I’m glad to welcome you to stren # 73. Today’s stren will consider why our society considers many behaviors normal that are not sane and many behaviors abnormal when they are just what is to be expected. You are asked to judge to what extent you are normal but not sane!
What is it about these people’s behavior that seems wacko, yet I consider normal?
- Jenny, ten years old, was quite happy and singing when caught about to hang herself.
- Mike was a bully. He hated blacks and Jews and threatened to blow up his high school.
- Susan could not sleep comfortably unless she had cotton in her mouth.
- Joe was regularly put in the prison “hole” (isolation) for sexual attack on other young inmates.
- Grace was suicidal, hearing voices that convinced her she was possessed by Lucifer, the devil.
- Jacob threw up upon the thought of eating a certain food.
- By the age of three, a group of children already hated all Catholics while a comparison group already hated all Protestants.
- Kamikaze pilots during WWII and suicide bombers in the mid-East conflict disregard one of our most powerful instincts – survival.
How is any of this normal? They each were behaving just as they had been taught! Their feelings and actions were quite normal responses to the way their early masters had programmed them. Their ways of thinking would not pass the test of common sense, but why would it if they had not been properly schooled in rational thinking?
- Jenny was told that when she died she could once again be with her favorite person, her deceased grandmother. Children are especially gullible.
- Mike’s mom was abandoned by the man who impregnated her. Unable to cope, she drifted lower and lower on the economic scale, was raped twice, and vented her bitterness and prejudiced opinions on her son.
- Susan was convinced by her superstitious mom that something terrible would happen to mom if she didn’t regularly chew cotton at night. Her peers laughed at her when she revealed her secret at a pajama party by asking why others didn’t have cotton. It took some time and many restless nights to get use to sleeping without her cotton.
- Joe “knew” he had to ejaculate to get rid of a “tight collar” but also that it was a sin to spill his seed outside of flesh. Once his opinion was exposed in a group therapy session, his peers persuaded him that it was O.K. to “beat the meat,” I no longer had to see him in the prison’s seclusion room.
- Grace was brought up where speaking in tongues and hearing voices were expected occurrences during prayer rituals. She was admitted to my care when I was a resident in psychiatry at Johns Hopkins because she was suicidal, convinced she was evil. Her religious leader confirmed that in his opinion she was indeed possessed.
- Jake discovered a roast beef sandwich he had eaten was actually ham; he realized he violated his religion’s dietary code and immediately vomited. As a college student, I witnessed a similar situation when Mohammed, having been assured there was no meat in a vegetable stew, found on his spoon what was unmistakably a piece of bacon.
- This was observed in a study of children growing up in Ireland [The Hartford Courant, 7/25/02]. What might we expect of a child growing up in Palestine? In Israel? Wherever unresolved conflict is common?
- Through years of immaturity, Kamikaze pilots and suicide bombers’ way of thinking was indoctrinated by leaders who chose to teach “do as I say, not as I do.”
What hardwiring controls your thinking? Free your will. Become your own genie.
Normal is determined by the authorities who make us what we are according to their teaching and role models. A dictionary definition of normal is conforming, adhering to, or constituting a typical pattern; the expected state. “Almost all normal people want to be rich without great effort” – F. Scott Fitzgerald. Most of our world’s population is long on normality but short on sanity.
Sane is acting with common sense to whatever degree our knowledge permits. A dictionary definition of sane is showing sound judgment; reasonable; rational; mentally healthy.
What society or “the establishment” holds to be normal is often not sane. Sane people are often judged by society to be abnormal. Many exceptional individuals who discovered knowledge and wisdom that have dramatically impacted the way we think were first labeled abnormal and shunned by the larger population – Christ, Copernicus, Galileo, Darwin, Einstein, Freud, King, Gandhi, and the suffragettes to name a few. Here are several additional examples of the power of authority to mesmerize common sense:
The popular fairy tale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes” expresses the power of self-deception. An emperor who cared only about his clothes and about showing them off was duped by two swindlers to believe that they could make the finest suit of clothes that had the special quality of being invisible to anyone who was either stupid or unfit. The emperor first sent two of his trusted men to see it. Neither would admit that they could not see the cloth and so they praised it. Thereupon, the emperor allowed himself to be dressed in the “clothes” for a parade, never admitting that he could not see what he was wearing for fear that others would think he was stupid. The townspeople, who had also heard that anyone who couldn’t see the cloth would be revealed as stupid, wildly praised the magnificent clothes. A small child, too innocent to be pressured by the rumor, revealed the hoax: “The Emperor has no clothes!" Person to person, the townspeople whispered that the emperor had nothing on. Even though the emperor heard, he held his head high and finished the procession. The story is relevant in political and social contexts when an obvious truth is denied by the majority despite obvious evidence to the contrary.
One of my favorite books, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, by Richard Bach, is about a seagull learning about life and flight. Bored with the daily squabbles over food and seized by a passion for flight, he pushes himself, learning everything he can about flying. Instead of welcoming his desire to teach others what he has learned, he is shamed and expelled by the Elders for his unwillingness to conform, and for doing what no other seagulls dared to do. Jonathan goes off on his own, believing that all hope is lost. An outcast, he continues to learn, becoming increasingly pleased with his abilities. He eventually finds others similarly outlawed for not conforming, teaches them the love of soaring up and onward, and establishes teachers for other flocks.
