How we align ourselves in international conflicts, and with international law & human rights

It’s interesting to see how people respond to the current wars in Ukraine and Gaza.

Some align themselves with the official mainstream US view. They support Ukraine and Israel.

Some align themselves with the reverse and support or justify Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and support the Palestinians.

Some align themselves with the underdogs – Ukraine and the Palestinians. (I tend to have sympathy with the underdogs and it’s also a common Norwegian view.)

Some may even support Russia & Israel. I imagine some jews in Russia would.

The above is more of a tribal orientation. Our priority is to support one or the other for ideological, identity, or strategic reasons. And it leads us to sometimes overlook or minimize clear violations of international law and human rights.

Some align themselves with human rights and international law and prioritize these over any other sympathies and affiliations. All sides in these conflicts have likely committed war crimes and human rights violations, and it cannot be justified. This is, obviously, more of a modern orientation.

Where am I in this? It’s probably clear from how I write. I am definitely in the last category. I am on the side of international law and human rights, and on the side of the civilians.

Russia is clearly breaking international law by invading Ukraine and committing war crimes. (I am all for supporting Ukraine in defending itself, that’s what I would want for Norway if we were attacked.) The horrific Hamas attack on Israeli civilians is clearly against international law. Israel has committed systematic human rights violations against Palestinians for decades. (Which has fueled a lot of resentment and hatred.) The international community has allowed them to do it, which is clearly very problematic. And Israel is violating international law and committing war crimes in their current and equally horrific attacks on civilians in Gaza. We can understand some of the background for what’s happening – for instance, historically and through a collective trauma lens. And there is absolutely no justification for these actions.

Of course, I am a child of my culture as much as anyone else. These views reflect the views of many in Norway. We tend to be on the side of the underdogs since we often have been the underdogs historically. International law and human rights are highly valued. We want to support Ukraine since we would want to be supported if we were invaded. And there has been a long tradition of sympathy with the plight of the Palestinians in Norway.

Why do I write about this? It may seem obvious to me and many others and it’s still a vital reminder. The essentials cannot be repeated too often, and it’s especially important at a time when tribalism of different types seems to thrive. And even more so because we live in a time when our civilization is under increasing pressure, especially from collapsing ecosystems, and we can expect even more tribalism in response.

This is a time when valuing human life – and prioritizing it over tribalism, ideologies, identities, and desire for revenge – is more important than ever. Not just for their sake, but for our own sake. And not just because escalating the cycle of violence eventually comes back to hurt us, but because it hurts us immediately.

We dehumanize ourselves when we dehumanize others. We hurt ourselves when we hurt others. That’s not just a poetic or wishful way to look at it. It actually happens and we’ll find it when we look.

Image by me and Midjourney

Does our timeless nature mean we live forever?

I sometimes hear people say:

My timeless nature means I’ll live forever.

My physical body happens within me so I’ll live beyond this physical body.

For me, it looks a bit different.

TIMELESS IS NOT THE SAME AS ETERNAL

Yes, I find myself as what the world to me happens within and as.

I find myself as the timeless that time happens within. I find myself as the spaceless that space happens within. I find myself as what this physical body and the rest of the world, as it appears to me, happens within and as.

And that doesn’t mean that I – meaning this oneness the world to me happens within and as – will live forever, or continue to live beyond the death of this physical body.

IDEOLOGIES ARE NOT THE SAME AS REALITY

Yes, there may be many religions, spiritual traditions, and ideologies that say that we’ll live beyond this physical body.

There is even some research pointing to that.

And that’s all second-hand information. It’s not something I can test out for myself. I cannot know for certain.

MEMORIES ARE NOT THE SAME AS REALITY

My whole life, from early childhood, I have had what seems to be a memory from between lives and before this life.

When I look, I see that this apparent memory consists of mental images and words, associated with some sensations in my body.

Those mental representations and sensations are just that. They may not point to anything real. Again, I cannot know for certain.

BEING HONEST

I notice that if I tell myself I’ll live forever, or beyond the life of this physical body, it’s stressful.

I tell myself something I cannot know for certain. I tell myself that what to me is imagination is reality.

I know I cannot know for certain.

And that’s stressful. It’s also stressful to have to remember that imagination, recreate it, enhance it, support it, defend it, and so on.

What’s more honest for me is that I don’t know.

I’ll get to see when that phase of the adventure comes.

What I can find here now is my nature. I can find myself as what any content of experience – including time and space and this physical body and the world as it appears to me – happens within and as.

And that’s enough.

There is a joy in being aligned with reality.

In being honest with myself.

Nondual but dismissing the human?

Some nondual or neo-Advaita folks seem to dismiss or downplay the human aspect of what we are and say things like “I am not this human”, “there is no self”, “I don’t exist”, and so on.

