The mind crafts a story to guide decisions and choices, using its most immediate concerns- the sorting criteria- to focus on the circumstances at hand. Through that lens, it cherry picks just the ‘facts’ that most address those concerns. But where do those concerns come from? Why is it two people 'see’ the same set of events and come away with markedly different assumptions about what is going on?
The foundation of the story lies in worldview- how a person believes the world works, the rules they use to navigate that world, and where they see themselves fitting into that world. This provides a starting point to evaluate any situation and points one to the sorting criteria they ‘see’ in any circumstance as the most immediate concerns. (https://www.freethebrain.com/table-of-contents, Chapter 6)
As we have seen in Free The Brain (https://www.freethebrain.com), the story originates well outside of one’s awareness. Worldview operates there in the Hidden Brain, out of view and out of sight. It is based on genetics- the legacy of your ancestors- upbringing- the effect of your parents and family- and your own experience. Worldview is not something a person actively consults, but rather it is the preconceived notions and assumptions a person uses to assist living in the world without having to figure it out all by themself. It provides a jumpstart toward survival. It is one’s ideology. It translates to the biases each of us has. It is who we are. Worldview determines the direction the story takes, before you ever are aware of that story, and because the brain is so adept at defending its story, in many ways it is actually one’s worldview that determines what you believe you have carefully thought through.
Think of worldview as a glass filled with water up to the mid point. Do you see this as a glass half empty or a glass half full? With the former, a person focuses on all the ways things can go wrong and all the things that don’t work. In the latter, focus is on all the ways one might benefit and the opportunities that may arise.
Think also of worldview as whether you see the world as a zero sum game, or as an ever expanding pie- meaning ‘if you win, I lose’; ‘if you survive, I die’ or ‘I do better if everyone around me does better.’ This also leads to statements like, ‘I don’t want my tax money going to welfare queens,’ vs ‘Someone should not have to worry if they get appendicitis or get hit by a drunk driver.’ ‘Defund the police’ or ‘Re-fund the police.’ ‘My liberties are being violated’ or ‘We are all in this together.’
As you can see, these can all be valuable perspectives, but worldview does not factor them equally. It weights some over others, and this determines how a person ‘sees’ the world. Nevertheless, the brain will focus first on the risks. After all, if you succumb to the risk, there will be no opportunity for benefit, and as we saw in Free The Brain, success and failure are very much thought of in terms of survival. Regardless if that is physical, mental, emotional, your job or your relationships or your politics, the mind regards each as an issue of survival.
We have baked into us a strong urge for individual survival. But somewhere along the way, our ancestors realized that the chance to survive individually was enhanced in a group effort. (https://www.freethebrain.com/table-of-contents, Chapter 12, pg 147). This, of course, required people with their individual stories to somehow figure out how to adapt their own worldview with that of others whose stories differed. This could take the form of reframing the group narrative to incorporate individual stories. But as we currently see with both the Pandemic and the Protests, this can also take the form of a person migrating their individual story to fit the group narrative. (https://www.freethebrain.com/post/pandemic-and-protests)
Worldview is very powerful, but it is not fixed in stone. As we saw in the last blog post, stories can change without having to challenge worldview, but the really difficult changes often require worldview to be reconsidered. This is not an easy undertaking because so much of a person’s worth and self image is tied directly to that worldview. This is why a catalyst must be so meaningful- powerful enough for someone in their Hidden Brain to ‘re-think’ and re-form who they are and what they believe.
But it does happen. Here are a couple examples.. Consider these people and their experience:
Maajid Usman Nawaz became a jihadist as a teenager in response to a world he saw as so unjust. He served time in prison in Egypt during which he was exposed to some of the most influential people in the jihadist world. Somewhere along the line he came to realize that view of the world was not an effective way to address his concerns. It was not who he wanted to be. Maajid now runs the Quilliam Center, dedicated to helping people come to grips with the fallacies he came to see in that. (worldview.https://www.quilliaminternational.com/about/staff/maajid-nawaz/)
Derek Black was born into a family for whom white supremacy was a foundational belief. He was the son of Don Black, the founder of the hate site Stormfront and the godson of David Duke, a former grand wizard of the KKK. That kingdom was Derek Black's for the taking. In college he was largely ostracized by his peers for his outspoken beliefs, until a fellow student, who was Jewish, invited him to a Sabbath dinner. Derek kept joining them for these dinners and through these interactions, he came to see the world in a different light and his worldview changed. (https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/derek-black-grew-up-as-a-white-nationalist-heres-how-he-changed-his-mind)
For years Stuart Stevens believed in the message underlying the conservative movement and dedicated himself to work as a Republican campaign strategist. He has since written a book, It Was All A Lie, based on what he came to realize about the movement, its ideology, and how he no longer fit in. (https://www.stuartstevens.com)
Regardless of whether these changes are good or bad, they do demonstrate that very closely held views based in a particularly powerful worldview can and do change when there is a catalyst that is meaningful enough.
