Opinions [mostly rant, input welcome]

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Opinions [mostly rant, input welcome]

Post by Hirundo Bos on Tue Apr 21, 2015 4:29 pm

I'm exhausting myself trying to understand my own opinions. Well, there was a heated argument yesterday, and now I'm in one of those moods where I feel like turning off some filters and say things that may be wrong according to my own opinions, but then I don't understand my opinions, so I'm not really sure. And so many of my opinions these days are about gender and privilege and politics and I have most of the privileges I can imagine (including living in a welfare state) that other people here don't, and so if I understand my own opinions correctly, I'm not sure if I should come here and rant about it. But it's all confusing, I get into discussions, defend positions that aren't directly about me, wonder if I'm doing too little, too much, and the things I'm saying, much of which I've learned about here, sound about right, but I don't really understand them. And I feel like I have to get to the bottom of everything to be able to speak about it, and have this imaginary dialogues where I always come up with questions that I can't answer, and I try to figure out the answer, but when I get into actual discussions, they understandably don't follow the scripts I've drawn up in my head. I feel I have to get to the bottom of everything, and at the same time, I feel my understanding of the world is really only on the surface (but it's such a large and convoluted surface I'm able to fool most everybody else). So I don't understand my opinions, can't defend them against imaginary dialogue partners, and it's exhausting.

So, if any of that makes sense (it looks a bit rambling to my eyes) and someone have mental resources, input will be welcome, if not, treat it as a rant. But one question – it feels like this might be a little autism related, and I wonder if any of it looks familiar to anyone with a similar brain?
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Re: Opinions [mostly rant, input welcome]

Post by reboot on Tue Apr 21, 2015 4:49 pm

First off, the topics you are pondering are complex and give everyone who works/thinks on them at any depth a brain ache. And then there is the attempting to understand issues of groups you are not a part of, and in many cases have privilege over, which can never be viscerally understood by nonmembers no matter how hard they try. The best an outsider can achieve is emotional and intellectual understanding. Outsiders can never have complete knowledge.

I do not know how much of the struggle is autism related. I can see how it could be. I also recognize the struggle.

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Re: Opinions [mostly rant, input welcome]

Post by Hirundo Bos on Tue Apr 21, 2015 6:37 pm

Thanks. Confusion mostly gone now, not even sure how much was about groups and belonging and privilege, and how much was about any kind of opinion on any kind of topic. But clearing up about groups was helpful.
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Re: Opinions [mostly rant, input welcome]

Post by Hirundo Bos on Wed Apr 22, 2015 11:03 am

Got my mind more together today. A bit embarassed about this thread... I don't think there's anything really embarassing about it? But I was in a state of mind when I wrote that's coded as "embarassing" in my mind. (may have something to do with vulnerability)

The thing that caused most brainache was a political discussion from the day before, that was not directly about groups and indentity, although my background with that person involved disagreements on those things too. And in addition, I was trying to figure out the whole Hugo thing.

When I wrote the post, a loud voice in my head was saying "I just wish I didn't have to hold opinions on all these issues; the reason it veered into discussion of privilege was an awareness somewhere that I really don't, I have the privilege of being able to ignore them if I want to.

I do wish, though, that I was able to handle having opinions better, and that the algorithms I use to behave in a proper way (like not complaining to loudly about myself from a position of privilege) will someday be better calibrated, because I'm sometimes (autistically?) overwhelmed by the way my social brain is working now.
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Re: Opinions [mostly rant, input welcome]

Post by reboot on Wed Apr 22, 2015 1:20 pm

Do not be embarrassed by the post. You articulated what many struggle with quite clearly. And having opinions is hard, especially when trying to reconcile them. I still struggle with my support of globalization and my concern for workers, the environment, etc.
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Re: Opinions [mostly rant, input welcome]

Post by jcorozza on Thu Apr 23, 2015 1:09 pm

Hirundo Bos wrote:
When I wrote the post, a loud voice in my head was saying "I just wish I didn't have to hold opinions on all these issues; the reason it veered into discussion of privilege was an awareness somewhere that I really don't, I have the privilege of being able to ignore them if I want to.


I totally understand this feeling. For one, the more opinions you have, and the stronger you hold them, the more likely you are to encounter conflict. And the more you think about some of these issues, the more problems you see with the way some people behave (towards groups, towards individuals, etc.), and it can feel incredibly overwhelming. And there are those times when I can absolutely get behind both sides of an argument, and that makes me feel pretty helpless...
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Re: Opinions [mostly rant, input welcome]

Post by Dan_Brodribb on Thu Apr 23, 2015 3:45 pm

Great topic, Hirundos.