On November 18, 1978, directed by Reverend Jim Jones, 918 people committed mass “revolutionary suicide” (many were allegedly forced to participate, including babies) at their Guyana community. Jones persuaded members of The People’s Temple cult that the present world was evil and they would be better off dead than face life on earth. The victims included Congressman Leo Ryan, the first member of Congress to be assassinated in the line of duty in the history of the United States.
In 1933, with a unique blend of nationalism, militarism, and racial theory, Adolf Hitler persuaded millions that they were a unique people – a master race with a special destiny. State-produced films and radio drove the message home of the greatness of the German people. People felt happiness and the seduction to Nazism was swift. “Young people were the most excited by the propaganda; over ninety percent of us were behind everything that went on.” Perhaps no statesman had ever been as loved. An entire generation was taught to live the ideal German life the Nazi's prescribed. To be a Jew, homosexual, mentally or physically challenged, a Gypsy, or any minority was judged to be subhuman.
The wealthiest man I ever met, a billionaire, was obsessed with making money. “Enough” for this individual, and many other normal people, had come to mean “infinity.” There will never be “enough.” This man alienated his family and friends, and I believe, as did he, that he was among the most miserable individuals on earth.
Can you think of situations where groups of persons surrender their common sense to authority? What unexamined assumptions do you maintain, acquired solely on the basis of authority, that would have difficulty passing a test of common sense? Do you believe citizens of other countries or religions are inferior? Are people who insatiably pursue money, power, or fame normal? Are they sane? Are they victims of self-deception?
Lacking language, knowledge, and common sense at birth, we are all victims of “normality” – we are compelled to mindlessly accept whatever programming fate and circumstance make of us. Who we are and what we are to become is determined by forces to which we have limited resistance. We don’t pick our parents, language, nation, religion, gender, and on and on. We are initially slaves to fate and circumstance. Our first masters are instinct and the nurturers who inscribe their traditions into our way of thinking.
We are born stupid and remain so until we teach ourselves a newer way of thinking that frees our will power to personally assume responsibility for our destiny. Stupidity is continuing to mindlessly obey the commands of authority after we have taught ourselves to apply common sense to current knowledge and create more adaptive solutions to manage today’s issues. The hardwired action patterns determined by instinct are usually based on trial and error solutions, whereas the traditions of our nurturers reflect reasonable solutions to yesterday’s problems according to yesterday’s knowledge. We make ourselves increasingly powerful creators and destroyers as we acquire knowledge of cause and effect, what we call science. We both advance and tear down all that is about us. The state of the world indicates that we are ruling with greater stupidity than wisdom. The perspectives of our animal brain and the unexamined acceptance of our nurturer’s traditions will continue to advocate for the survival of our self, our family, and our tribe at the expense of all others. Our history of harmful confrontation and war will continue unless we add sanity to self-mastery ; until we learn to question normality and teach ourselves a newer way of thinking, ANWOT.
The “animal portion” of our brain has earned its name because it is preprogrammed with “software” that advocates “animal” behavior – survival of the fittest, fight or flight, my way the only way. The cerebral cortex that makes us human is a tabula rasa, a blank or unwritten tablet. It is like a new computer, with limited files but ready to accept whatever input our first masters type into our keyboard. This is why the same morsel of meat that results in delightful anticipation by one individual is a source of revulsion to another whose cultural upbringing forbids eating it. Even simple symbols such as a cross, a crescent, a six-pointed star and a swastika can summon powerful but totally opposite thoughts and emotions according to one’s early training. This is also why some “leaders” who have decades to program immature minds can easily create martyrs, kamikaze pilots and suicide bombers, while they characteristically isolate themselves from the sights, sounds, and smells of human destruction. How shall we explain why, throughout history, virtually every religion honors those who create harm to nonbelievers in the name of their God? Is God confused, or are we?
Self-mastery is the process of adding sanity to the first controllers of our destiny. We do so through a newer way of thinking (ANWOT). ANWOT consists of mental skills that convey ownership of our thinking, that frees our will from domination by “other” masters to create genie hood. Humanmind, properly educated in sane thinking, provides us sufficient will power to overrule much of nature’s and our nurturers’ control over our destiny. While other creatures reflexively follow destiny’s course according to the data received, we are equipped to act on the meaning our freedom organ assigns to the data. We create, dwell, and actively intervene in our own private mental world. We study the rules, challenge and modify them. Our freedom organ converts physical energy into mental energy and initiates will power to convert mental energy into physical action.
nerves/hormones/etc. → concepts/thinking→ will power → physical action
Properly schooled, we make our cerebral cortex the home of sanity – common sense, wisdom, collaboration for mutual gain, prevention, and the qualities we identify as humane. Otherwise, our intelligence remains a servant to our animal brain and the traditions of our nurturers. A popular science fiction theme is that computers will become so smart that they will take over and rule all life including humankind. We are that computer, so powerful that we have already overtaken much of what nature and nurture make of us. We simultaneously create civilization and become our own worst enemy by proliferating weapons of self-annihilation. Informed experts tell us to expect their use in our lifetime or within our children’s unless we take urgent action to popularize sane thinking.
I estimate that in order to prevent human catastrophe and create world peace, we require a grass roots advocacy of one million ANWOT teachers whose sanity exceeds their normality. I urge you to review the Common Sense Test of Common Sense (stren #91) and question yourself to determine if you are one of those exceptional individuals who will acquire ANWOT and become one of Einstein’s army to educate our seven billion neighbors.