If all ideas are just that, ideas, then they can’t hurt us. So why do people feel confronted or offended by some ideas? Why are ideas so scary?
Ultimately people are just trying to protect themselves. They cannot be truly open-minded because they would risk very real emotional injury.
To understand this it helps to first consider physical injuries. Otherwise know as…
Our unconscious mind protects us from physical harm all the time. It’s always on high alert to ensure we don’t:
Fall down stairs
Walk out into traffic
Cut ourselves with the kitchen knife
Trip while running with scissors
Clip our toes or skin our shins while blundering in the dark.
The list goes on and on, etc
To do this there are a bunch of rules and habits we hold onto and embed at a deep and unconscious level. Things we do based on beliefs it will keep us safe. Eg:
This extends to dangers that are difficult to see:
Wash all the veggies before eating them
Use a different cutting board for meat
Change your bed sheets regularly
Brush your teeth twice a day
Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze
Don’t breath deeply when the air is smoggy/polluted
We may even deny reality or become over-cautious and over-protective:
Some are afraid to fly.
Some choose not to eat certain foods due to beliefs about their health qualities.
Some won’t trust themselves with a kitchen knife.
Some will wear a face mask in public even when they’re not sick.
Other people go the other direction, they become good at navigating more challenging physical activities without getting injured. Athletes, extreme sports people, marines, mountaineers etc. And inevitably as an occupational hazard, sometimes they do get injured and they get good at physio and rehabilitation.
These are supermen and superwomen, because now they can see a path where others only see danger. They can do things, and go places others can’t.
And yes, some people are just reckless, attempting physically dangerous stunts without proper preparation, precaution or ability. These people end up dead, or seriously hurt. “And the Darwin Award goes to…”
Emotional boo boos
The same is all true of our emotions. We can receive emotional boo boos from various hazards in life.
Don’t get what we set our heart’s desire on? Get disappointed, even heart broken.
Betrayed by someone close. This is incredibly painful.
Receive feedback we aren’t living up to our ideal self image, it hurts our pride.
Publicly admonished for our behaviour, there’s the shame.
Living in a way that not all can indulge in, it’s guilt for you.
Discover that institutions you trust are not trustworthy, that’s somewhere between mildly and completely terrifying (depending on how much you depend on them).
Life is full of obstacles that we might trip and skin our emotional shins on at any time. Or worse…
Face traumatic events to a level we’re not ready to see (like accidents or violence resulting in death and disfigurement) and you can even incur instant mental illness like PTSD.
This last example is the type that rocks us to our very core and would impact the majority of humans in a similar way. However, each person’s experience with most emotional injury is vastly different because unlike physical injury, emotional injuries are always DONE TO OURSELVES inside our own psyche.
So the majority of the time it’s not the objective reality that does damage, it’s what we make a situation mean that injures us. This is why people can hold vastly different beliefs, positions and habits on different types of emotional hazards.
For example, some struggle to compartmentalise or contextualise fictional television and so will not subject themselves to violent or horror images on TV. It’s too traumatic for them to watch. And yet others love this media and it comforts them at some level by allowing them to safely indulge parts of our psyche that are socially unacceptable (ie in shadow).
Emotional shin guards and the blue pill
The unconscious mind in its role of protector works very hard not to let ourselves get injured, it:
Compartmentalises. It’s ok in that situation, or it’s ok for them, but not for me. Or that’s probably happening but I don’t feel empowered to make a difference, so I’ll just pretend it’s not happening and go on being happy with everything else.
Justifies. They must have deserved that treatment. That’s just their fate. Glad it’s not me.
Pushes it out of mind. Let’s not focus on it. And what I do know I’ll push into the shadow.
Blames. Black and white. Makes others the source of the problem. They did this because they are a bad person. It’s all their fault. (Ie projection).
Distracts. Many just keep themselves so busy as to not have to think about anything scary. A few are legitimately too busy just surviving. However most choose (unconsciously) the “busyness” syndrome to avoid having to face the scarier parts of reality.
Numbs. Escaping reality (TV, activities, shopping, sex) and numbing out (alcohol, drugs, meditation) are great technique to avoid facing those thoughts that might injure us.
This is how we all take the ‘blue pill’ at different times and pretend everything’s all ok. Most of the time we’re not ready to wake up from The Matrix, it’s too confronting.
Emotional armour gets… political
These responses are our defences against emotional injury and are based on habits we embed at a deep unconscious level. And are in turn these habits are based on beliefs we form about the relative safety of different aspects of the world and what’s truly going on. These beliefs are formed very early in childhood and for most of largely unchanged throughout their lives.
These beliefs give us the ability to deny major issues that may or may not be occurring because they are just too traumatic for us to integrate and handle.
For example, our global environmental impact including global warming has been such a large looming risk that majority of people have been ignoring it for decades. Many still do largely ignore this issue because it’s too traumatic to face and feels overwhelming. Some people refuse to believe there’s a problem at all, this is how they choose to make a scary scenario psychologically and emotionally safe, just pretend/decide it couldn’t possibly be the case. There I’m safe now, and can continue business as usual without guilt or fear. These people literally can’t see the possibility that we may be going down a catastrophic path. They’re just not open to hearing it.
Welcome to the land of politics and political discussion. This is the land of beliefs and ideologies that are in place to keep us emotionally and physically safe as a society. Religion falls into this bucket also.
There’s a reason people say never talk about politics or religion at work, at a party or in polite company. This is playing in a space where people live in very different versions of reality in their head and the potential to offend or even emotionally injure others is very high.
This is also why many topics and ideas proposed by the conscious community can be confronting. They start to prompt thoughts that exist outside the comfort zone of many. So not polite dinner conversation either.
