The Open Mind

Some doors are set so that they may be used as an exit, but not as an entrance.  To say the gate is open doesn’t necessarily define how wide the opening is, or what can pass through it.  If a cat can barely squeeze by, the cow might have problems with it.

If a person claims to have an open mind, it doesn’t mean they are open to any and all proposals.  They will still be inclined to set some restrictions on what they will or won’t allow to be worth their consideration.  They will be likely to say they’ll be open to reasonable suggestions, but the caveat will always be what they consider to be reasonable.  And a lot of that will be determined by both what they think they have discovered, and also by what they have been taught to believe.  Yet, there is no axiom that would require either of those prerequisite beliefs to be true, or even based on any truths.

Once a position is adopted, and the person adopting it believes they are correct, those who would disagree with them will most likely be thought to be either flawed in their thinking, or unreasonable if not easily swayed.  Fact is, reason has little to do with it.  Reason considers probabilities and obstacles in a transition, whereas emotion defines the points of the beginning and end on a map.  Additionally, emotion is what is used to determine preferences.

This is often true, in fact, almost entirely with choices in fashion.  The self image desired while wearing a certain pair of shoes may have little to do with the benefits of, or the assistance the shoes will be with comfort, standing, walking or running.  And so it is with virtually everything a person chooses to buy, emotion will win out over reason almost all of the time, regardless of how analytical, practical, or logical they think they have been in making the decision.

So, while we may want to counter some unreasonable idea (ex: witchcraft) with logic, what we may be struggling with is the subjective emotion of fear:  Fear of being out of control; being wrong, being ridiculed instead of praised, or becoming despised by others who might strongly disagree with some new idea or decision that is in conflict with “the way things are done”.

If a person is not open to new ideas, trying to get them to consider them can often create tension.  And when made to feel tense, the fallback behavior you might expect from them may be predictable according to their personality, temperament, and social style based on what they feel is at risk by allowing some new proposition to be deemed valid.  Here are four general groups of styles, and how people in those subsets might respond (fallback behavior) to pressure to take on a precept that opposes something in their preexisting belief system:

1.) The assertive and emotionally controlled (DRIVER) may feel their authority, and thus their control is threatened, so they will likely dismiss you and become autocratic.  They may say something similar to:

“That is nonsense.  We don’t have time for that, and besides, I’ve already made my decision.”

2.) The unassertive and emotionally controlled (ANALYTIC) feels to be wrong is the greatest threat they ever feel.  They will likely avoid you, or at least avoid any deadline that adopts your proposition until they’ve had time to collect their own data to refute it.  Their data may not be accurate or true, but it will lean towards validating their own previously held opinion.  They may never confront you, but if you press them hard enough, they may be inclined to find an ally that will come to you and ask you to “lighten up”.

3.) The assertive and emotionally responsive (EXPRESSIVE) needs more than anything else not to lose their sense of worthiness that earns them applause.  They cannot stand having their ideas made to look ridiculous in front of their peers, or even total strangers, for that matter.  So, they may attack you, at least verbally.  I will not presume to spell out how they might respond as I did above for the driver, but you can presume it might be harsh with insults, rude language, and even fighting words.  You may not wish to hurt people’s feelings by acting that way, but while they rave on, your feelings are not a primary consideration as much as their need to feel like they are winning.  Even if you back off or give in to them, it does not mean their attack is over.  They might even come back with more rebuttal the next day or next week, and might want to fire a few volleys at you as the “opposition” whenever the subject comes up.

4.) The unassertive and emotionally responsive (AMIABLE) does not want you to dislike them, and is also concerned that some bad decision could cause others in their group to dislike, or even hate them.  If you press them too hard, they might appear to acquiesce if they cannot run away.  But they won’t.  The need to not be hated is likely to be too strong for them to dare risk that the “Emperor’s New Clothes” are invisible.  The other three won’t admit it easily either, but their reasons (motivation) are different.

While my overview using a tool of character analysis might be interesting, there are far deeper reasons other than my observations for why people think (or do not seem to think at all) as they do.  For those who wish a less superficial picture just based on reactions determined by style, there are many options available for reading things far more academic, and with much more detail given to specifics from a number of valid sources.

Lots of intelligent writings might help a person move beyond myth and superstition, along with disposing of all kinds of irrational presuppositions and prejudicial opinions.  I’ve run across three in particular that are absolutely brilliant books: One is by a physicist, one by a Neurologist, and one by a philosopher–all of these authors are vey highly respected in the scientific field and academic community.

Yet when I suspect a person might benefit from reading any of them, no matter how much I encourage it, I often find that they will not do so.  Further, they will become absolutely certain that it is a good idea to NOT read them, and become adamant about it if they dare peek at a few pages.  Usually after a short conversation I’ll find these people normally don’t read anything of substance, and are not inclined to ever do so.  When they do read, it will usually be some piece intending to reinforce their existing narrow opinions, and that is with rare exception.

