As the United Kingdom is once again entering Covid Level 4 Alert, we are confronted with the ever changing nature of the reality we live in. A reality which is shaped by as many external factors beyond our control, as it is from factors we can control and influence.
After almost two years of restrictions due to the global pandemic, I sense a growing impatience with many of the people around me. Increased parts of the population feel disenchanted with government communications, expressing confusion at what they perceive as often vague and contradictory messaging.
While most governments claim they are following the science, the constantly changing picture of the discovery of new virus strains and the ebb and flow in the numbers of worldwide infection, often give the impression that the truth is ‘work in progress’ which governments and scientists make up as they go along.
As a result of this, there is a growing feeling among people that governments don’t act in good faith, and that all they desire is controlling us. It is healthy to acknowledge this feeling among ourselves, and listen to our emotions as we are trying to cope with a unfamiliar and rather unusual phase of our existence. But this is all it is: a feeling, not knowledge. And it is not a sound foundation for the truth.
Why are conspiracy theories so effective? because they are based on a ‘feeling’. The feeling that something is not right, that there is a small elite of people who are actively plotting against us; the feeling that we are in the possession of some hidden truth to which the majority of the population don’t (yet) have access. The truth is relative and often based on what ‘feels good’; therefore by asserting it often and loudly, we are providing evidence to ourselves that it is superior to that of others.
Unfortunately, equating truth with what feels right, doesn’t give us the desired peace of mind, even if we feel that our truth is superior to that of others. When events in reality don’t give us the feeling we expect, there is cognitive dissonance between what we feel as our truth and the information we receive. The feeling we get from cognitive dissonance is a negative one, leading to more far-fetched theories of reality in order to explain away the contradiction between our feelings and what our senses are telling us.
We live in a world where there is an increasing consensus that we need to take care of our mental health. Why then do so many of us spend our precious time engaging in energy sapping mental gymnastics in order to explain away what we don’t like? Aren’t we more likely to preserve our energies, as well as to maintain a positive feeling about reality, if we speak to an expert or become one in our field, rather than living with our ‘bad feelings’ as a result of incomplete knowledge?
Staying informed in our field of interest and remaining honest to ourselves about what our senses are really telling us, gives us a perception of control in our lives. If our theory of reality is the result of knowledge, rather than us trying to fit reality in some preconceived idea, we are more likely to find the peace of mind we are looking for. It is the right foundation of our sense of confidence and self-esteem, rather than theories designed to remove ‘bad feelings’.