Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Reaction to Contradiction - The Power of Empathy

This morning I was struck by the power of the following thoughts laid out by Stefan Molyneux at Freedomain Radio.

In this narrative, the speaker lays out the two types of reactions individuals can have when they face a contradiction or inconsistency of ideas: acceptance, or rejection.  He goes on to link one's reaction to contradiction to ones level of empathy for both oneself and for others.

In a later part of the discussion (not quoted below) the speaker goes on to posit an intriguing theory for the fundamental basis of depression.  He lays out that depression arises when an individual realizes the falsehood of a story which they hold dear, but at the same time forces themselves to continue to believe in its truth in order to avoid the inevitable resulting knowledge to be found upon the dissipation of the story.

Predatory Depression Part 2
Freedomain Radio Episode #932

Partial transcript starting at: 25:40

"There are in many ways...two kinds of people in the world.  There are the kinds of people who are so elementally screed up, and in the future (I swear to god) they will be looked at as bat-shit crazy, that they can hold two contradictory thoughts in their head without batting an eyelid.  [For example; In the book "1984"] they say 'we are always at war with this country' then the very next day they have decided to be allies with this country, and to be at war with another country, and they change the whole story within society.  There are people who can do that, who can change their entire story.  Their personality is so fluid, empty, manipulative, and self serving, that they can simply change their story and not bat and eyelid.  There is no continuity in their processing of reality.

So your dad can go from: "I was a victim of a bad marriage," which is a false story, to: "I was not a victim of a bad marriage, but I stayed in it for my kids."  He can make that transition with no seaming discomfort at all.  And of course that places the discomfort and the confusion and the craziness on everyone else.  So that is one type of person who can just switch stories, change directions, move to another dimension, with no seaming problem at all.

And then there is another type of people, who at times it seems unfortunately, but in general fortunately can't do that.  So when you dad switched stories, it did not slow him down at all, right?  When your dad switched stories and manipulated you, you saw that.  You saw that how swiftly he moved to protect himself and did nothing to help you, and then claim that everything he did was to protect you?  That's vile.

But you are one of the people, the second type of person, who can't shrug that off.  Who is not insane.  You can't be given a mad and exploitative contradiction, fundamentally, and just go, "OK."  Out of nowhere, metaphorically, the finger of god plunged into our foreheads and says "you are not a soul who can live with contradiction."  And you are, god knows how, one of those people.  You can't bear contradiction.

Now, it certainly has been my experience, that people who lack empathy for others, also lack empathy for themselves.  And people who lack empathy for themselves are not troubled by contradiction.  But people who have empathy for others and people who have empathy for themselves are highly disturbed by contradiction, especially manipulative, exploitative, and self serving contradictions.  And unconsciously you go that you were being completely manipulated, and that what happened when you were a child was happening again.  That you were being thrown to the dingoes for the sake of your dad's immediate self-justifications.  When your dad left your mom, the story he came up with was exactly the same, fundamentally, as him leaving you with your mom, but now you were old enough, and free enough to see it, at some level.

And so all those years of being sacrificed to your mom, for the sake of your dad's immediate self-gratification, came flooding back.  The trigger was the repetition of your dad's behavior."

The references to the listener's family situations refer to the previous discussion where the details of the listener's family were covered:
Predatory Depression Part 1
Freedomain Radio Episode 931

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