods, and ideologies.
Some doubt is healthy, but absolute doubt is deadly. As people who are designed to continually evolve and grow, we must embrace many changes and possibilities lest we commit psychological suicide by ignorance and stubbornness. Therefore, let us keep searching for better ideas and more effective methods. The light of love and wisdom will come into us as we open our hearts and minds to them. We have nothing to fear but the loss of our ignorance and arrogance—and our bad habits of psychic self-destruction.