Addictions are kind of like phobias. Many people think they have a phobia and tell everyone, when really, they just have a strong fear response – me and spiders for example (or anything with more than 4 legs). But those who know they have a phobia or could be addicted, don’t talk about it. I think the word addiction is in danger of being over used sometimes, much like phobia.
My friend Philip blogged about the addiction to certainty and how opening up to uncertainty is a way we can perhaps start to create a different culture that is open and flexible. I think there is an addiction that is similar, the addiction to being right. This is slightly different to the fear of being wrong that Kathryn Schulz talks about, but is more of a commitment to obliterating anyone who has an alternative version of something. I’ve noticed ‘right addicts’ in my own life and think I might have nearly become an addict myself – it kind of runs in my family. Right addicts in my personal experience never consider the harm their addiction causes to others. Speaking for myself, I found being around this form of addiction ate away at my confidence and sense of worth as nothing I said was valued.
I’ve noticed this in other contexts such as the rise in the use of the term ‘conspiracy theorist’. This is a relatively recent phrase, first coined in the early 20th Century but picking up it’s negative meaning in the 1960’s with the CIA deploying it in response to anyone questioning who shot then President John F Kennedy. Since then however it seems that the term conspiracy theory is used to mock, put down, and attack anyone who doesn’t agree with you.
The addictive aspect of being right also drives people to search online for evidence to back their case – ‘I must prove I am right’. It can set up a ‘them and us’ mentality bringing people together in ‘like minded’ groups to get high on taking down or attacking someone elses ideas. I’ve seen it on social media and it’s pretty ugly. But like most addicts, they don’t see any harm in what they are doing, and insist on their right to be right.
There are some groups who will see their addiction as healthy and important in terms of knowing The Truth. Two groups who have been trying to win over more users of their version of being right are scientists and those who are religious (I’m generalising). I’m not sure I want to get caught in their turf war, but sometimes I think how amazing it would be to hear either of these groups say ‘we need to revisit this idea it might not be quite as it seems’.
Maybe quantum physicists are like the addiction clinic, helping those from strong points of view on reality to understand both could be right. Me, I’m happy to be a conspiracy theorist, I find it more interesting to consider there could be more to something than what I first believed. I don’t mind getting new information that challenges my thinking or perspective. But to even question how do we know what we know, or don’t know – that is a real rush.
If it sells newspapers or gets people to click a link, it’s usually got something to do with sex. Then if you add teenagers into the mix, everyone has an opinion, especially adults who like to claim ‘they were teenagers once’.
So when I found myself reading a headline today that said, ‘Teens and sex: what’s going on in our schools,’ I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to click the link or keep scrolling. Nothing surprised me about the research, eg. those who have easier access to contraception are more likely to use it and there is a socioeconomic link to those not able to access. But I also wonder about the kinds of conversations that communities and schools with strong beliefs around sex are having.
One of the research ideas that really stood out for me was this:
“Youth development literature suggested one of the best ways to reduce teen pregnancy was by making sure young people were engaged in school and had goals for the future.”
So schools are a form of contraception? Concentrate on getting NCEA and staying in school is as good as going on the pill? Plan your career and you won’t be interested in sex? I’m confused.
Something that has changed since I started high school 30 years ago is the age most students leave school. When I went to school, most of my mates left at 15 and went to work, so they were seen as adults once they left school. Now to get into university you have to finish year 13 (7th form for anyone older than 35) so more youth are ‘adults’ at school.
I’m also still struggling to understand why shame is used as an excuse for not talking about sex. It’s just so lame in the 21st century. Teen sex happens, so how about some media focus on addressing the cultural and social assumptions, fears and beliefs that prevent open healthy experiences of sex and sexuality, rather than statistics and freaking out.
Language is interesting. Humour is something we all might recognise in the modern world as describing something amusing, that might make us laugh. But understanding where the word humour comes from gives insight to how language is connected to the ways knowledge is constructed.
