Some stages of developing discernment

We all begin naive. We typically learn language rapidly but learn discernment slowly.

If a statement is made to a young child, is it typical for them to question the logic of a statement (or the balance of evidence relating to the statement)? Or is it more typical for them to relate to most any statement as an established reality? Do they relate to various claims as merely claims… or as “things I already know?”

Now let’s skip to a similar issue with typical adults. Adults may have assembled a rather long list of “things that WE already know.” Not only do they “know” various things individually, but they also can list lots of other adults who agree with them about those things.

They may “know” things about science in general, about health in particular, about investment markets, about politics (and certain politicians), and so on. Any or all of these things that they “know” may be presumptions that they may be rather hesitant to critically question.

One word for such a developmental stage is “brainwashed.” So, how do people relate to the idea that they may have been or may still be, at least in some ways, brainwashed?

A common response is simple denial or contradiction: “No, I am not!” There may be a sense of shame, aggression, or defensiveness (against an offense or “being offended”). The basic message may be “I do not want that to be even partly true, because I want that to be entirely false.”

Another common response is “Yes, I used to be, but not anymore. Plus, brainwashing is a horrible thing that we really should unite to uproot and prevent. People who are brainwashed are so stupid and embarrassing. They are basically ruining my life, don’t you agree?”

To me, that type of response is akin to the stage of grieving known as “bargaining.” In simpler terms, it is a diversion away from the topic of an individual’s level or discernment or brainwashing and toward the topic of condemning brainwashing in general plus probably condemning the social institutions most involved in the brainwashing of people.

A less common response might be “If there are any important issues about which I might still be brainwashed, I would be eager to identify them and correct any conceptual errors. Also, I am intrigued about the common mechanisms for brainwashing, plus why certain concepts have been publicized in various rituals of brainwashing.”

The latter tangent might seem a bit like a diversion. But is it really?

Either way, how about the following interaction?

“You might be brainwashed about at least one important issue.”

“That is possible. So, the big question then is this: what issues are most important to me and how can I develop clarity about those issues?”

Naivete and brainwashing are just points of contrast to discernment and expertise. Consider that the issues of “how brainwashing is conducted” and “why are certain concepts popularized through brainwashing” are at least in some small way diversions from the core issue of “what issues are most important to me?”

I could explore “what topics or outcomes are most important to me?” Health would be on my list- but not just the absence of disability or a diagnosed disease. My interest in health would involve the presence of physical fitness and endurance and vitality. It would involve not just the absence of immunodeficiency but the presence of robust and resilient immunity.

Next, a chronic anxiety about preventing specific conditions or reversing specific conditions would not fit my definition of mental health. Even if a specific diagnosis gets made, that is still just one detail within a much larger set of details.

Further, my personal health might only be one portion of my concern for health. The health of other specific individuals (or even specific groups) might also be a very high priority for me. Indeed, I might be quite willing to risk my health (or even to deliberately sacrifice it) in the interests of a certain specific person or small group.

What about my overall welfare including wealth and social influence? In case the word “health” has not already included those related topics, then I might explicitly present them as “also rather important.” Again, my own personal welfare and prosperity might be just one detail within a broader concern for the welfare of one or more specific other people.

I am alert here to one notable idea: “my interest in the benefits that I can promote for other people is an interest justifies my interest in my own well-being.” By the way, I generally reject that idea.

I consider that idea to be socially-delivered and promoted. It is a message of the invalidation of the natural urges for self-preservation. I question the idea that “the whole” must be in any particular way fundamentally more important than “the individual.” Often, those who promote a specific concept about “what is best for the collective” may be influenced (however consciously) by what is actually best for them as individuals and as an elite class of people.

I’m not offended by that possibility. Indeed it seems rather predictable or perhaps even inevitable. Self-interest is natural. Further, in their own self-interests, certain groups might promote a shaming or invalidating of self-interest among the underclass of human resources or slaves.