And the conversations never go very far anyway if those discussing them occupy different parts of the ideological landscape. Why? Because for any of the participants to concede ground puts them in very real emotional danger. This is a peril most just aren’t equipped to deal with, even more so in a public setting.
And just like you wouldn’t throw the untrained, unarmed and unprepared into the arena to battle a lion, it’s generally not fair sport or really necessary to throw the emotionally unprepared into a battle with their emotional nemesis.
These people will only reject your ‘red pill’. They are not ready to wake up. Why? Because at some level it’s synonymous with death…
Buying the emotional farm
So if emotional injuries are all in our head (ie we inflict them on ourselves) what are we all so afraid of anyway?
Whereas the ultimate physical injuries result in death, the ultimate emotional injuries result in… Chaos.
Chaos is the greatest mythological and symbolic terror. It’s the greatest emotional hazard we can face.
Chaos represent both the complete overwhelm of our faculties and abilities and at the same time the complete absence of context and meaning… the void.
If you see and appreciate too much of the reality of the world, you eventually must face the chaotic truth: We have no idea how we got here or why we’re here. No purpose or meaning we can faithfully and tangibly prove.
This is the existential crisis. And when you contemplate it and deeply it, it’s soul crushing.
Chaos is essentially synonymous with death because it represents the death of meaning. The death of our identity. The death of reality the way we see it. Chaos negates or dramatically devalues all that we are, do, believe, love, hold true or otherwise value. In the face of chaos, there is no ability to make sense, or hold up a compass and find true north. Even the simple wisdom of trying to navigate life, get anywhere or do anything is brought into question.
There are a number of solutions proposed by philosophers to the existential crisis over the years, however none of them can be proven to be “true”. They all enter the realm of faith and belief.
Which is why the greatest forms of emotional resilience come with a degree of spiritual sophistication.
And while in this way spiritual beliefs can never be proven to be “true”, they are proven to be incredibly “useful”, and that’s so often far better.
Emotional supermen and superwomen
The greater your ability to handle emotional injuries, the more possibilities you’re open to see and to consider valid. Now they can see a path where others only see danger. They can do things, and go places others can’t face.
Some go there recklessly. And ultimately go mad or acquire mental health issues.
Others understand how to navigate the difficult terrain, protect and prepare themselves mentally. Pace themselves and be cautious as they go. And handle themselves over and through emotional obstacles.
These people are the ones who are capable of seeing injustice and standing up to face it and take action. These people are the superheroes of our world. Like Neo, they have awakened from the Matrix, accepted the consequences of change, decided it’s worth it, and so have pursued change anyway.
Even if you’re not looking to change the world, ultimately the better you can navigate every day emotional challenges, the more capable you become in the world. And the more of reality you’re open to see.
It literally makes you more “open-minded”. You’re ready to see and even accept possibilities that others find too scary to comprehend. You’re taking the ‘red pill’.
This is where we enter the challenging ground of the conspiracy theory. Obviously they aren’t all true. Just because you can think up a more nefarious or creative explanation for what’s happening doesn’t make it reality. We all know the earth isn’t flat… it’s wavy, like a crinkle cut potato chip!
For many however, questioning the official narrative is just too scary and emotionally hazardous. It brings into question the very fabric of a stable society they rely on dearly, like a safety blanket.
To truly question this narrative means you must be willing and able to throw that safety blanket away and trust yourself to deal with whatever comes as a result. And what comes as a result may be Chaos.
Some will lean in a little too hard into the ‘red pill’ identity. There’s a certain ego-ideal that likes to be the one who can see through the veil, and even to be the one to live dangerously and/or righteously challenge authority. This identity is then strengthened by ‘the tribe’ around us, especially on social media as we find others we can band together with. The echo chamber can reinforce these beliefs.
It aligns in other ways with the spirituality and conscious community, who also tend to believe: Nothing happens by accident, nothing is as it seems, and everything is connected. Our community is obsessed with ‘waking up’ from the communal delusion we all live in day to day and call ’normal society’, so it’s only natural if that way inclined we might start to see conspiracy everywhere.
The conscious community will also be likely to hear small samples of data (e.g. sometimes as small as a single example) and then trust their gut or intuition. We are often told to “get out of your head” and trust your heart and gut. We are very open-minded and open-hearted! Sometimes concerningly so.
The truly open-minded can see the possibility of conspiracy, without fetishising it or catastrophising it. Keeping an open mind that many explanations may be possible and looking for non-biased data to rule out possibilities until only what is real remains.
Not an easy thing to do in the post-truth age!
The key then to protecting yourself is to not only become emotionally fit, but have clear values and principles upon which you hold fast to. For example, without having to prove one conspiracy theory or another, when your universal human rights are in danger of being compromised, that might be a reasonable trigger for you to push back and defend them (or other values you hold dear).
Increase your emotional fitness and capabilities and you can see more of what’s going on and navigate it more adeptly without injury. This will allow you to get more out of life.
But how do we get that fitness?
Clearing childhood wounds
Addressing the inner mother and father
Owning and integrating all parts of us, including our shadow
Reparenting our inner children
Being a good friend to ourselves
Staying aware and guiding ourselves when we are catastrophising or spiralling
Resolving projection and transference
Reframing our wrong conclusions from childhood
Staying aware of when our ego is attached and radically letting go (detachment)
Having a spiritual framework that allows us to get the best from the world in the emotionally safest way
Of course each of these could be unpacked in great detail in its own right. This is essentially “doing the work”. It’s the path to self-actualisation and the self-transcendence. It’s the process Jung referred to as Individuation.
But we know it as become emotionally superhuman.