Day 434: Rewards for the "Right" Views

This is a continuation from my previous blogs starting here - please read for context.

When we asked you to think about your attitudes toward cheating, many of you are likely to have immediately thought, "Oh, that's wrong!" This is because most children have been repeatedly praised or rewarded by their parents for stating such views concerning both the rightness of honesty and the wrongness of dishonesty. As a result, individuals learn which views are seen as the "right" attitudes to hold by virtue of being rewarded for voicing those attitudes by the people they identify with and want to be accepted by. Attitudes that are followed by positive outcomes tend to be strengthened and are likely to be repeated, while attitudes that are followed by negative outcomes are weakened so their likelihood of being expressed again is reduced. Thus another way in which attitudes are acquired is through this process of instrumental conditioning, which is a process of rewards and punishments tied to our attitudes and actions. Sometimes the conditioning process is rather subtle, with the reward being psychological acceptance. Parents reward children with smiles, approval, or hugs for stating the right views. As a result of this form of conditioning, most children express political, religious, and social views that are highly similar to those of their parents and other family members, until the teen years when peer influences become especially strong (Oskamp & Schultz, 2005). - Social Psychology (Twelfth Edition), by Robert A Baron, Nyla R Branscombe, & Donn Byrne

We are, each of us, brainwashed - from the very moment of conception until the moment of our death. We are immediately taught what to believe, what to think, how to talk, how to dress, what to say, what to like, what to dislike, who to hate, who to love, who to worship, who to fear, what to fear, when to feel angry, when to feel sad, how to show sadness, how to show anger, how to show happiness, how to show kindness, when to show kindness, if to show kindness at all.

We are shaped and molded like dough. At first we are soft, pliable - but as we get older we get harder to shape, tough. We set in our ways, which are not really even our own ways, but ways that were taught to us by others who were taught the ways by others who were taught...

An interesting thing then starts to happen: we start to accumulate all of these thoughts, feelings, emotions, reactions and more that we have experienced - not quite knowing how to get rid of the residual effects that we are now feeling within us - a sort of tightness here, an ache there, a heat somewhere else. As we are accumulating more and more of these residual effects of thoughts and emotions etc within us, our body must re-shape itself in order to accommodate all of these inhabitants of our bodies. We start to notice another interesting thing: We start to look and act more and more like our parents. We don't know why. We want to stop, but we don't know how. We know that the way we are living within ourselves is not the best possible way to live. We know that the anger creeping beneath the surface is not something we want to continue living with. We don't want to have these nasty thoughts in our heads. We don't want to feel like we have to control everything in our lives. We don't want to be saying nasty things about our friends and family behind their backs. But we do - we do all of these things and we don't know why.

We start to hate ourselves. All we have left are those things that we believe in strongly: our faith, our knowledge, our selves, whatever - as long as we can hold on to these things, then we are in control of something in our lives. We seem to have no control over anything else. Our bodies are doing things we don't want it to do, not functioning as effectively as before. We know that it's because we have mistreated our bodies - with our ignorance of the effects of different foods, with our burning anger, with our nasty judgements, with our self hatred, with our irritation at everything and everyone around us, with our wound-up need to control everything - but how do we stop?

How do we stop ourselves from having all these "right" views that have proven themselves to be oh-so-wrong? How do we stop ourselves from becoming our parents? How do we stop ourselves from descending into a vile pit of hatred and spite? No one teaches us how to do this. But we're also terrified - terrified of being wrong, of making a mistake, of making the "wrong" choices - we have petrified ourselves with fear. We are unable to move ourselves to change, so we attack instead for a temporary reprieve from the feelings of dread.

And then we die. We die with the lost hopes of all of our "someday I'll do this..." and "I won't feel like this forever..."'s. This is our reward. This is where we all end. This is what our lives will be like. Carbon copies of all the crap around us. We'll go down like all the rest before us. We will accomplish nothing of worth. We will diminish, dwindle and fade into nothingness - too petrified to take a chance to honour this gift of life. Too petrified to demand dignity for all those who live and stand here with us.


  1. its such a simple thing to see we are one and equal to ourselves. That everything done unto us, is actually us doing it. The main question that never gets asked is why am I enslaving myself? And does this answer even matter? No, it doesn't. There is no answer that can possibly justify enslaving yourself. But we all know that already... Perhaps it has to do with oneness and equality, perhaps maybe. Why would we want anything thing other than oneness and equality, isn't that the best/most we could receive/give?


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