Politics and reality: Even the rats in a maze have a better grasp of reality than we do

 

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Many years ago as a graduate assistant and in charge of the rat lab at the university I noted that rats could learn pretty easily where the cheese was in a maze and would quickly go right to it regardless of how complex the maze. But when the cheese was removed the behavior was readily extinguished within 2-3 attempts with no success. The rats wouldn’t go down that tunnel anymore looking for the cheese.

However, human beings don’t behave in this manner because once the cheese is removed the human being will go back down the tunnel to where the cheese used to be again and again, nearly forever. Are human beings basically dumber than the rat I wondered?

That possibility may or may not have merit but I think human beings keep doing what they know doesn’t work again and again because ”It’s supposed to work!” or that they want it to work therefore it should if they hang in there long enough. It’s why we keep voting for the same dunderheads who promise us things, aka cheese, that we know they can’t deliver on, again and again. It’s why the political faithful keep voting against their best interests by saying yes to a totally discredited economic plan because the ‘cheese’ is “supposed” to be there. Be aware that their leadership knows this and manipulates this fact to their advantage.

This cognitive default keeps us from seeing the facts i.e. the cheese ain’t there no more– but with humans facts be damned, its supposed to be there, so that’s where they’ll go. The “dumber” animals don’t have this encumbrance because they operate within reality as it is, not as they wish it to be.

We self-create the way we think reality is supposed to be and it’s a very personal reality. This is usually very inaccurate mainly because we’ve buggered all the data with our want-it-to-be’s and our self-serving projections. Most of this was done when we were children when of course we had little experience and knowledge from which to draw any conclusions and from there on out we only picked the experiences, emotions and events that agreed with our flawed view of reality.

As children our decisions that we made were mostly based on fear– fear of doing the wrong thing or being the wrong way and thus losing approval, or knowing the wrong stuff or knowing only part of the issue but we didn’t know what was the best way anyway so we relied on the adults around us to tell us what to do. But of course they don’t know either, but had learned to pretend that they did.

And we keep thinking that if we keep choosing appropriately from our rather limited reality that eventually we’ll get the cheese. Sometimes it looks as though we do get the cheese, but it only lasts for a short while, doesn’t it? This is called intermittent reinforcement in the behavioral sciences and it’s the kind of learning that’s the hardest to break away from. It’s what often creates the ‘supposed’ in the “its supposed to be there” way of thinking. It’s what keeps people gambling their money away because at one time they “won” something.

So we keep shooting for what feels good and hoping that maybe this time, this person, this way of being, will be it.

This is the way it is when you’re attached to something outside yourself for your well-being. There’s a lot of suffering in that and any “happiness” is often just the absence of pain. You know, we’ve bought into a lot of rubbish about what happiness is. We’ve been led to believe that if we just have the right things e.g. a wife/husband, children or no children, breath freshener, toothpaste, smile, schooling, more schooling, better schooling, job, the right job, a better job, the right sex, better sex, a good vacation, a better vacation, or if we’re the right weight or have enough money (is there such a thing?), then we will be happy. But none of it lasts for very long does it? Then it’s off to the next thing, the next fashion, the next relationship, the next wise guru. But when we live in an illusion of reality, there’s always disillusionment.

How do you break such an insidious and all-consuming cycle? One can transcend the cycle and one can transform their relationship with reality. But first you have to acknowledge that you really don’t know what it is and that what you’ve made up is a mess basically a pack of lies and half-truths.

It’s a whole new retraining that requires that we let go of our dependence on something outside ourselves. Now I don’t mean that we all need to become emotional islands, we need each other. We need to be open to the support and the love of others, we just don’t need them to be responsible for our lives, to tell us how to be and what to think and feel and happiness doesn’t come from them, it comes from within. It’s the ‘cheese’ in you that you need to search for, not outside in someone else’s maze, it’s not there, it is gone! Get over it!

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