Tuesday, 11 June 2013

What assumptions are leading you astray?

By James Kyle

I have a question for those of you who read this post: "So who was she?" - did you make the connection with this post: "Changing you Life by Asking the Right Questions"?

The connecting thread is the fundamental principle of questioning assumptions and being open to feedback. A key life skill.

On one level an objective would be to live in the moment with an "empty mind" connecting with others from a compassionate still centre. But on another level we need the mental maps conditioned into our minds - if only to make sure that we get across a street without getting knocked down.

These mental maps are of service to us. However all too often they can become an obstacle in the way of expressing out true selves. The practical rational mind engages when it is not appropriate and mental fears and doubts can kick in that disconnect us from expressing ourselves truly in the moment. In the case of relationships these fears can explode into imaginary concerns, that have no basis in reality, and escalate to levels of distrust that destroy the relationship itself.

So it becomes crucial to be constantly asking ourselves two fundamental questions - is this mental construct I am utilising serving me in this moment and, in any event, what is the justification for this way of thinking in the first place. So in life look for feedback - are your mental maps, your way of thinking about the world, effectively assisting you to experience the life that you want. If not, change them.

When it comes to the mental maps that we have created for ourselves to make sense of the world all too often they are based on false assumptions. There are so many inherited untested beliefs in our heads that can lead us astray. These operate on many different levels. A friend of mine who read this blog post on Mother Teresa took exception to this picture of a saintly person showing "kindness, patience, generosity and gentleness of spirit". He instead provided this following link: "Mother Teresa anything but a saint". In fact, my friend does not have a lot of love for bloggers because he believes they in general they are guilty of propagating erroneous assumptions though not showing due diligence in checking their facts. In my own personal defense I do practice what I preach and am ever open to modifying my beliefs in the face of new information.

In theory, main stream media are more conscientious in validating any articles they publish. However even in this case their record is less than perfect, especially the "popular press." On a parochial level the Scottish press handling of the demise of one of the countries' dominant football clubs (or soccer clubs for those in the States) has been more than suspect. On a more global scale, the adage to not believe everything you read was even enshrined in one of the best TV series ever made, being the central tenet of series 5 of "The Wire." People have motives for the stories they spin. The central message here is that we have been constantly been exposed to partial truths and false facts from the moment our brains started to try to make sense of the world.

It can, of course, be challenging to discern "the truth." I was thinking of highlighting the assumption that dolphins are friendly, cuddly creatures has in fact been disputed with reports that they are often vicious rapists. However as I looked up different articles the latter point was disputed in turn. So what should we believe? Do we just give up?

Unfortunately, giving up is not an option. I am making this point repeatedly about challenging assumptions because we are all prone to erroneously making key life choices on the back of false assumptions. And while what we believe about dolphins might not be a central theme around which our lives revolve, some assumptions do lead to choices that fundamentally decide our life path and how happy we are with our lives.

So here is my suggestion for you. Get into the habit of constantly questioning the assumptions, the mental maps that underlie the choices you make in life. And as above, if in doubt, ask yourself does this mental map support me in expressing who I am? If not find a better alternative.

By the way, did the Americans really land on the moon? Ok, maybe that is going a bit too far ...

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