I understand where they are coming from. As our nature, we are not primarily this human self. There may be a human self in a conventional sense, but there is no inherently separate self here in my own experience. As capacity for the world as it appears to me, I don’t really exist.

They may want to emphasize the capacity and oneness aspects of our nature and downplay the human aspect, perhaps to compensate for others (or themselves!) viscerally over-emphasizing the human aspect out of habit.

At the same time, it does seem one-sided and perhaps a bit like an ideology. It can be quite misleading to others not familiar with that terrain. And it’s not terribly nondual. They seem to mentally create a split where there isn’t one and where it’s not strictly necessary.

HOW IT APPEARS TO ME

I find myself as….

Capacity for the world as it appears to me. As what allows it all to happen within my experience. As what forms itself into any experience.

As oneness. As what the world, to me, happens within and as. As the oneness the world, to me, happens within and as. (And with “the world” I mean any content of experience, anything seen here, heard, smelled, tasted, sensed, and thought.)

A part of oneness is this human self, as he appears in my sense fields including my mental representations. He is as much part of it as anyone and anything else that’s here.

And there is a special connection with this human self. This oneness has inside information from this human self in the form of all his sensory input. Others take me as him. And this oneness plays the role of and as him in the world.

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What is authenticity?

I listened to an interview from a few years ago about an unrelated topic, and someone said: Trump is authentic. That’s what people like about him.

I have heard this argument several times before. Is it true that Trump is authentic?

IS TRUMP AUTHENTIC?

Yes and no and not really.

If with authentic you mean reactive, then yes. He is certainly authentic with his reactivity.

If with authentic you mean receptive, honest, and speaking truth about oneself as a confession, then he is not very authentic. He seems to avoid this like the plague.

Why does he avoid it? Most likely for the same reason as everyone else, including sometimes me: It can feel threatening. It can feel easier to react to our pain than to welcome and acknowledge it, especially when reactivity to our own pain has become a habit and what we are most familiar with.

IS IT EASIER TO REACT TO OUR PAIN THAN TO BEFRIEND IT?

Again, yes and no.

On the surface, it can seem easier. It’s the easy way out.

And when we look more closely, it’s more complicated and creates a lot more stress and suffering.

When we realize and take this in, that’s when a shift can happen into committing to meeting our own pain in a more mature way.

WHAT DOES REAL AUTHENTICITY LOOK LIKE?

It looks like receptivity, vulnerability, honesty about ourselves as a confession, taking responsibility for our own life and reactions, and so on.

And what does reactivity look like?

It can look like defensiveness, anger out of proportion to the situation, chronic fear, chronic depression, blame, victimhood, addictions, and even racism, bigotry and fundamentalist ideologies. Mainly, it looks like a compulsion to something, whether it’s a behavior, emotion, state, or ideology.

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Spiritual fantasies

How do we make sense of all the chaos and breakdown of the world as we have known it during the past few years?

First Covid, now the Ukrainian War, as economic issues, climate change and other issues lurk on the horizon.

Is there a larger context holding it all in a way that is meaningful and reassuring to our souls?

Here’s our take:

Humanity and the Earth are entering into a time of profound, existential transformation. 

For millennia, human souls have been gestating as third-dimensional, physical “caterpillars.”

But now we are entering into the chrysalis of transformation.

All that we have known of ourselves and our world is dissolving, so that a new species of 4th- and 5th-dimensional, luminous, divine human “butterflies” can emerge — Homo Luminous. 

We can find spiritual fantasies in all forms of spirituality.

The quote above is one example. We experience what humans have experienced throughout history: We have pandemics, war, a possible famine, and so on. It’s routine. And instead of recognizing it as routine, and using it to heal and mature, some go into spiritual fantasies to make sense of it and feel better about it.

SUMMARY

This article became quite long so I thought I would simplify it in this summary:

We rely on mental representations – mental images and words – to orient and function in the world. 

And they can be more or less accurate in a conventional sense. Sometimes, they correspond to something and are relatively accurate. And sometimes, we cannot find what they refer to or they may be inaccurate in other ways. 

Spiritual stories are also fantasies. Sometimes, they are relatively accurate, and sometimes what they refer to doesn’t exist or doesn’t exist as anything close to what our stories tell us. 

What I’ll write about here are the spiritual fantasies that we are invested in, for whatever reason. 

They are the ones I cannot verify for myself. They are typically about something “out there” (in others, the world, the future, the past). And I am invested in the stories in order to feel better about myself or the world, or sometimes to fuel my fears. (They have an element of wishful or fearful thinking). 

What are some examples of these spiritual fantasies? It can be about an afterlife. Some imagined future jump to a higher dimension. That awakening will give us a lasting desired state or solve all our human problems. Or anything else we label spiritual, cannot check for ourselves and are invested in to feel better. (Or to fuel our fears.) 

