We are what we think about

http://mindhacks.com/2011/10/07/entertainingly-mislead-me/

Very good little article, and a link to the detailed study. Here’s the punchline: "In the study, those who had just watched Lie To Me didn’t show this truth-accepting bias, they were more skeptical, but crucially, they were actually worse at distinguishing deception than the others. They applied their skepticism in a blanket fashion and became less accurate as a result. In other words, not only does the programme misrepresent the psychology of lie detection, but this has an effect on the psychology of the viewers themselves."

I am currently reading, slowly slowly, a book about the life and teachings of Elder Thaddeus called "Our thoughts Determine Our Lives" (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1887904190). He was an Orthodox monk in Serbia, who lived through WWII concentration camps plus all the instability in that region. Apart from it being just generally interesting, this monk’s main teaching is summed up in the title: our thoughts determine our lives. HE actually goes further. For Elder Thaddeus thoughts ARE concrete actions. If you think negative thoughts about someone you might as well go over and slap them on the face. Since this is his one diagnosis for all human suffering, his remedy is equally simple: control your thoughts. By controlling your thoughts, andI am earlyin my reading, he basically means the type of advice I give my son: do not trust your "good ideas." Elder Thaddeus goes a little further, he says our work should be to simply, firmly and without exception ignore our own thoughts.

I have been thinking about this. If I choose to ignore my thoughts where would I be? I spend most of my day thinking. It is actually part of my job! I have not finished reading the book, and I am hoping the Elder will cover things like my question. While I wait I draw some of my own conclusions.

I believe that there is thinking and there is "thinking." To think through a problem, or to use your brain as it was meant to be used, is not what the Elder is concerned about. What he is concerned about is our inner monologue. That is a different problem. If I ignore the voices in my head and instead focus on being here and thinking properly through my issue, then I will invariably reach a better conclusion.

One step further. The inner voices are the ones who rise up in indignation when I am offended, or when I perceive offense, or threat or desire or adulation. What would happen if I simply ignored those voices? What if I removed my own very flawed baggage from the equation? What then?

This is similar to the Desert Father teachings on apatheia – which has to do with disentangledment from my own responses, and nothign at all to do with being unfeeling. In fact, the more I think about it (hah!) the more I have come to understand that apatheia is really "appropriate feeling." No more, no less.

Going back to Lie to Me. Based on the Elder’s teachings it is clear that watching an hour (is it an hour long? I have never watched it), or however long, of a show where people are lying, and further that there are people whose life is centered ont eh fact that people lie all the time, makes for a terrible amount of negative thinking sloshing around inside your brain.

It seems that one of the most important diets we can enter is the starvation of the inner monologue.

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About spaceloom

An urban monk, and an experienced spiritual director with a Masters in Psychology. Married with two children. Want to know me better? Read my thoughts.
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