Monday, May 3, 2010

The Folly of Doubt


I figured I would just a ramble on a little bit about doubt.  I recently experienced a fit of doubt, it often comes with other emotional side effects, such as; Depression, anxiety, fear, emptiness, loneliness, lack of self-worth and more.  I guess I always had that feeling that once a hurdle was overcome once, it was in my past, safely overcome and dealt with, so it may never cross my path again.  But that was probably ignorant of me, but I did like to believe once something was accomplished, it was done, and need not be handled a second time.  I’m childish in that way I guess.

But the truth is, I have to face it on a weekly basis.  Something always pops up during the week that makes me stop and question.  A lot of times, it’s a site or information I read on the internet somewhere, that conflicts with an idea or belief I had.  I wont just accept anything that I run across, it has to bring something to the table to stimulate my questioning.  Whether it be pictures, or evidence, or wording, it’s always something.  But, most often, it’s really none of these, just me who gets in my own way.  Pictures don’t actually sway me much, but a video can.  I go to youtube a lot and watch all kinds of videos, it’s a nice hobby to pass the time.  Evidence can quickly catch my attention, especially people who claim to have evidence against something I believe.

When it comes down to evidence, it usually involves tests, or studies science has done.  Then people quickly run and grab the findings and point to different parts of the results to emphasize their claim by pointing out evidence.  This can be very confusing when you go to different sites or sources pointing to the same tests and studies, but different parts of it, to back up their claims.  For instance, a skeptic could make a video showing a specific part of the test or study, showing how something is wrong, or fake or whatever.  If they ’word’ their video correctly, they can create a compelling case against something you thought was real, or something you just personally believed in, which in turn, can and probably will create doubt.

Wording is so important when it comes to expressing what you believe in, and trying to get others to believe in it too.  This is especially true when the level of vocabulary is higher then your own, it has a tendency to bring authority to the subject, and therefore is more inclined to pull upon your will and beliefs, making it waver.  No worries from me though, I suck at wording.  If you stop and think about the things in life that make you stop and question, it generally involves 2 to 3 things or more.  Evidence, Wording and Confidence.

Confidence to me is one the most important things, but it can also easily be faked.  Although on it’s own, it’s worthless, it is what makes evidence and wording shine.  Let’s take the video example from above and apply it a second time.  Let’s say, you believe in Psychic Abilities, I figured it would be fitting… And you’re on youtube cruising around looking at videos, and your stumble across a video that claims to prove all psychic phenomena are fake, so out of curiosity, you give it a look.  The video has all three, evidence wording and confidence from the presenter, to make the video a smooth representation.  To you, the person doing the video gives off the feel that he/she knows what it is he/she is talking about.  The person is confident in presenting this evidence, wording it elegantly.  The video itself may have even branched into areas you haven’t looked into yet, and this adds more pressure to your beliefs to hold it’s ground.

This happens to me all the time.  I run across places or information that is presented to me in a way that is slightly over my head, in a confident and elegant fashion.  It even makes me feel a bit dumb from time to time, or maybe makes me question if I jumped before I looked ahead to see if I had gathered all the information to make a well informed decision about what I was getting into and what I decided to believe in.  In fact, some places have been so good at it, for a short time, I did drop everything I believed in and took up what they where saying as truth.  They had the evidence after all, they definitely gave me the impression they knew what they where talking about, as well and giving me the impression I wasn’t fully informed, or I was even duped into believing in something that was completely fake, as if I had been had….

I will be the first to admit, I’m not the strongest willed person, and I consider myself more open minded then many people around me.  Hell, I sometimes even waver at times when people are just confident in what they say, even if they can’t back up their claims.  Worst yet is, if someone purposes an idea that conflicts with mine, my brain seems to lock up, as if it seized.  The harder I try to dispute such claims, the more it locks up.  The social norm can also be a factor.  People have a  tendency to judge you on small things, and then label you based on a single attribute of yours, this can and has caused problems with me.  So after years of this, I began to wonder if I was right, or if I was wrong.  If I was right, how do I dispute it to those so willing to crush my beliefs.

I honestly can’t answer that.  The best advice I can give you, is if you are having doubt, go out and do more looking around in the area.  I know now, I will never be able to sit down and dispute a topic to the degree others can, I’m just not that good.  The only offense I really have is defense.  Learn what I can and try and understand what I can.  For instance, I know if two different people look at the findings of a study or test run by science regarding a topic such as psychic phenomena, that each person can see different results.  People see and believe what they want to see and believe.  People are biased like that.  I know for instance that if I run across a video that supports psychic phenomena, I will be more inclined to believe it then toss it aside, the only exception being it was so poor or too wild of a story to be real in any way.  But my personality also likes to give people the benefit of the doubt.