Just as the story it gives birth to, worldview is a theory, a hypothesis about how to navigate the world. Most of the time it leads to a successful response, but there are times when it just leads someone to a misguided choice- one that in retrospect could have been seen as not the best option and reflecting a worldview that turned out not to be the best place to start.
And when worldview is seen as the endpoint rather than a starting point, the door to dilemma thinking is barred shut by the lock of problem thinking. The risk of a misguided decision looms larger and larger as other important concerns are dismissed, overlooked or ignored - The World As It Is relegated in favor of The World As I Want It to Be. (https://www.freethebrain.com/post/the-world-you-live-in)
So acknowledge that your worldview is who you are. Your immediate urge to respond to anything comes from there. Your press secretary function in the prefrontal cortex can certainly rationalize, justify and defend that story if that is the story that you believe it must be, if you see your worldview and The World As I Want It to Be as the end game.
But when the World As I Want It To Be is seen not as the goal, but as a starting point to be reconciled with the World As It Is, the impediment caused by problem thinking can be overcome to enable dilemma thinking, and with that, the best chance for the best available decision and choice in the given situation. It takes an active process to apply dilemma thinking- to take your story rooted in your worldview and consider that in those circumstances, your worldview may not serve you so well; and when your choice involves and affects others, somehow figure out how to adapt your own worldview with that of others whose stories differ from yours. The World As It Is provides a standard against which to balance The World As I Want It to Be. In this way, a shared outcome each person can live with and support can be crafted and dueling solutions avoided - individual stories adapted to the group narrative rather than those stories migrating to embrace the group worldview.
Here are some thoughts on how to deal with your worldview-
Believe in your worldview, but be intentional about the possibility that your worldview may not necessarily lead to the best choice in the particular circumstance you face.
2. Recognize how you are wired. Is your default to see the world as a glass half full or
glass half empty? Be intentional to set that aside for a moment and ponder what it
would mean if your worldview were the other.
—For instance, if your default is to see the world as a glass half empty, focused on all the ways it won’t go well, ask yourself: what opportunity might this open up for me? And if you see the world as a glass half full, eager for what might be better, ask yourself: what if it doesn’t work out as planned?
3. Is this a zero sum situation or are there options that give others a chance to benefit as
—Ask yourself: if they do better, do I do better? or not?
4. See what pops into your head. Trust your Hidden Brain will reconsider its story in light
of this new information and send its update to your awareness. Maybe what comes to
mind is a reinforcement of the current story, or maybe adjustments are made, or maybe
it becomes clear the story is no longer the best version. Maybe a different story
emerges as worldview and the sorting criteria change and there is a re-balancing of
what matters or what matters more, and as beliefs about the way the world works
The question is not what your worldview would have you believe. The question is what you do with what comes to mind. Does it lead you to the best explanation for what’s going on and does it guide you to the best response in that situation. That is something you can control. That is how you increase the overlap of The World As I Want It To Be with The World As It Is. That is how better decisions and choices in a given circumstance emerge.
When it comes to both the Pandemic and the Protests, we have seen events that we may well look back on as catalysts for change. Both issues have gained our attention. The challenge is moving beyond the way each person wants it to be and recognize neither is a problem at all.
—If you still look at either of these as a problem to be solved, ask yourself this: what is the solution that makes either go away? —
Rather, can we acknowledge that these are each a dilemma and to navigate through requires a bigger overlap of The World As I Want It To Be with The World As It Is? And if that takes a change in worldview, are people willing to ‘re-think’ their worldview? And if not, why not………..next time