“Just like when we coerce our children or other adults they react badly and seem to become more intransigent, the same is true of ideas in our own mind. Fighting yourself is a battle you can’t win, by definition.”
– Sarah Fitz-Claridge
“How can I overcome the antirational memes disabling my creativity, with my disabled creativity?!”
“If anti-rational memes mess with your critical faculties, how can you ever overcome them? Don’t you need to be able to criticise them to abandon them?”
(In answer to the question I was asked recently, of why I now do not necessarily mention anti-rational memes, the answer is that when I do talk about anti-rational memes parents often conclude that taking children seriously is impossible, and lose hope.)
We are fallible, and lack knowledge, and have all sorts of stuff interfering with our creativity; but knowing that anti-rational memes exist—that we all have such parts in our mind—it is possible to help such parts of our mind to relax their grip.
David Deutsch says that we can overcome some of them using our creativity, through conjecture, criticism and seeking good explanations—that you abandon them by understanding what is happening, and creatively solving the problems they cause.
So does that mean approaching such anti-rational parts of our minds with a coercive, infallibilist, brook-no-dissent spirit of “How dare you exist, you wicked, shameful part! I am going to force you to listen to my manifestly true fatal arguments, override you, overcome you, and abandon you. And don’t even think about complaining to me that I am being coercive! I’ll show you coercive! You deserve to be annihilated! You are evil!”?
No. Adding coercion even within our own mind has unintended deleterious consequences. What happens when you try to override an idea in your mind coercively rather than using reason is that the conflict is entrenched, or the area of entrenchment widened. Just like when we coerce our children or other adults they react badly and seem to become more intransigent, the same is true of ideas in our own mind. Fighting yourself is a battle you can’t win, by definition.
The trouble is that anti-rational memes being what they are, even if, instead of coercively fighting them to overcome and annihilate them, we are trying to abandon them using reason by refuting them through rational argument, logically, we are threatening their existence, so they resist, dig in, hide and fight. However rational and reasonable our straightforward explicit conscious arguments against them are, they experience our criticism as coercive—as an existential threat.
So I think we have to be emotionally-intelligent in our dealings with these anti-rational parts of our mind, meeting them where they are, at their own problem situation, seeing how it feels for them from their perspective, rather than just barging in with the critical arguments that seem so rational and unanswerable to us from our (or another part’s) perspective.
One way of doing this in practice is using Internal Family Systems self-therapy. When we notice such an anti-rational part (and unfortunately, we might not), we can go inside our mind IFS-style, and from the lovingkindness and inner wisdom of our emotionally-intelligent, calm, clear, compassionate, confident, connected, creative core Self, we can have a nice conversation with that part and gently and non-coercively help that part to relax deeply, leaving us free to move forward.
For more details about what I mean by this, and how to do it, see: How can I drop the anti-rational part of my mind that interferes with me taking my children seriously?
If you are the sort of person who finds it difficult to learn a new form of therapy without seeing it being demonstrated (as I am!), the clearest possible demonstrations I have found of IFS are those of its creator, Dr. Richard Schwartz. I found the first demonstration in this course—Dick Schwartz’s Internal Family Systems Master Class: Experience IFS in Action with Complex Trauma and PTSD—particularly illuminating. Unfortunately, it is not free, but it is often much cheaper than the standard price. [Currently huge discount on psychotherapy networker.org.]
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Sarah Fitz-Claridge, 2022, Taking Children Seriously FAQ: ‘How can I overcome the antirational memes disabling my creativity, with my disabled creativity?’, https://takingchildrenseriously.com/https://takingchildrenseriously.com/how-can-i-overcome-the-antirational-memes-disabling-my-creativity-with-my-disabled-creativity/