When we look at how we develop as personalities, we often have several underlying assumptions underpinning this.
For instance, we may assume that we are a solid fixed ‘I’, that most of the time we make our own decisions and that the world we observe is the world as it is.
The above assumptions, and probably several more, are hardly the things we think about at the breakfast table, and they may well be factors in our life which we seldom consider.
When I wake up in the morning am ‘I’ the same ‘I’ that woke up one morning a year ago? We may have a sense that we are the same person, but neuro-scientific research suggests that this is not necessarily so. At the minute levels of our brain the building blocks of neurons and their synaptic connections are not permanently fixed. Our brains are changing continually. Often these changes are imperceptibly small, whilst of some occasions they can be life changing.
So what research is suggesting is that rather than being fixed, we are fluid beings living in an ever-evolving mental and physical landscape of shifting memories, assumptions and mental constructs.
Whilst some of these changes may be incidental environmental changes to our daily lives, others can be direct attempts to influence our thinking and behaviour. So is it possible to deliberately create a personality, or to substantially change one?
When we look at the roles of education, religion, politics, marketing, legal systems, linguistics and media etc., the answer is a definite yes. In fact a part of the remit of such cultural processes is to mold acceptable and desired patterns of belief and behaviour in the individual. And without them there would be social chaos.
Which leads us back to one of our assumptions, that we make our own lifestyle choices. Whereas in fact many of our deepest rooted beliefs, desires, hopes and fears are formed during our early development. This is a time when our cognitive functioning is not fully developed, and hence our ability to determine what makes sense to us is severely limited.
In our complex web of beliefs and assumptions, plus our desire for consistent thought and behaviour, lies our interpretation of the world we live in. These are our mind maps that we use to navigate this world. Whether these maps are accurate, always correct or even up to date is often overlooked.
We often find ourselves at ease with people who have similar mind maps to us. And can find people with other mind maps to be fascinating or threatening.
It is often this mis-match of mind maps that leads to conflict. This may simply be due to accidents of cultural diversity, but often they are manufactured by malevolent forces, who through political or religious indoctrination can shape our beliefs and behaviour towards their own ends.
We may often be tempted to this that this is simply the ‘other’ person’s problem. But none of us are immune from the influence of our cultural bias. Does an obsession with property ownership at the expense of other aspects of the economy and wealth make any more sense than stoning people to death for minor social mistakes?
For a more detailed discussion of mind control, I’d recommend the following book:
And for a detailed investigation of how our brain functions, I’d recommend:
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© David R. Durham