You probably want to dismiss this whole thing. You may even feel a knee-jerk urge to dismiss it out of hand, and not devote any further thought to it. An urge that you can feel ... in your gut? Nice try, shit.
You Have Probably Brainwashed Yourself Into A Completely False Idea Of Who You Are
Here's an important question almost no one thinks to ask: Do cult leaders believe what they're saying? After all, L. Ron Hubbard clearly knew his new religion was a scam at first -- he borrowed its mythology from his own sci-fi stories, which he wrote to make a quick buck. But by all accounts, he later spent endless hours "auditing" himself to try to purge his soul of the evil alien spirits -- you know, the ones he had invented years earlier. It's almost as if by repeating his ludicrous lies, he indoctrinated himself.
That, it appears, is exactly what happened. And almost every deranged cult leader in history followed that exact path. Do you remember that weird terror attack that happened in Tokyo in 1995? A Japanese doomsday cult unleashed nerve gas on a subway, killing a dozen people (which would have been thousands if they hadn't fucked up the release of the gas). The cult was led by a guy named Shoko Asahara, who had been a small-time con artist going back to his teenage years, running a number of scams which he eventually expanded into lucrative businesses. He sold snake oil cures out of an acupuncture shop for a while, then started putting ads in sci-fi magazines offering to teach mind powers like telepathy and levitation -- for a reasonable fee, of course. In less than a decade, he went from telling silly lies to get cash from gullible dupes to unleashing nerve gas in order to trigger Armageddon, believing that he and his followers would then ascend to inherit the Earth.
That's weird, right? That garden-variety shitheads wind up joining their own cults in suicide pacts to fulfill some "prophecy" that they themselves wrote late at night over a bottle of wine? But that, my friends, is the magic of the human brain. Not only can it be reprogrammed by anyone who knows the method, but it can also reprogram itself, unintentionally, without realizing it. But that could never happen to you and me, right? Haha. Ha.
OK, let's now think about all of the little self-deceptions we pile up through the day -- like how nearly everyone thinks they're an above-average driver, even though that's obviously impossible. Well, you remember George Costanza's rule that the key to lying is making yourself believe it? There's a theory that humans evolved self-deception specifically because it helps us deceive others. In order to survive, you need other humans to cooperate with you. In order to make sure they do that, you need to be able to convince them you're great. In order to convincingly tell that outrageous lie, you need to make yourself belief you're great.
You lie to yourself, then you believe the lie, then you make others believe the lie which you now believe is true. It's lies all the way down. This is why if you go to a primitive tribe without access to mirrors or clear reflective surfaces of water and show them a reflection of their own faces, they freak the fuck out. ("They were paralyzed; after the first startled response -- covering their mouths and ducking their heads -- they stood transfixed ...") Living their lives without a clear reflection as a reference, they each had built up in their minds an idea of what they surely must look like. Maybe they always secretly assumed they were among the most attractive, despite their public shows of humility. Then bam, the disgusting reality was suddenly staring back at them. "That's what I look like?"
Well, if you had a magic mirror that could reflect back upon you exactly how others see your attitudes, mannerisms, emotions, habits, etc, it would be the same, only about a hundred times stronger. A hand clasped over your mouth, feeling sick, staring at the "reflection" of a total stranger. Anyway, buy my book. Oh, wait, one more thing ...
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For more from David Wong, check out 6 Reasons Good People Turn Into Monsters and Your Brain Needs Silence (And Probably Isn't Getting It).
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