Humour comes from Latin and means ‘moisture’ which then passed into English to mean bodily fluids – humours, of which there were 4 and were connected to moods and functions of different organ systems.
For a long time, there was no distinction between the sexes, there was one human template. There were variations on humours and degrees of temperature that defined the spectrum of difference. Male was at the hot end and female at the colder end of the spectrum.
The science and medical profession of the time found ‘evidence’ of the inferiority of women and other cultures and used it to maintain social order. What I find interesting, I suppose, is while modern anatomy and physiology have moved on since the 17th and 18th century, some of the assumptions and ideas live on. I mean, just look at how hard women had to fight just to be able to compete at the Olympics –they weren’t able to run in the marathon until 1984, nearly 100 years after the start of the modern games. You can’t tell me that it was a misprint in the programme.
Scientific knowledge has a level of power to it, to define the truth about something and this is what is interesting to think about and notice. That is, how various branches of science over time have categorised people and other species, given them particular qualities, limits and justified practices of exclusion, exploitation and mistreatment.
I wonder what science will look like in 300 years. What truths and facts will be as laughable to that generation as the idea of blood being turned into semen by body heat. Now that is humorous.
When I finish divinqing I always feel like I’ve had a great workout and it can take a while to come back to reality, although that is always slightly different after a session. If you’ve every put your body through something physically intense the next couple of days you feel it and can wonder if it was worth it. But people say ‘no pain no gain’ and while I think this is sort of true for divinqing it’s important to feel safe and ready to ‘do down the rabbit hole’.
So here are a few divinqing guidelines I have been playing with, and anyone who has participated is welcome to comment, or even if you haven’t and would like to inquire more please do:
1: We all have a unique perspective on the world, however, we are often more critical of others perspectives. GUIDELINE – it takes time to understand what shapes our perspective – and it is constantly changing so divinqing is never a finished process. Sometimes it is less about being right or wrong but about understanding how, why and where did this idea come from. How do I know what I know? How do I know what I don’t know? Warm down tip: try stretching one idea at a time.
2: There are more than two sides to things: One of the habits of thinking about anything is usually setting up a two-sided argument. GUIDELINE – when encountering a two sided idea about anything be curious about the effect of that on what people are able to know about themselves, or others. Try shifting the focus of a debate onto the assumptions behind the debate. What supports these assumptions? How do they impact on people’s lives now and in the past? Warm down tip – hold these conversations or debates lightly and not for too long.
3: There are perspectives and ideas that remain hidden. Perhaps this is one of the more challenging workouts. It’s important to know that ignorance is not just the absence of knowledge, that there are ways of building the truth and making some forms of knowing invisible or not worthy of value. GUIDELINE – if you are absolutely certain of something, look for what support you to be certain, be willing to put all knowledge into question, even things you think might be proven to be true. Warm down tip – skip through something familiar to you and notice how you came to know that concept, idea, value, belief.
4: The world is complex, and sometimes the issues and concerns can seem overwhelming and too hard to fix. Sometimes people expect that taking it seriously means you have to commit to a life of shouting, protesting and getting people to see what you see. GUIDELINE: Have fun with the contradictions, play with your own awareness of the irony in the world, find others who are also hinting at the same ideas, and create small networks of support. A good sign you are getting there is finding the incongruity and noticing the strange irony that might appear. Sometimes humour is a good way to open people up to an ‘aha I hadn’t thought of that’ moment. Warm down tip – laugh at yourself!
5: Fear of the unknown is one of the biggest obstacles to ‘thinking outside the box’ – or even knowing where the box is! GUIDELINE: Like rock climbing tackle stuff that is challenging but doesn’t feel impossible. Exploring challenging ideas isn’t always about getting to the top. Warm down tip – work on finding your balance point around fear of difference. Listen and recognise your own vulnerability and make friends with it.
So happy training, my favourite warm down is watching science fiction or comedy that gets me thinking. See you at our next boot camp – ready to bust Plato’s cave right open. Or light some fires in there and cast some new patterns on the walls.