There is nothing inherently wrong with this. It’s natural. It’s necessary until it isn’t. Sometimes, what the stories refer to exists and sometimes it doesn’t. And these spiritual fantasies tend to become more “subtle” on an awakening path. They can take the form of mental representations saying we are consciousness, awakeness, oneness, love, capacity, and so on. (Which is not necessarily wrong, it’s just that investing in these mental representations is not what it’s about. These images and words are pointers, not important in themselves.) 

At the same time, there are inherent drawbacks to spiritual fantasies. Mainly, they distract us from what’s here. And what’s here is what we all deepest down long for. We long for noticing the wholeness and oneness we already are. And any idea of finding what we are looking for “out there” is a temporary distraction and misdirection. It’s a distraction from focusing on healing at a human level, and from noticing what we are.

We can also make use of these spiritual fantasies. 

We can use them as a mirror for what’s here. 

What’s the spiritual story? How is it to explore this story as I would a dream? How is it to see all the elements of the story as mirroring parts of me? How is it to dialog with these parts of me? Or take the role of these parts and see what they have to say and how they perceive me and the world? (Voice dialog.) 

When I turn the story to myself, can I find specific examples of how it’s true – in the past and now? Can I find in myself the characteristics and dynamics the story describes and points to? How is it to get to know it in myself and embrace it? 

We can use these spiritual stories to notice that they happen within our mental field. We can notice the mental images and words making up these fantasies, and we cannot find what they (literally) refer to outside of these images and words. 

We can investigate the story through different types of structured inquiries. 

For instance, what happens when I hold the story as true? Can I find genuine examples of how the reversals of the story (when I turn them to the opposite and to myself) are equally or more valid? (The Work of Byron Katie.) 

What do I find when I explore the mental images and words, and how the mind associates them with particular sensations in the body? How is it to notice that the sensations lend a sense of solidity and perhaps even truth to the stories, and the stories give a sense of meaning to the sensations? Does that peek behind the curtain remove some of the fascination and magic from these stories? (Living Inquiries.) 

How is it to find myself as capacity for these stories and what they may refer to? How is it to notice they – and what they may refer to – happens within and as what I am? Does this soften the fascination of these stories? (Headless experiments, Big Mind process.) 

We can use them to practice being more honest with ourselves. It’s a story. I cannot verify it. I notice a pull in me to invest in it to feel better. (Or to fuel my fears.) And all of that is created by my own mind.

See also Alejandra’s perceptive comment on this topic.  

IN MORE DETAIL

HOW DO WE RECOGNIZE A SPIRITUAL FANTASY?

To recognize a spiritual fantasy, I can ask myself:

Is it a story I label “spiritual” or associate with spirituality?

Can I check it for myself? Can I know for certain it’s true? Would it hold up in a court of law?

Am I invested in the story? Do I wish to hold onto the spiritual story to feel better about myself or the world? Or to fuel my fears?

If I am honest with myself, and the answer is yes, no, and yes, it’s very likely a spiritual fantasy.

In general, spiritual fantasies are: (a) Stories we label spiritual. (b) They are typically about something out there – in others or in the world, or in the future or past. They are out there in space or time. (c) They are about something hidden and something we cannot easily check out for ourselves. (d) And we are invested in the stories. They help us make sense of the world, and we invest our hopes or fears in them.

OPPORTUNITY FOR EXPLORATION

When this happens, it’s an opportunity for exploration. 

We can recognize the telltale signs of attaching to a story in order to take refuge in it. We defend it. Perhaps we proselytize and want others to know about the story and agree. We rehearse it in our mind. We seek out confirmation for it, even if the sources may be flimsy. We experience an emotional charge around the story. We create an identity around it. And so on. 

We can then explore this in several ways. 

We can identify the story and examine it. 

When I look, where do I find the story? Can I find it outside of my own mental representations and what others tell me? And where do I find what the story refers to? Can I find it anywhere? Can I hold it up and show it to someone? Can I take a photo of it?

Can I know for certain it’s true? What happens when I hold onto it as true? How am I in the world when I hold it as true? What’s the genuine validity in the reversals of the story? (The Work of Byron Katie.) 

What are the mental images and words making up the story? What are the physical sensations my mind associates with these images and words? What are the associations that come up? What do I find when I examine these mental representations and associated sensations? (Living Inquiries.) 

What do I hope to get out of holding onto the story?

What do I fear would happen if I didn’t hold onto the story? How is it to feel this fear? Thank it for protecting me? Recognize it comes from a desire to protect me and from love? Find love for it, as it is? Give it what it deeper down wants? (A sense of safety, being seen, support, love, etc.) 

Do I know that a story is a spiritual fantasy, but I still want to hold onto it? What am I afraid would happen if I don’t have it? What are my fearful stories? What do I find when I examine those stories? How is it to befriend the fear?