There’s only one way I fight evidence, and that’s with evidence.  First, I begin to doubt, and wonder if it’s true, so I go take a look.  And I usually look in the skeptics area first… what do they have to bring to the table that I have overlooked.  I try to read up on where they are standing the best that I can, but I always keep an eye out for holes in their argument.  If I find anything suspicious, even if I can’t quite put my finger on it, I will then begin to look at their claims more closely, specifically trying to find a source of information that is trustworthy that is the least biased, that goes over the case study or experiment from beginning to end, and then I draw my own conclusion.  The second and probably best way to gather evidence is through personal experience.

Personal experience is so very important.  First you need to understand, that what ever you feel or uncover, is for you and you alone.  You can’t really hand out personal experience as the word of god.  People don’t take personal experiences as fact.  Hell, most will try and use it against you.  But at the end of the day, it has to be important to you.  You, after all, did have the experience, so on some level it was real… wasn’t it?  Only you can say yes or no, no one else can say it for you, because it wasn’t them who had the experience, was it. 

Anyways, I’m starting to run in circles I think now.  Somewhere along the lines here I lost track of where I was going and I think it just turned into me venting a bit.  But I will leave you with this.  Science is leaning more and more closer to the paranormal each day.  It’s a subject up till recently was regarded as myth.  I’ve found that many studies that presumably proved that any psychic ability or phenomena was fake, either did the opposite, and they only showed the low points or tried to explain the findings as incoherent anomalies.  Or, the test or study either didn’t exist at all, or wasn’t specifically done for psychic phenomena.  I also know that people don’t know everything.  So if someone shows me compelling evidence against or for something, I know that test was done with the information we have available right now, and the results where scrutinized by methods based off what we know right now.  So they could have missed something key completely.

Lastly, a lot of people tell me one thing or another about something they’ve read about how it’s fake.  Second hand information is never completely trustworthy regardless of the source.  I do a lot of reading and give people the benefit of the doubt when I read or watch something, but at the end of the day, if all I do is watch and read then take what they say as truth, then I have lied if I pass it off to the next guy as truth as well.  This is why personal experience is so important, if nothing else but to yourself.  If they say something is someway, and I take it and tell it to the next guy without trying it myself, then how can I be sure what I’m saying is even true?  So understanding that a lot of what people say to you is just second hand information being passed on again, makes it a little easier to deal with, even if you can’t immediately dispute it. 

Anyways, that’s my little ramble… you don’t have to take it to heart… oh damn, I forgot one major doubt.  Just plain ol’ self doubt.  For no apparent reason you maybe begin to question if your ability to do something.  Ever get the feeling like, “Ya, I know it exists, but maybe it’s just that ‘I’ can’t do it”.  This question can pester me to death when I begin something new.  This doubt stems purely from your own strength and will.  The best way I find to turn this around, is to sit on it.  Dwell on the idea that you might not be able to.  Try to feel your emotional state at the moment.  You might realize that it’s just your emotions talking, maybe out of frustration, fear or something else.  Once I realize my emotions are playing a big part, I slowly try and turn it around.  One way I do this is by re-evaluating what I believe in and why, and how I came to believing in it.  Another way is I question why I believe I don’t believe I can do it, and see if I can find evidence somewhere to suggests I can.  This doesn’t have to be about the subject in question specifically, sometimes I look at other things in my life that I at first didn’t believe I could do, but eventually ended up doing.  Or, I try and figure out why I can’t do it, and begin to fix whatever is stopping me in the first place.

Doubt will likely continually afflict you throughout your life, and it likely will be where your spirits are at the moment.  Are they low or are the high.  I personally believe doubt creates growth, in one way or another.   Though I don’t personally believe there is some miracle cure to doubt, I do believe there are ways to help alleviate the potency or even turn it around.  Though, I’m still looking for the miracle cure to doubt and instant self belief where it never wavers.  Or the perfect formula to psychic and spiritual potential, I know that at the end of the day, it will have to be me walking on my path, discovering myself and dealing with my own hurdles that allow me to progress and grow and come to my own beliefs in my own way.  But, I still have a tendency to want to look else where at those who are where I want to be, and have them show me how they did it.

 I know I can learn from them, but I also must learn to apply what they tell me in my own way…

Anyways, I think I’m done… I doubt this was helpful (No pun intended…?) but I do know that many people are afflicted with doubt, and if nothing else, at least you know your not alone… It affects everyone, and by overcoming it, hopefully we grow just a little…

Phew... long post...


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