Monday, August 31, 2015

Reacting badly to being told what to do or that you’re wrong

Some people get angry when they are told to do things they don’t want to do. Or when they’re told they are wrong. Or when they are questioned.

It’s people who were raised by authoritative parents who used anger, punishment, violence, consequences, pain, etc. to teach lessons. They were told to obey. And punished when they refused. Their questions and criticisms and protestations were ignored. Arguing their case didn’t help. Their parents didn’t listen to reason.

This happened so many times that they automatized the whole process. It became a trigger. The trigger fires when the person is contradicted in some way. The result is a bad feeling and possibly getting angry too.

Some of these people take it further by adopting an explicit philosophy to match. The problem they have is with people expecting obedience. And they correctly understand that obedience is implied by authority. But where they go wrong is believing that authority is implied by the existence of truth. 

So they reject authority and throw out truth with it because they think it’s a package deal. They think you can’t reject one without the other.

So they adopt a philosophy that rejects authority but also rejects that there is truth in morality. But if authority is something that should be rejected, then that implies that there exists truth, and that authority is a deviation from that truth. Why would you reject something unless it’s wrong, or not as good as some other better competing thing?

A person with this philosophy who hears someone say “you should do X” or “you are wrong about Y” will misinterpret that to mean that he is presenting it as the final complete truth and that he’s demanding obedience.

But that’s a mistake. The truth, as far as we know, is that people don’t have access to the final complete truth and instead what we do have is fallible knowledge about the truth. And to the best of our knowledge, it’s wrong to demand obedience to one’s moral views.

By that I mean that there is a better way that is known. And that is to ask for an audience so that your voice may be heard. Where your goal is to alert people of mistakes or rival theories that they didn’t know already, and where they would be glad if you stuck your neck out to tell them about it because they know that it could benefit them.

So by getting upset in these situations you’re ignoring a few possibilities. The person could be trying to help you (win/win) instead of hurt you (win/lose). He could be against authority in truth-seeking. He could be against demanding obedience. 

He could be against anyone even voluntarily accepting his views on his word. He could hold the belief that you should make your own independent judgement, rather than rely on his judgement. He could be wrong, so you should judge things for yourself to help catch mistakes in his ideas. And you can’t do that if you blindly accept what he says as the truth. 

And even if the person is right, and you blindly accept what he said as the truth, you could easily have misunderstood his idea. So without doing your own independent judgement, you’d be making tons of misunderstandings and believing all sorts of false things that you’d be falsely attributing to him.

So, when you’re told to do something you don’t want to do, or you’re told you’re wrong, and if you react badly to this, it could be because you are falsely assuming that the person thinks he can’t possibly be wrong and that he’s demanding obedience to his moral views. You’re seeing the world through the win/lose lens.

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