We can also use the stories more explicitly as a mirror. Can I find in myself what they point to? If I turn the story around to myself, can I find in myself here and now what the story says is out there? Can I find the characteristics and dynamics the story says is out there also in myself? Can I find specific examples here and now and in the past? How is it to get to know this side of me?

How is it to notice the story – and anything associated with it – happens within and as what I am? That my nature is capacity for it all? (Big Mind process, Headless experiments.)

In this way, we take any tendency to spiritual fantasies in ourselves and make use of them for exploration, healing, and a bit of maturing. 

WHAT ARE SOME EXAMPLES OF SPIRITUAL FANTASIES?

The quote above is one. It’s something we cannot check. It’s a form of wishful thinking. It’s unnecessary and doesn’t give us anything of substance. It’s a distraction. It looks like something some cling to in order to feel better about themselves and the world and keep some unpleasant feelings (fear) at bay. 

Any idea about an afterlife is another. This too is something we cannot check for ourselves while we are still alive. It’s something science hasn’t thoroughly examined yet. (Although there are some good efforts.) People use these stories to instill fear or hope in themselves or others. 

In Vortex Healing, it’s when we attach to the story that by taking these classes, we likely won’t have to incarnate again. How can I know? To me, it’s just a story someone told me. Again, some seem to hold onto this story in order to feel better about themself and their life. It’s a comforting promise of escape from a life they struggle with.

It can also be any ideology we attach to and label “spiritual”, for instance, veganism. We tell ourselves it’s going to save the world, and we attach to it to feel better about ourselves and the world and distract ourselves from a difficult discomfort. (I am not saying there isn’t a lot of good in veganism. I am all for eating low on the food chain and I am aware of the many benefits for our health, for the animals, and for Earth. I am just talking about what happens when we attach to it as an ideology, as a belief that’s going to save us or the world.) 

The conspiracy theories that circulate in the wellness and New Age world can be seen as spiritual fantasies. People go into them as a coping strategy, associate them – for whatever reason – with spirituality, and choose these particular fantasies because others in their subculture do the same. 

It can also be fantasies about awakening. For instance, that awakening is a state free of discomfort. That it will magically solve all our problems. And so on. 

In general, we may tell ourselves we know that things are a certain way. Yes, my stories and maps may seem relatively accurate and they work to some extent. But…. How can I know for certain? How can I know I am not missing something important? How can I know I won’t see it differently tomorrow or in ten years with more experience and new information? How can I know it won’t look very different in a different context? One I am not familiar with now, but would make more sense to me if I knew it? Any time I tell myself I know for certain something I label spiritual, I engage in a spiritual fantasy. 

WHAT IS NOT A (SPIRITUAL) FANTASY?

When I write here, I try to avoid any form of spiritual fantasy. I aim to make it practical and something people can check out for themselves. Of course, I am not always entirely successful.

The only thing that’s free from spiritual fantasies is direct noticing. What’s here in my sense fields? In sensations? Sight? Sound? Smell? Taste? Movement? Mental representations? 

Anything found in the mental representations – mental images and words – is, in essence, a fantasy. It’s created by the mind. These can be more or less accurate in a conventional sense. The more accurate ones help us orient and function in the world. And the rest are more obvious fantasies. 

Even when we explore our own nature, it’s often mixed in with some spiritual fantasies. We may partly notice directly our nature. (Find ourselves as capacity for the world as it appears to us, and what any content of experience happens within and as.) And there is often an overlay of mental representations of whatever we expect to find. (Oneness, love, capacity, and so on.) Sometimes, we may look at a mental representation and assume it’s a more direct noticing of what it points to. Sometimes, we are conscious of the mental representations and use them as pointers for a more direct noticing. And often, it may be a bit of both. 

THE USE OF SPIRITUAL FANTASIES

Spiritual fantasies are useful in a couple of different ways, as mentioned above. 

They can serve as a distraction from our own discomfort. This is useful whenever we are not ready for meeting and exploring it more directly. We may not be in the right place in our life. We may not have the tools and skills. We may not have the support for doing it. We are not ready until we are. And the spiritual fantasies are necessary for us until they aren’t. 

And they can serve as a pointer to something in us to explore and get to know. As just about anything else, we can use them more intentionally to find healing, wholeness, and notice our nature. 

SPIRITUAL FANTASIES WITH AND WITHOUT A CHARGE

I should mention that spiritual fantasies can come with or without a charge, or with different types of charges. 

I can imagine the spaghetti monster from the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (Pastafarianism). For me, this has a slight charge and is associated with some physical sensations. But the charge doesn’t tell me that it’s true. The charge just tells me I find it funny and I love the intention behind that particular church. 

I can imagine an apple as a spiritual deity. For me, this has no charge. It’s clearly not true. I recognize it as just a fantasy. And many spiritual ideas are like this too, for me. For instance: God is a blue boy. (Krishna movement.) 

