January 10, 2016: Changing Our Minds about Control and Regulation

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Gun control, traffic control, people control, intimacy control—it seems like we’re getting even deeper into control and regulation as it seems much more likely to ensure behavioral prediction. Such a sense of control and prediction is tantamount to having God on one’s shoulder.

Okay, regulation is not a need easily thrown out. But in this stampede to control, what if we’re missing a key cornerstone in changing behavior as in changing our minds?

I’m not claiming any territory here, the importance of assimilation and accommodation—and when each has its effective place—have been pointed out long before my birth. Assimilation is the ability to incorporate new information (particular as well as pattern data) into our existing structure for seeing the world. Accommodation is the ability to change our minds when new information doesn’t fit into our existing world view.

What do we mostly do when confronted with information that doesn’t fit? We pound the square peg into a round hole. It’s almost like our world view is sacrosanct and must be preserved at all costs. Why? Because changing our mind can feel like dying.

Changing our mind is the area that currently needs attention, not just more regulation. Changing our mind is a herculean effort, whereas creating and passing more regulatory laws can be like the effect of alcohol or drugs—sometimes necessary, sometimes helpful, but almost never the cure.

How do we change our minds? Not through mind control, which is another form of regulation. Education can be important, but I worry about it (I’m in that field) as a method for changing our minds, as education can often be a here’s-how-we-should-think effort. Even when education is about learning how to learn, we can forget that learning is not the same as wisdom. A purpose can be important, but that sometimes turns into a quest to eradicate evil and create freedom, both of which seems to create mindsets that are addicted to quests, not to mention dichotomies. Meditation can be important as a way to quiet the attention to mind chatter and surely the ability to not be ensnared in that chatter is important. However, the practice of meditation (in all its forms) does not alleviate us from behaviors—we still have ‘em. And sometimes it seems like meditation can be used as a way to avoid the need for assimilation and accommodation, even if that is not the real purpose of mediation.

Changing our minds seems to usually be a result of giving up or losing control. And that’s at least a bit of hilarious irony. So perhaps the question is how do we give up control so that accommodation—and changing our minds—can take place? Two of the elements in that petri dish are safety and risk—which requires incredible balancing skills. Another element can be doing a better job raising our children (some think this is where the real fountainhead lies for heading off problems), but that means the responsibility falls on already adulterated adults.

Oddly perhaps, a road map—prescribed behaviors—to effectively change our minds and accommodate new world views is simply one method. There is likely not one way of arriving, any more than there is one way to get to one’s home. In other words, seeking answers to questions, may be its own addiction and yet another way to stay ensnared.

We’ll need all the tools in our toolbox, plus a few more we need to create. And we’ll need to know when and how to use them. I do not know of anyone in possession of the magic bullet, the quintessential cure. The work is largely individual and multidirectional. Because we all have different starting points, if we head out to a destination, it will likely be a different journey for each of us. We can plan and predict and attempt to control the journey, but at some point, we simply have to leave. When? It likely needed to be a long time ago, but now seems like the next best choice.

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