I have noticed over the years that there is a tendency for people to hold on to old ways of seeing and defining things – even of defining and seeing themselves – as they learn about who and what they truly are and begin to relax into themselves.
For example, one person may focus on studying the Law of Attraction and principles of success while holding on to a concern about making enough money to pay bills. Another person may find serenity and relief from stress in meditative practices and yoga and nevertheless struggle with getting the inconsiderate jerk who cuts him off in traffic or the selfish bastard who voted for the wrong candidate to see the light.
It is also not uncommon for some people to struggle with understanding new concepts and ways of being in terms of the old ways of being that didn’t work. After all, why else would someone explore a new philosophy unless the old philosophy felt somehow restrictive, incomplete, inaccurate, or otherwise unsatisfying? Even simple curiosity is an expression of a possibility or desire for discovery of something exciting, new, and possibly better.
If that’s the case, why hold on to the lenses and definitions of the old philosophy when trying to understand or evaluate the new philosophy? I remember reading a psychology paper once that focused on presenting and validating a new measurement tool. The new tool, it claimed, was superior to the old tool. The paper’s authors went about constructing elaborate statistical analyses of test results from using the new tool and claimed that the new tool was clearly superior because it yielded results that were statistically equivalent to those from the old tool.
I couldn’t believe it. A new tool is superior because it gives you the same results as the old tool that it’s intended to replace? How can a new tool be new if the yardstick for validating it is the old tool?
By the same token, how can a new concept or philosophy be evaluated from within the paradigms of the old philosophy? By definition, the old philosophy would be unable to make sense of the new paradigm. If it could, it would already contain the new philosophy and thus, there really would not be a new philosophy.
Columbus’ idea that the world was round was a new paradigm that didn’t fit into the world-view of flat-earthers. They couldn’t understand or evaluate Columbus’ idea because it didn’t fit into their pre-existing worldview. They had no way of understanding it except to label it as silly. This is exactly what mainstream society still does with New Age and metaphysical philosophies.
Ironically, even those who try to embrace new philosophies also do these things to some degree. The blind spot that these points of view have in common is that they don’t take themselves into account. In other words, they don’t see themselves as philosophies and paradigms that can be articulated, evaluated, altered, or rejected and replaced as appropriate.
This sort of self reference or self awareness can form a kind of feedback loop that helps to stabilize and strengthen the whole conceptual framework. Without self awareness, the mind can fall into a feed-forward crisis in which its assumed model of the world leads to erroneous outputs that worsen the situation rather than improve it.
This is a natural mistake that the mind is prone to make. Without practice, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that philosophies and points of view are tools that can be useful in creating a better life and that the tool can always be replaced if a superior way to create a better life comes along. The trap is that the mind begins to see or define itself in terms of the philosophy. It identifies with the world view contained in the philosophy. It’s as if a carpenter were to forget that his hammer is a tool in his hand and see his hammer as his hand.
Dare to take charge of your own perceptions, recognizing that they are your perceptions. You own them. You create them. They are your responsibility. You can change them. They don’t dictate the world. They don’t control you. You are in control.
Just as the carpenter can (remember or re-learn to) lay his hammer down, you can (remember or re-learn to) lay your perceptions down. Until he does, the carpenter would have a hard time petting a dog, caressing a cheek, or washing his face. Until you do, you will struggle with appreciating and exercising the potential of your own creativity.
© 2012, David Park. All Rights Reserved.
“Feedback Over Feed-Forward: Awareness and Acceptance” by DCH Park is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.