And if I consciously believed something, for instance, that “I” somehow will continue after this life, it would have a charge telling me that it’s true. My mind creates the mental representation of it, it creates certain physical sensations in my body through tensing up certain muscles, it associates the two, and it uses the physical sensations to give a charge to the mental representations and tells itself the sensations means its true. (Of course, when we recognize this and notice it directly, it seems slightly ridiculous and the fantasy tends to lose its sense of reality.) 

HOLDING FANTASIES AS TRUE 

Spiritual fantasies may be more or less accurate in a conventional sense. They may refer to something in existence that’s actually there in some way.

What this article is about, is more the dynamic of (a) creating a story, (b) calling it spiritual, and (c) investing in it in order to feel more comfortable or safe. That’s something that’s worth investigating no matter how accurate or not a story is in a conventional sense. 

And it’s really about any story we hold as true. Ultimately, any story is a fantasy whether it’s accurate or not in a conventional sense. It’s created by the mind to make sense of ourselves, the world, and existence. The stories are inherently different in kind from what they point to, they are simplifications, they cannot hold any full, final or absolute truth, and they can be more or less accurate in a conventional sense. And the dynamics of holding a story as true is more or less the same no matter what the story is about.

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Reflections on society, politics and nature – vol. 55

This is one in a series of posts with brief notes on society, politics, and nature. I sometimes include short personal notes as well. Click “read more” to see all the entries.

OPINIONS AND WHAT THEY ARE ROOTED IN

Some people like to pretend that their opinions about something are equal to the views of others.

One person’s opinion is equally valid as someone else’s, right?

Wrong. This is obviously wrong even on the surface.

Yes, we have views, orientations, and opinions. Yes, none of us can know for certain our view is absolutely true. Yes, our views are always provisional and up for revision.

And no, they are not equal.

They are more or less rooted in solid data and theory.

The more it’s rooted in solid data and theory, and the more it has been examined and tested and found to hold up, the more weight a view holds.

For instance, one outlier academic study that goes against innumerable solid studies does not hold much weight. It can be interesting. It may be worth looking into it further and doing more research. And, in itself, it’s not worth much.

We also know this from daily life. If a group of people sees and touch a tree, and one insists that the tree is not there, it’s pretty safe to assume we can disregard the outlier view. There is always a very small chance the person is right, one way or another, but for practical purposes, we can set it aside.

This is basic common sense that some seem to disregard these days.

QUESTIONING THE MAINSTREAM VIEW?

Someone on social media wrote: I love Joe Rogan because the dares to question the mainstream view.

My response is: Anyone can – and often do – question the mainstream view. And if it’s rooted in bad logic and bad data, as is the case of Joe Rogan, then it’s not worth much. It’s just more noise and distraction.

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Trauma & being against pandemic measures & conspiracy theories

The results showed that the more trauma people had experienced in childhood, the more likely they were to mistrust NHS Covid-19 information, to feel unfairly restricted by the government and to support the end of mandatory face masks.

– Covid vaccine hesitancy could be linked to childhood trauma, research finds, The Guardian, February 1, 2022

I have long suspected this connection, and have written about it in previous articles.

ANTI-PANDEMIC MEASURES AND CONSPIRACY THEORIES

Not everyone who criticises the pandemic measures is into conspiracy theories. Some rely on good data, take a reasonable and informed approach, and chose to not get vaccinated and so on, for whatever reason.

And from what I have seen, it does seem that many who are against the pandemic measures do it out of reactivity and their reasoning is rooted in bad logic and bad data and in some form of unsupported conspiracy theory. This is the group I’ll focus on below.

INDIVIDUALS VS GROUPS

It doesn’t mean that every single person opposed to the measures has a lot of trauma in their system. And it certainly doesn’t mean that everyone with trauma goes into these views.

At a group level, research suggests this tendency. And at an individual level, there is a lot of variation.

TRAUMA AND CONSPIRACY THEORIES

Several studies have found connections between trauma and conspiracy theories. (Here is one of several.)

We all deal with trauma, emotional pain, and discomfort in different ways. We can face it head-on and work on it. We can try to make it go away. Or, most commonly, we distract ourselves from it.

And one way we can distract ourselves from it is by going into ideologies. And one type of ideology is conspiracy theories.

For some people, conspiracy theories is the perfect distraction. The pandemic has given more people time to go down rabbit holes on the internet and getting into echo chambers. Conspiracy theories can be exciting since we uncover hidden information. It has good guys and bad guys. It’s global and epic. We know something others don’t. It has a lot of drama. And we can create more drama by going into conflicts with friends and family about it.

In short, it has everything for us to get completely absorbed into it and the drama in it, which creates the perfect distraction from our own pain.