As reboot says, it's a common human problem. A big part of the training in my particular faith is about learning to let go of our personal opinions without it turning into blind obedience or ignoring our responsibility to ourselves and others.

It's really, really hard.

It's a useful pursuit though.

One of the remarkable things about personal beliefs, opinions, ideas and points of view is how inconsistent they are, how changeable they are, and how often we act differently than our stated beliefs.

It's also quite amazing how most of the time we don't notice this. In the moment, we think we've ALWAYS believed a certain way and forget the things that lead us there.

The challenge is, we have a tendency to treat our opinions and beliefs as a part of who we are. And we see other people's beliefs as a big part of who they are in spite of the fact that those beliefs are inconsistent, contradictory, context-driven, and changeable.

The other place holding on to beliefs and opinions tightly hurts us is that often when reality conflicts with our beliefs we start thinking that our beliefs are right and reality is wrong. Or we cherry-pick, rationalize, deny, etc. to make reality match our beliefs. Which can lead to painful results and difficulties in our lives.

I think its okay to have opinions. I think its impossible to get rid of them. But it is helpful to recognize them as opinions and beliefs as opposed to thinking they are the way the world is or the way the world 'should' be.

I found it scary at first, but as I've gotten better at it, it has started to feel freeing.

Because if what is true is going to be true whether or not I believe in it, then the truth becomes something i can trust. I don't have to be paralyzed with inaction because I need to know the Exact Right Answer before I do or say something. I can be less defensive about the opinions I do hold because I know the truth will out itself. I don't have to cling to, justify, or double-down on a course of action or belief that isn't working because letting go of it is a threat to my self-identity.


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Re: Opinions [mostly rant, input welcome]

Post by Hirundo Bos on Fri May 01, 2015 6:59 am

When I try to examine the question of attachment to my opinions... I’m not exactly sure what comes out.

I'm aware of how mutable they are, very aware. I observe how they change in front of my eyes, observe how I turn from being against something, to for it, and back to against again. I observe how too strong an argument for the side I’m for (or the ”side” I’m ”for”) makes me call up the arguments for the other side. And that's actually one of the things that bother me...

– for one thing, opinions mean belonging. Like in this place – there are things I believe now that I’ve been more uneasy about in the past, about different social issues, the ethics and etiquettes around privilege (there it is again, privilege, it does seem closely entwined with this). It feels like I have attained those beliefs, through internal work: I’ve learned to understand why they’re true, and because of it fit better in with most people I like and admire. Like in this place.

But knowing how mutable opinions are, having observed my own beliefs change across time and different contexts, I sometimes worry that my understanding will slip away, that I’ll go back to feeling less at home with those people, maybe find other people and start the circuit again.

In fact, that friend I argued which who set off this thread, we bonded on a previous turn, over opinions I have now abandoned.

So knowing how superficial my opinions are, it makes me feel rootless, not free.

– there's also the ethical side, where privilege comes in again. My opinions are sometimes about things where people other than me bears most of the consequces, and all the this may be true or not, I’ll happily listen to all sides, I might well change my mind about it tomorrow – it's not really appropriate, is it? It's so easy to listen to all sides when my own health, safety, well-being etc. aren't what's at stake.

– finally, I often feel emotionally detached from my opinions, but not in the way described above. Not in the way that means freedom. My emotions are still stuck somewhere in the orbit of my opinions, meaning I can get very upset about them, like when I wrote the OP. But the locus of my upset isn't within the opinion itself. It's rather from the sense that I’m not as convicted about this as I ought to. That I can't argue convincingly for my opinions, because I don't care as much about them as I ought to, and then I auto-pilot into anger because that's the emotion I most strongly associate with opinions. Or I get frustrated, as I often do, with my perceived inability to bring my meaning across.

I’m not sure if that paragraph makes sense at all... and I’m beginning to think that detachment isn't the word. My emotions aren't detached, they're immature. Uncalibrated and ungrounded. Not in touch with the core of ethics that drives the search for right opinions... not in touch with the core of identity that drives growth among people I admire.

Does anyone here feel more maturely about their opinions? Their beliefs, values, ethics? Is it possible to say something about what such maturity would be like?
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Re: Opinions [mostly rant, input welcome]

Post by Enail on Fri May 01, 2015 10:45 am

TBH, Hirundo, I suspect everyone's opinions are often quite mutable, changed by experience and surroundings and even mood, and that you may just be more self-aware about it than most. I've certainly changed my opinions in the ways you describe, and I'd generally describe myself as a pretty strongly opinionated person and more likely to change the opinions of those around me than to be changed by them!

