Saturday, April 23, 2011

Open Mind Follow Up

I got a lot of response from that last post – An Open Mind is A Terrible Thing To Waste. Most people wanted to know what it was I’d changed my mind about. Some wanted me to talk about the process further.

Over the past month, someone told me that I’m the most opinionated person he’d ever met. Someone else pointed out repeatedly that I “always need to be right.” Neither of these things was said maliciously – more like fact. It was like they were saying, “Your hair is brown.” I honestly never thought of myself in either of those ways, so it seemed like something I should take a look at.

It was that inspection – why am I so invested in my perspective on such-and-such – rather than the subject of the article, that resulted in my change of mind.

The piece I had read was by Laura Zinn Fromm. The overall question was: should we let our children see us drinking? My thoughts about drinking are extensive (and not especially interesting), but they led me to quickly discount anything the writer was saying. From my perspective, it wasn’t even a question of whether her kid should see her drinking…I didn’t think she should be drinking in her example at all.

The reason I didn’t mention her piece in my original post was because I don’t feel like the point is what we change our minds about. I feel like the point is that we change our minds. How fluid and easy a process it is when you decide it’s ok to let go for a moment of things you “believe” in and allow yourself to walk in someone else’s shoes. How freeing that act is. How surprised you might be to find that you don’t lose any of your identity when you take another point of view, and in some ways maybe you become a happier “you” as a result.

I was afraid if I mentioned the piece, people would form an opinion about whether I was right to change my mind on it. Would focus, again, on the topic, rather than the process. But the fact is, the article could have been about legalizing pedophilia and the process would be exactly the same. Poof. I changed my mind.

It was in this headset that I watched myself (on a few separate occasions) get myself into a small huff about something that I felt strongly. One was the grumpy people in my school tour group. The other was about the article I’d read. A third, which I didn’t mention in my original post, was during a “discussion” I was having with someone about homeopathy vs. Western medicine.

In each of these cases, I felt the familiar agitation begin. I noticed myself stop listening – or at least listening only as much as I needed to in order to fuel my own opposing point of view. Formulating my response and position while I was in the process of collecting information. Not after I’d gotten it.

All of those places where I dig in trail back to some big deeply held belief, one that would feel really threatening if I discovered it to be “wrong.” “I send my child to the best school available,” in the case of the tours. So mind-changing sometimes becomes the process of saying, “I might be wrong about this; I’m at least going to give this other point of view the benefit of the doubt long enough to hear what the person believes.” But sometimes mind-changing is challenging on another level. Because you have to reconcile the fact that you’ve just spent an awful lot of your time defending and arguing (even if only in your own mind) a particular point of view.

The whole prospect is made out to be so distasteful that there’s even a horrible, disgusting term that sums up the experience. Who would actually sit and eat a crow? Not me.

I urge you to read Laura’s article, because she is an excellent and thoughtful writer and a topic worthy of consideration if you’re a parent. Then you can agree or disagree with her as you see fit. But what I really urge, is for you to notice the next time you find yourself agitated about what someone is saying to you and just take a moment to see what it’s like to change your mind about it. Not forever. Just for fun.


No comments:

Post a Comment