HISTORIC PERSPECTIVE

When we look at history, we see that conspiracy theories tend to flourish during pandemics and other collectively challenging times. People are scared and react to that fear by distrusting authorities and trying to find someone to blame.

The conspiracy theories we see today follow the pattern we see from history. History repeats itself, which seems to be missed by many who are into conspiracy theories these days.

We also know that conspiracy theorists from history tend to see themselves as outsiders, ignored, and relatively powerless. It’s not a stretch to imagine that many of these were traumatized from a challenging life and conditions created by an unjust social system. Their reaction is understandable and misguided, and distracts from the real changes needed to change a system that only works for some.

TRAUMA BEHAVIOR & CONSPIRACY THEORIES

What is trauma behavior?

When we experience strong emotional pain or discomfort, we find ways to deal with it.

In general, we have two options. We may meet it, befriend it, find peace with it, heal our relationship with it, invite in healing for the issue, and so on. We may try to distract ourselves from it or make it go away. Or we shift between both.

If we try to distract ourselves from it, we tend to do it in a slightly obsessive way, whether we chose food, sex, entertainment, work, exercise, drugs, nature, spirituality, ideologies, or something else.

And if we try to make it go away, that too can take on a slightly obsessive flavor, whether we try to make it go away through healing, spirituality, or something else.

It seems that for some, conspiracy theories is the perfect distraction from emotional pain.

They may have an outsider identity, and conspiracy theories fits their outsider identity. They may have a victim identity, and conspiracy theories feed into their victim identity. They may get caught up in the entertainment and excitement of discovering new and previously hidden things. They may get to fuel their image of themselves as people on the side of the good and against some evil conspiracy. They may get to feel smart. They get caught up in the drama of the conspiracy theories, and the drama between those into conspiracy theories and those who are not into them. And so on. And all of this serves as a perfect distraction.

PERSONAL OBSERVATION

As mentioned, I have long suspected the trauma-conspiracy theory connection.

Why?

One reason is what I mentioned above. We all deal with our pain, trauma, and discomfort in different ways. And one way is to get into ideologies and things like conspiracy theories.

I also see typical trauma behavior among many who are into conspiracy theories. They seem reactive. Defensive. Procetylizing. Wanting others to understand and agree. Feel like and outsider. Go into a victim position. Become obsessive about it. Use bad logic and bad data to support their views. Resort to name calling. Act like a somewhat immature or even damaged child or teenager. And so on.

What do I base this on?

Partly, it comes from working on my own trauma and emotional pain, and seeing the many ways I have dealt with it. I have done, and sometimes do, what I see in them.

Partly, it’s from history and historical patterns repeating themselves.

Partly, it’s from current research on trauma and conspiracy theories.

And partly, it’s from having worked as a trauma therapists and seeing a lot of the many ways people deal with trauma.

BEING DISCERNING IN HOW TO USE THIS INFORMATION

It’s important to do solid research on these connections, and that research is still in its infancy.

It’s also important to know how to use, and how NOT to use, this information.

We can use it when we discuss anti-pandemic views and conspiracy theories at a group level. We can use it as yet another argument for trauma-informed schools and institutions in general, and working to prevent and heal trauma.

And when it comes to discussing specifics – around vaccines, masks, and so on – it’s better to stay on topic and avoid using it against someone. (In that context, it’s an ad hominem argument).

ADDITIONAL REFLECTIONS….

This is more related to the bigger picture of conspiracy theories.

THE SEED OF TRUTH IN CONSPIRACY THEORIES

There is a seed of truth in many conspiracy theories. Some have a strong reaction to vaccines and get seriously ill or even die. (This is their own body’s reaction to the vaccine, and some react to the virus in a similar way.) The medical industry is in it for the money, not primarily to help people. The multinational corporations have a way too strong influence on policies and some media.

Most conspiracy theories take these seeds of truth to the extreme without supporting it in good data and without too much nuance and maturity.

In rare cases, conspiracy theories are true. When these have been revealed through history, it’s typically because of the work of journalists, historians, or even government agencies. Not because of some people on YouTube or a podcast.

And, in general, the problems we see in the world today are systemic. They are a natural consequence of the system we have. They don’t require or depend on some secret and sinister conspiracy of certain people or groups. (Although, of course, it is in the short-term interest of some groups that the current systemic problems continue.)

“I AM NOT A CONSPIRACY THEORIST, YOU ARE IDIOTS”

I saw someone posting this on social media, apparently in all seriousness.

Of course, from the perspective of conspiracy theorists, what I write here is nonsense.

They are not conspiracy theorists. They have just uncovered the truth.

It’s the rest of us who have bought into the mainstream narrative.

In fairness, from their own perspective, their reactions make sense. They get frustrated, angry, defensive, and reactive. Not because they are caught up in trauma but because they have uncovered a terrible truth that most are oblivious to.

