Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Changing Views

One of the thing I struggle with when friends, family or people I know have mental health issues is that they are normally far more of an expert than I am. There isn't much I can say. This is obvious. People tend to show interest in things that are relevant to them. Michael J. Fox knows more about Parkinson's disease because he got it. Anyone who has an issue that affects them, especially one that disrupts their lives, will get to know as much about it as possible.

So when someone is depressed, or has anorexia etc., they will usually know significantly more than you will even be able to read up on. I like the idea that I can help my friends. I like the idea that when they speak to me, they feel better afterwards. I am a do gooder. Taking a step back is incredibly difficult. Watching an expert you care about doing something that makes no sense requires incredible restraint.

It is not far from our regular approach to 'mental issues' that aren't diseases. We all have a worldview that can not be displaced by logic. Most of the time we have heard the arguments against our worldview many, many times. We are the experts in rebuffing the arguments or withdrawing into a defensive shell. It is almost impossible to change someone's worldview. Only they can change it. I don't think our perspectives are static for the simple reason that no one I have ever met has a consistent worldview. We all carry ideas around that contradict each other. Normally we can get away with this because we can use different views in different bubbles. When two of our ideas clash, we get cognitive dissonance. The two ideas will fight, and the one that is most important to us will change.

Telling someone a story that doesn't resonate with their World View is pointless

That is why we need to be patient about changing people's minds. A Professor I met the other day says this is the approach he takes in teaching. He repeats ideas in small doses. Slowly, he sees the penny drop for more and more students. Some eyes remain blank, but there is nothing you can do about that. People only absorb ideas when they want to absorb ideas. We overestimate how much we can do in the short term, but we underestimate how much we can do in the long term by doing a little bit at a time. I think we learn about the big ticket items that change our worldview in the same way. Through drips.

It can be ridiculously frustrating when someone believes something, or does something that makes no sense, rationally or emotionally. This is true of mental health issues, and it is true of each and every one of us. We all have our own special flavour of crazy. Other people's craziness can make us angry.

Changes happen gradually, and it is hard to accept that listening to and trying to understand someone else's worldview is the most effective way of both people ending up better off.
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