by Mark Lindsay
If you want to increase your personal freedom and power, you need to continuously develop your thinking skills. Even if you are already a genius, you can still benefit from intelligence-boosting information. The information I am providing in this article can increase your personal power enormously by alerting you to certain psychological processes which may be keeping you shackled to self-limiting thinking modes.
Individualist Vs. Collectivist Thinking
The words we use have a direct effect on the way we think. There is an intimate relation between our words and our thoughts. And if we are not careful, the words we use can limit our thoughts and our ability to produce the results we want. Ayn Rand once said, "No mind is better than the precision of its concepts."
Many freedom-lovers continue to use words which limit their ability to use their freedom productively, especially when promoting it. I'm referring to statist fraud-words such as "country," "president," "law," "government," etc. Using these words keeps you locked in a collectivist mode of thinking. Many Libertarians are stuck in this position. Instead of simply leaping out of the collectivist way of thinking they waste their time, money and energy playing useless games with the statists. You can see the irony in this: trying to talk about individual freedom using collectivist terminology. No wonder they can't get their point across. It's a guaranteed no-win situation. Just by using these words - without qualifying them - you blind yourself to your own inborn freedom.
In order to avoid this trap you need to shift to an individualistic mode of thinking, which includes using words in a way which reflects this orientation. In an individualistic framework, you think in terms of individual terrocrats rather than a gigantic, overwhelming "government." You think of freedom as emanating from the individual as opposed to being granted by (so-called) "government." You think in terms of freeing yourself instead of asking for "permission" from the (so-called) "government."
But if individualistic thinking is so much more productive, why do so many freedom advocates continue to operate within the collectivist framework of thinking? The rest of this article is an attempt to shed some light on this problem.
Questioning Your Assumptions
Part of the problem is that many people do not bother to question their basic assumptions or premises. They operate from the same assumptions that everyone else is operating from. Expanding your skill in this area will help you.
The problem multiplies when, faced with new and different information which challenges the old assumptions, a person automatically, without consideration, rejects the new information. Many people even react emotionally and/or violently when confronted with information which challenges their beliefs. They react as if they had been physically attacked.
What is the explanation for this behavior? Part of the answer lies in a process called "identification."
Identification is basically the process of including certain aspects of experience within your self-concept, your sense of who you are. People can identify with almost anything - ideas, feelings, their body, other people, their house, their car, their job, their "country," and on and on. We all know someone who is overly sensitive or "touchy" when we try to borrow a book or a tool or anything else which belongs to them. They act as if we are trying to take a part of their own being away from them. Another good example is the teenage boy who sees his first car as an extension of himself (his ego). People identify (or perhaps we could coin a new word: "identificate") by attaching what psychologist Charles Tart calls the "this-is-me" quality to something. Information which has the "this-is-me" quality attached to it is treated differently than other information.
One consequence of identification is that information stamped with the "this-is-me" quality now possesses a kind of "emotional charge." For example, watch how you feel after reading each of the following statements. "Mr. Williamson is a hideous looking fool." "You [the reader] are a hideous looking fool." The first sentence is just a piece of information, in the same way that the statement, "The sky is blue," is just a piece of information. The second sentence, however, has an emotional element to it. This is because you identify with your body. People often react to a verbal attack as if they were being physically attacked. This is because the power of the emotional component of the information is further increased through a connection with basic survival emotions.
This not only happens with verbal attacks - such as name-calling - but with any challenge to information stamped with the "this-is-me" quality. The crucial point to understand is that when someone reacts emotionally or dismisses out of hand any information which conflicts with their "me-information," they are not defending the validity of the ideas, but rather they are defending their self-esteem. Unfortunately, most people are not aware of this debilitating psychological phenomenon - identification mostly occurs involuntarily and unconsciously. The ability to detach yourself from information and look at it objectively greatly enhances both your thinking skills and your personal power.
Almost all of us were conditioned or even coerced into identifying with statist fraud-concepts. For the most part this took place when we were children. Recall how you were forced to pledge allegiance to "the flag." What did the teachers do if you refused? You were conditioned to identify with things which were contrary to your nature.
The way to minimize the negative effects of identification is to practice self-observation and become more conscious of your own mental processes. When you are in control, you choose whether or not to identify with something. Be aware: when you give your sense of identity to something outside of you, you give away some of your personal power. Many times it's beneficial for you to do this to one degree or another. The key point is that any "identification" (as described here) is done voluntarily and consciously.
Frederick Mann's Additions:
The core personnel of our organisation identify emotionally and passionately with our ideas. A lot of the time we "eat, drink, and sleep" with the activities of our organisation. This is beneficial identification - it results in dedicated work to provide better customer service and to help us succeed and expand. It inspires new ideas to improve our organisation.
But if someone sends us a letter criticizing our organisation, we don't get upset. The identification with our organisation is conscious. Even though we identify with our organisation, we evaluate the criticism consciously. We ask: "Is the person really criticizing our organisation, or is he just venting his negative emotions or writing about his own prejudices, biases, and misconceptions?" If the criticism is valid, we take a good look at what we need to improve.
Conscious identification also means that our organisation never becomes an idol to us. It's a game we play.
Identification and idolatry are closely related. An idol is something you worship - or hate; something you identify with positively or negatively. Most modern idols are abstract concepts - often collective concepts like "our nation," "the state," "the government," or "the IRS." Clinging to these concepts - positively or negatively - is both identification and idolatry.
Idols like "the flag," "one nation under god," "the law," etc. are inculcated through cultural brainwashing.
The urge to identify with something outside yourself is an aspect of the bicameral stages of consciousness - see the article: How To Increase Your Consciousness. So we find a Scientologist identifying with founder L. Ron Hubbard and saying: "What you say can't be true, because if it were true, Ron would have said it." And we find Dr. Frank Wallace writing "The Neo-Tech Bible" and Neo-Tech followers adopting Dr. Wallace's "I-ness" and "honesty-that-is-the-same-for-everyone" as idols.
Because such idols have a "this-is-me" quality, when they're questioned or challenged, the idolator tends to regard it as a personal attack and may become emotional or even vicious.
One of the most self-empowering things you can do is to smash your own idols. I highly recommend the books: The Twilight of the Idols by Friedrich Nietzsche and The Ego and Its Own by Max Stirner. The ability or thinking skill to be developed is QUESTION EVERYTHING.