THE PEACE IN TRUTH

When we are very honest with ourselves, we tend to find peace.

What would that look like for me?

Of course, I cannot know anything for certain. For all I know, what these people are saying is true.

And yet, it’s not very likely.

The mRNA vaccine seems relatively safe based on twenty years of testing and research, what we see in the world so far, and knowing how it works. Vaccines reduce the risk of infection, which in term reduces the rate of transmission. And vaccines reduce the risk of hospitalization and death. And, of course, it’s possible we’ll see more problems with the vaccine down the road. That’s always possible with any medication.

Masks definitely work in reducing the risk of transmission from droplets. They often reduce the viral load when someone gets infected, and that makes a big difference. And research show they are effective in reducing transmission.

Some folks refer to single studies showing something different from the mainstream view. There will always be outliers. That’s statistics. For the results to have any value, it needs to be replicated several times – by reputable researchers using solid methodology. A single outlier, in itself, means nothing.

And when it comes to the more grand conspiracy theories, is it really likely that a large and very diverse group of people around the world – with widely different political views and orientations –would be in on it?

I cannot know for certain. And that doesn’t mean that I cannot know with a relatively high degree of certainty in a conventional sense, especially when it’s based on history, science, and logic.

For me, this is the most accurate and honest.

What would be more honest for them? I cannot know, of course. But I assume it may be that they too cannot know for certain. And perhaps, somewhere, they know their data and logic doesn’t always hold up.

When I come from reactivity and defensiveness, it’s because I am holding onto a story that I know is not true the way I pretend it is. I assume it’s the same for them. They know they cannot know, and they may suspect their logic and data are flimsy, so they get reactive and defensive when they see their views as threatened.

MATURING OUT OF IT?

To me, conspiracy theorists often appear without too much nuance and maturity, especially when they have the zeal of the newly converted.

So will they mature out of it?

I am not sure.

Some will if they are open to it feel they have the space to do.

And some may not. They may have built an identity and community around conspiracy theoris. They may have burnt intellectual and social bridges. They may feel too much backed into a corner by the reaction of family and friends. And if they have specific predictions that don’t come true, they may go into explanations that fit their existing worldview.

SUMMARY

This is a topic that’s both relatively simple and complex.

The pandemic-related conspiracy theories we see today follow what we have seen in other pandemics. They follow a historic pattern and were predictable even before the pandemic happened.

The people who get into these conspiracy theories tend to have an outsider identity, sometimes a victim identity, and may have more-than-average trauma in their system.

There are often seeds of truth in conspiracy theories, and these seeds are typically more connected to systemic problems than any intentional or coordinated conspiracy.

Knowing about the trauma connection is important at a social level, and it reinforces the need for a more trauma-informed society and institutions, and a better system for helping people with their pain and trauma. Mainly, it reminds us of the need for deep systemic changes.

When discussing these issues, it’s most helpful to stay on the topic and avoid ad hominem arguments.

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Brief notes on healing and awakening and occasional personal things – vol. 31

This is one in a series of posts with brief notes on healing, awakening, and personal things. These are more spontaneous and less comprehensive than the regular articles. Some may be made into a regular article in time.

WHY I DON’T REFER TO VAGUS NERVES, QUANTUM PHYSICS & OTHER POPULAR TOPICS FROM SCIENCE

I rarely if ever refer to popular topics from science here, like the vagus nerve or quantum physics.

Why? If I love science and have spent a good amount of time exploring these and other topics, why don’t I refer more to it when I write here? (For instance, in my teens and twenties, I read everything I could find about the connection between quantum physics and spirituality/philosophy.)

The main reason is that our understanding of these topics is very specific to our time and place.

The content of science always changes. The way we think about the vagus nerve and quantum physics today will likely be outdated in a few years or decades, and even more so in a few centuries.

Similarly, our understanding of these topics is very incomplete. We are only seeing fragments of a bigger picture.

Some current views on quantum physics may tie in with some insights from perennial spirituality, and that may quickly change as we understand quantum physics differently in the years ahead. And the vagus nerve is probably important for regulating our nervous system and system in general, and it’s only one small piece of a much larger dynamic whole.

It doesn’t mean that these topics are not important. I love that people are studying and thinking about it, and share it with the rest of us. That’s how science works.

But it does mean that I won’t refer to it much here. I prefer to focus on what seems a bit more timeless. And I am aware that the way I see and talk about it will inevitably reflect my own time and culture.

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Pandemic & vaccine perspectives

I thought I would briefly address two specific anti-pandemic-measures views, and then mention a few general things.

Someone I know is strongly against wearing masks, with the rationale that they don’t work as well as some assume. Another is against taking the vaccine because it can have side effects. 

I understand and see it differently. Perhaps because I have different priorities and may see it from a different perspective.