I do have a few basic values that are pretty solidly held and unlikely to change a lot, that guide the range of what opinions are possible for me, or maybe act as a moon that sets the tides of my opinions in particular ways regardless of any other influences on them. But my individual opinions can change quite a lot, and sometimes I do notice that they've been influenced unconsciously by environment rather than well thought-out.

It sounds to me like self-awareness and self-questioning may actually be a moon-value for you - whatever you believe or whatever opinions you hold, you want to think about why you believe those things and be aware of reasons for or against those opinions. That seems like a rather mature way to approach belief to me (though I suspect maturity is a matter of opinion to at least some degree rather than something with a set meaning)
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Re: Opinions [mostly rant, input welcome]

Post by Hirundo Bos on Sun May 03, 2015 5:37 pm

Moon values. I like that metaphor, a lot. It does give some consistence to all the ebbing and flowing... and yeah, self-awareness and self questioning, and openness towards criticism are among mine. (Well, when it comes to criticism I've also learned that it hurts less when you're open towards it.) And the importance of ethics, personal responsibility, being good (or trying to be, I have definitely not always succeeded with that. again, after I've opened up a bit towards criticism, it's helped).

And I think, creating nice things, or doing nice things, are values I strive for as well.

I may have become somewhat kinder to myself over the years, less prepared to carry a lot of personal cost...

The maturity I speak of, though, is more of an emotional maturity... where emotions are more in touch with content, more sensitive to nuance. Understanding my emotions at all is new to me, and I may have a lot to learn yet about using them in a healthy way.


Last edited by Hirundo Bos on Sun May 03, 2015 5:39 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Overuse of the not so specific word "thing")
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Re: Opinions [mostly rant, input welcome]

Post by Hirundo Bos on Thu May 07, 2015 11:14 am

I am always, and I mean constantly, rehersing my opinions, going over the arguments, over and over again. It takes the shape of imagined conversations with people I’ve discussed them with before. Those of the discussions that have been heated in real life are heated in my imagination too, and the emotions that I call up are real. They are emotions like fear, anger, abandonment, and communicative frustration.

Rehershal of heated discussions usually takes precedence over fun or neutral ones. Which means, when I have a heated discussion in recent memory, or know I’m about to enter one, they’re the ones my brain picks to reherse. I reherse them more obsessively than the others too.

I can sometimes push them away though by thinking of things I’m going to write instead. (Including posts like these.)

Argument rehershals take up a lot of mental space, take attention away from aesthetic experience, and sometimes from necessary tasks. They provide a lot of mental noise, and a lot of emotional strain. And in the end, they don't work.

You see... when I’m under strain or stress, my communicative abilities become... less than they normally are. I’m... not sure if this is similar or not to when other autistic people say they lose language, and if it's not, I'm sorry for touching on an experience that I haven't actually shared. In my case I still have language, it's just harder to think trough what I’m actually saying, and it's hard bordering on painful to take in what other people are saying and adjust my next response. It's painful in the way looking at sharp lights is painful. My emotional response to this is anger, which, of course, strains both me and the conversation further.

My cognitive response is to go into auto-pilot. (Or should I say auto-cue, like news readers are using?) Cling to the few scraps of thought I can find.

And I think the purpose of my rehershals is to feed my auto-pilot-auto-cue with lines for those moments. Only it doesn't work. Or rarely works. Because... ehm... people out in the real world tend to have other things to say than my mental models of them do when I reherse. And in my mind, they tend to nod and get it, when I finally manage to find the right wording. In real life people don’t do that, because they have, you know, their own points of view, not mine. And then most of the time, I don't really remember what I’ve rehersed anyway.

So I go over it in my head, try to cover every base, try to remember everything, everyhing, every expletive eventuality, every line I might know, all the time knowing that I won't, I’ll remember little and make use of even less. Much like... much like... when I have an exam and try to memorize the entire contents (if not the wording) of the textbook but know that I can't, but hopefully enough will stick that I’ll be able to reconstruct the rest, because I don't know how to take notes or plan study session in advance, and I have this number of pages still to read and this many hours left to study, and THANKS SWEARWORD I don't have to deal with exams anymore.

They're both exhausting, for many of the same reasons.

So, uhm, does anyone know any practical ways to train my brain out of this habit – teach it not to spend all this effort rehersing arguments it won't have any use for anyway? Or as a temporary solution, ways to get out of heated discussions before they end up on the schedule for rehersal? Perhaps an easier way to bring across the things I've just said in this post?

(I think I'll cross-post this to my blog.)
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