Not surprisingly, when a person with an open mind does read them, they will easily see why a person with a closed mind will not get very far into them.  It’s almost like arguing the existence of Santa Claus with a four year old who has already been convinced Santa is real.  Adults are also guilty of that kind of a mindset. It is the same kind of fuzzy thinking held by certain aristocrats and clerics during the dark ages that once a person has been accused of witchcraft, they have to be found guilty and put to death.

Here are the three books I’d mentioned.  Once you have read them all, see how many other people you can find that have read even one of them all the way through.  You may not be surprised to find very few have, but if you’re like me and would want to live in a society where people are open to reason, you may be disappointed:

1.) “The Demon-Haunted World (Science As A Candle In The Dark)” ~ Carl Sagan, PhD;
2.) “ON BEING CERTAIN: Believing You Are Right Even When You’re Not” ~ Robert A. Burton, M.D.,
2.) “Breaking The Spell” ~ Daniel C. Dennett, PhD


The three books listed above were not chosen to reinforce any opinion I already had, but were referred to me by people whose academic thinking I respect, when I posed some questions that called for deeper answers than a simple conversation would be likely to afford.


7 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Linda Revels on November 23, 2013 at 8:13 pm

    Another Good One thanks…


  2. Fascinating post, Van! Certainly has me thinking, I can tell you!


  3. Posted by Jane Leonard on November 24, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    My Open Mind believes Bad Grandpa is a funny movie!


  4. Posted by Tippy Amick on November 24, 2013 at 2:23 pm

    Van – last year a study done at one of our prestigious universities (the exact institution escapes me) conducted an interesting study that basically concluded that we do not really want to hear the TRUTH so much from the media, as we want to be validated in our present beliefs they reported it on NPR radio. GEEZ ..


  5. Posted by Mickey Foster on November 24, 2013 at 4:02 pm

    I tend to agree with Tippy….the truth is not what we wish to hear unless is enhances our own thoughts, feelings and beliefs….I like to think that I have an open mind, but it most assuredly closes rapidly when I hear religion coming into play for social and political decisions…I can present the argument to my ex wife that she no longer deserves the rehabilitative alimony that I am required to send her each month, I can provide numbers that totally support my argument, but her mind will not consider what I propose……so, I believe that I have some beer in the refrigerator and that I shall drink some of that beer…..


  6. Posted by little d on November 24, 2013 at 5:50 pm

    Thanks for this post VT. ” All we have to fear is fear itself “. ” Do what you fear the most and the death of fear is certain “. Those that recognize the quotes above will recognize as well that although they speak of truth, they do not trump nor remove the recognition of casualty associated with their advice. They will not inspire the fear chained curiosities of People to learn, unlearn, and relearn either. Standing is King.

    What I refer to as ” Standing ” is the acceptance, participation, and / or validation of operations, ideologies, fears and responses no matter the actual benefits or liabilities. Our minds seek a comfort that can be found within the shelters of Standing. What works to bring long term or temporary peace to the mind is not the constant reminder of how immature and faulty its chosen processing capabilities are, but that it is safe to remain as it is, if safe is recognized as its product.

    Presently within the frameworks of Progress, the universal tool locking and unlocking its potential is money. The potential realized or existing has Standing among Peoples no matter its apparent success or failure, past or present, as I have suggested. When the administration of money says stop thinking, the majority will yield to its Standing. The mind needs only to be assured it has taken the safest route, and that it will be rewarded for its curiosity and not condemned to unleash it processing potential.

    For example, and there are many. To illustrate how quickly the mind and its potential can be deployed to depart from its current Standings choose any field of progress you want and follow the money. I suspect there would remain a Native Population of North Americans numbering into the millions if the curiosities capable of obtaining monetary support in Europe had failed in their case for Imperial expansion of territory by navigating the Oceans of a Standing Flat Earth. To note that it was centuries latter before the previously held Standing of a Flat Earth was widely dismissed is to acknowledge the realized and assumed safeties of Standings.

    In my opinion, where we may find the minds of our People today respective to their intellectual pursuits, are not the results of the minds potential, nor its curiosities, but to its acquiesce of Standing. It has been noted in the writings of many intellectuals that any tolerance and or support among past and current administrations of money to encourage the unchained minds to prosper in knowledge is limited in scope and practice, and only so within the chains of Educational Standing in place.

    A perpetual Paradox of progresses and digresses are repeated easily within a framework of this construct. ” There’s nothing new under the Sun ” describes metaphorically many observations relative to your post and my comments. We have within the potentials of our current and future minds unrealized processing power, but the mind will not wholeheartedly dedicate a function outside its safe zone, for its most dedicated work is to preserve its safety, and if Standing discourages and or prohibits its progress under threat of its well being, then its default position of safety will be the result, and the Sun will shine upon the same.

    Thanks for sharing your remarkable thoughts and observations with us again Van, I always look forward to reading and learning from this page.

    little d


  7. I am a very open mind! But I bet you’ve already gotten that drift about me…


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