MASKS

Masks may not filter the air very well, and a lot of the air goes in and out in the gaps between the mask and the face.

At the same time, we all spit when we talk, and often more than we are aware of. (Look at some high-speed footage and it will be obvious.) And these drops easily transmit the virus, so it makes sense to wear a mask.

It’s low cost. It’s easy to put on. And it prevents droplet transmission.

VACCINES

It’s the same with vaccines. We know they have serious side effects for some. They don’t prevent illness in all cases. And some even contract the virus and die even if they are fully vaccinated.

We also know that serious side effects are very rare. (It’s far more dangerous to do a lot of the things most people happily do in daily life, like driving a car.) It does prevent serious illness, in the vast majority of cases. And the ones who die while being fully vaccinated are typically very old or have a serious pre-existing illness.

IF WE DON’T MASS VACCINATE

At a collective level, the alternative to mass vaccinations is not very attractive. If we don’t vaccinate and don’t maintain the social restrictions, we’ll have large numbers of people dying, full hospitals, and people turned away from hospitals who desperately need help.

If we don’t vaccinate and don’t want to overload our healthcare system, we’ll have to keep the social restrictions indefinitely and likely for years.

In both cases, the only end of the pandemic is when most people have been infected. And that means a large number of people dying. A large number of people with long-term effects following the infection. And new virus mutations which may well include some that are far more dangerous than what we have seen so far.

AS A MEMBER OF SOCIETY

At a personal level, as a member of society and humanity, I can choose to not vaccinate and be part of the group that delays a return to normal and puts us all at risk through continuing the pandemic and increasing the risk of dangerous mutations.

Or I vaccinate, and am part of bringing society back to normal, the pandemic to an end, and reducing the risk of dangerous mutations.

AT A PERSONAL LEVEL

Also, at a personal level, it’s understandable to be a bit hesitant about vaccines. I don’t take them unless I have a very good reason to do so. But with the new mutations (currently the delta variant), and with likely coming mutations, it’s too much of Russian roulette for me to not take the vaccine.

We will all eventually be exposed to the virus, and we’ll get infected unless our system happens to know how to deal with it. (And it will only know that from previous exposure, which is the purpose of vaccines.)

A significant portion of those infected will have long-lasting and sometimes serious effects from the infection.

And, mainly, I don’t want to be responsible for infecting others, including people who can get seriously sick and die.

NATURAL SELECTION AT WORK

If none of this is convincing, we may look at what’s happening in the world today.

The majority of those dying from covid (mostly the delta variant) are unvaccinated.

In a sense, we are seeing natural selection at work here. Of the two groups, those who choose to vaccinate and not to vaccinate, life is weeding out more people in the second group.

The virus doesn’t care about our ideology. And at the same time, from now on, the survival rate in the two groups will likely be quite different.

A FEW GENERAL NOTES

I see some vaccine skeptics say that the pro-vaccine people are driven by fear. I see as much fear in the anti-vaccine people. And it’s equally true that the pro-vaccine view is just epidemiology.

The measures we collectively use to deal with the pandemic – quarantine, isolation, social restrictions, vaccines – is what we collectively have arrived at through centuries of trials and errors.

We have seen what works, and that’s what we use to deal with the current pandemic. None of it is new or what someone came up with on the fly in response to this particular pandemic.

Also, we need to take a collective view on this. We need to look at what works best for us as a society and species. If I am personally inconvenienced, so be it. It doesn’t matter much as long as we, collectively, do the best we can.

If we take the vaccine, the risk is only our own. If we don’t, we put everyone at risk. Not taking the vaccine, unless it’s for valid medical reasons, is supremely selfish and short-sighted.

Some say that the RNA vaccines are not tested very well. It’s not accurate since they have been tested for two decades. The general vaccine is well known, it has just been programmed for this specific virus. See for instance this article from The Guardian.

Some have fringe ideas about the virus, remedies, and so on. That’s fine, but we cannot base public policies on fringe ideas. Public policies have to be based on science, and that’s fortunately mostly what we see in this pandemic. (Apart from leaders like Trump who disregard the science and the advice from epidemiologists, and we have seen the consequences of that approach.)

And finally, I assume many or most of the people who are anti-vaccine, or don’t like the standard epidemiological measures used in this pandemic, are the same who would be very happy to follow the advice of other medical specialists. If they have a heart problem, they go to a heart specialist. If they have a broken bone, they go to a doctor who can set it and help it heal. So in a pandemic, why not listen to epidemiologists? Why not follow the best practices established – often long ago – in epidemiology in dealing with pandemics, just as we follow best practices in other fields of medicine.

In general, the anti-vaccine view seems to come from (a) lack of understanding of epidemiology and lack of a historical perspective, (b) misunderstandings about the vaccine, and perhaps (c) a narrow me-first view instead of a collective view.