You can’t wake a person who is pretending to be asleep.
This is an ancient Navajo proverb. And no matter how old the saying, it’s perfect for any age because it speaks to us on so many levels.
* Most of us seeking comfort in a pretend world aren’t going to leave it without a fight. Cocooned in its warmth and reassurance, there’s too much to lose when the bubble bursts.
* Safely ensconced within its walls we are fed only what we want, and need to hear, to keep the pretense going. It’s easy to lose track of what’s actually real and what’s pretend, making it impossible to respond to outside situations as others would.
* At some point reality is just too painful to acknowledge. Even clear cut evidence documenting the pretense is down played, argued or outright ignored.
Too often we let situations get to the point only a crisis can wake us up, when the problem gets too big to ignore-
*The cheating spouse we knew for months was unfaithful but turned a blind eye to every sign because we knew it would forever change our marriage, children, future.
*A co-worker or employee we hoped would shape up and do the job for fear of having to train another or losing time and money while looking for a replacement.
*Continuing a relationship, or building a new one into something that doesn’t truly exist for fear of being alone, embarrassed at failing yet again, or losing financial security.
*Drug, alcohol abuse or mental health worries minimized after persistent and dramatic changes in behavior. A child who no longer has perfect attendance and good grades. A once exemplary employee who now misses deadlines and justifies mistakes.
We all do it on some level.
When my daughter was little she used to stick her head in a box. Even though the rest stuck out she was convinced she had disappeared. Clearly believing if she couldn’t see me, I couldn’t see her. It was her favorite game. Let’s become invisible. When she was faced with consequences for her behavior e.g. not brushing her teeth, leaving toys scattered around the room, drawing on the walls. She would run to her box and “disappear.”
As adults we hide in others ways.
Sticking our head in the proverbial sand hoping the crisis will pass us by. Initially it feels safe and warm, insulating us from daily troubles and outside realities. Until they come crashing in.
Or becoming so entrenched in a belief that even when proven wrong they can’t be “awakened.”
Blame it on evolution.
Humans have the unique ability to pass on information verbally. Initially all our perceptions were based on direct experiences. Seeing and hearing with our own eyes and ears taught us how to limit threats. We didn’t question our senses when lives were at stake. With the advent of language we expanded our knowledge several fold. Now the group could share information – when a rattle in the grass meant a snake was close by or how fast a lion can run. We blindly accepted their reports as facts, equal to our own, because it helped the clan survive.
Why would they lie? The entire purpose was to keep the community safe and protected. That was the only agenda.
But with the advent of social media nothing is vetted. Any one can say anything, anytime without the burden of proof.
It’s easier to believe a lie, especially if it conforms to a pre-existing political, religious or social point of view. And trying to correct that image can actually backfire, all too often strengthening the erroneous belief. Researchers found its extremely difficult to dislodge strongly held perceptions through rational or logical arguments because of confirmation bias – the tendency to process data by looking at and interpreting information by how it conforms to our beliefs. For most it’s unintentional but the result is the same- discounting answers we don’t like.
Rejecting something we’ve already accepted as fact requires real effort. It means examining what we believe honestly, parsing out the information that isn’t accurate and replacing it with ones that are. Who actually does this? Especially in an age where we can ensure we only see and hear what we want. Facts become anything that supports what we already believe to be true.
How we gain knowledge and pass it on is highly subjective and often abused.
Don’t like the information on one outlet? Just turn to one you do like.
Don’t hear what you agree with on one news station? Turn to one that only espouses your views. In fact, one study showed false information was retweeted 70% faster than true news because of tawdry, salacious content, social bots and past internet searches.
We all do it. No one is exempt. Hearing what confirms our beliefs is comforting and reassuring, even when it disparages others and fans our fears. But it’s not always the truth. And truth matters. Only when armed with accurate information can we truly make our own, informed decision. Not ones manipulated by outside influences.
Now more than ever we all need to look at what’s happening around us, listen with a healthy sense of skepticism and fact check everything. It may be exhausting and time consuming but the alternative can leave us with consequences we never imagined were possible. And by then may be impossible to correct.
Women denied all contraceptives rights, not just abortions but in vitro fertilization and birth control.
Children raped and forced to carry a pregnancy to term.
Life threatening treatments for tubal pregnancies and miscarriages postponed for fear they’ll be considered an abortion.
A country filled with unwanted, unloved, financially destitute children.
The right to honor yourself and love whoever you wish is outlawed.
Forced withholdings to Medicare and social security stolen from their rightful owners by politicians who deem them “discretionary spending.”
Election results overturned by those who refuse to honor the outcome.
Religious freedoms curtailed.
Bigotry, hatred and fear mongering accepted as a way to subjugate others.
Power and control the overriding doctrine.
Regardless of your political leanings all of these are on the chopping block this November. We all assume it’ll never go that far, but history has painfully taught us that’s not true.
As John Stuart Mill was quoted as saying in 1867,
“Let not any one pacify his conscience by the delusion that he can do no harm if he takes no part, and forms no opinion. Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing. He is not a good man who, without a protest, allows wrong to be committed in his name, and with the means which he helps to supply, because he will not trouble himself to use his mind on the subject.”