Next, let’s focus directly on as few contrasting ways of relating to the topic of wealth. There are a few developmental stages of relating to that topic.

One stage is “I don’t need to concern my self with it because my parents or other providers are better than me at addressing it.” That is a mode of surrender or abdication, and there are certainly occasions when such a mode might be quite reliable (if only for a while).

Another option is “the entire topic is beneath me. I condemn attention to the topic by anyone. It is taboo.”

How about this? “What I already know about the topic is all that I will ever need to know. I’m not interested in the input or assistance of anyone at all- or certainly not anyone that is not already someone I am involving in the promotion of my wealth and welfare.”

Is the following familiar? “What I already accept as true about the topic is the definite and absolute boundary of reality. Anything that I accept as relevant or true must be fundamentally infallible. There is literally no possibility of imprecision about my comprehension of any and all sub-topics related to wealth and welfare. Anything that I currently reject or that I do not recognize as familiar must inevitably be worthless.”
What other ways of relating to wealth are possible? “At some point in the future -whether distant or near- I might learn details about this topic that are more relevant than I currently recognize. I may currently have imprecise or totally inaccurate concepts about this topic (and, if so, I would value correcting whatever imprecisions or inaccuracies are most relevant to my well-being). Or, some of my ideas that are currently accurate may eventually be inaccurate. I want to maintain discernment and expertise over time. Further, there may be people or groups that I currently rely on that I might eventually choose to rely on less or even not at all. There may be people or groups that in the future I may rely on more than now… or even that I currently do not rely on at all but may choose to do so in the future.”

Another way to categorize these various narratives would be on a spectrum of relative “openness to responsibility, learning, and adaptive prudence.” Some may relate to wealth in a way that is relatively less open to cultivating and preserving prosperity. Others may relate to wealth in a way that is relatively more open.

One might ask “How open could I be to the cultivating of prosperity, health, wealth?” That question is formed in a rather “rhetorical” way (as in not especially “actionable”).

Another option is “How could I be newly open to the cultivating of prosperity, health, wealth?” That question can lead to a discerning in regard to any current investments of time and money, as well as in regard to various sources of information or ways of thinking. Maybe a regular “ranking” of current “habits” could be considered, like to measure which things are most valuable or least valuable. Those seeming least valuable can be decreased or even discontinued.

So, to be newly open, one might first consciously “detach” from prior habits- if only briefly. Basically, if a schedule is full, cancel at least one appointment.

Or perhaps the “schedule” is not already full. For those who are bored or anxious, perhaps “an abundance of time relative to known options” will lead to seeking new options. Obviously, this composition is not featuring specific options, although it might be something of an invitation to conversations in regard to how I have changed my focus over time (perhaps including very recently).

How do I use my time? In one case, I use it in a business partnership that “leverages” a relatively common expertise of my own in coordination with other people’s expertise (and through a business that I operate entirely online and in which most anyone could participate). In another case, I use my time in a business partnership that leverages a rather uncommon expertise of my own in coordination with the assets of other people (but requiring virtually no expertise or time on their part).

Of course, those are just two cases (and, for both cases, I have invested several thousand hours of my time across years or even decades). Either of those enterprises, I would expect to eventually (perhaps in a few decades) either sell to other entrepreneurs or simply discontinue. Likewise, I have invested several thousand hours in to a variety of other things that, at least as of now, are not especially valuable to me.

The values of individuals naturally evolve over months and years and decades- sometimes rather suddenly. Indeed, the cumulative “valuations” of the investors in various markets can also change – even quite suddenly.

Maybe they rather suddenly come to value the accumulation of a certain currency to cover decreased revenues or to cover increased debts. Maybe they rather suddenly come to recognize the excessive risks of owning various other “speculative assets” (such as real estate or gold or stocks), and then seek to rapidly “liquidate” those speculative investments (as in to sell those investments in order to accumulate a certain currency).

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