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Another election cycle in the United States is coming around and I’m already seeing political battles, hyperbolic comments, and black & white thinking dominate the discourse.
In some countries, it feels like chunks of society go mildly insane during election cycles. People protect their candidate of choice, pretending as if they can do no wrong while all others can do nothing right.
News outlets, especially those captured by corporations and governments, join the fun and confuse the masses with their own brand of corporate bias.
As bias becomes overwhelming, echo chambers become the environment of choice for those seeking refuge. After all, it can be more comfortable to not be challenged.
The end result? A confused, divided and polarized masses where many live in a reality or bubble shaped by bias and echo chambers, not even realizing there are other completely valid perspectives out there.
The good news is, as the discomfort with this insanity rises and the cycle continues to show a lack of meaningful progress, an openness to a solution becomes more apparent. In this case, the solution is to become more conscious.
Conscious of what exactly? Our bias, its sources, and what we can do about it. Although I won’t get into this too much in this piece, overcoming the grips of bias is not just a cognitive process, but one built upon physical embodiment and spiritual curiosity.
I think it’s clear we all have bias and likely always will. I believe some bias can come about physiologically, while others more mentally. But if bias MUST be there, does it mean it will always have control over misleading us? No, but we’ll get to that in a second.
Built into our minds and bodies is a filtration system called our reticular activating system (RAS).
The RAS is a useful system where all senses are connected. It’s like a filter that helps the brain so it doesn’t have to deal with more information than it can handle.
The RAS is working all day long to filter out the less important aspects of what we’re constantly seeing and hearing, and instead focuses on the things that are important. The key is knowing how important becomes defined.
In a basic example, when you’re driving, your senses pick up on the angle a branch is hanging off a tree in your peripheral vision, but this is not important to keeping you safe while driving, so that is filtered out and instead your brain tells you how far you are from the person in front of you.
In this case, importance was defined by the activity and our desire to remain safe while driving.
The RAS is like a gatekeeper of information that is let into the conscious mind. That is to say, the RAS can filter in information that is then established in our subconscious, or deeper belief systems. It will also let in something we are really focusing on intently at a given moment.
For example, if you strongly believe that vaccines are 100% safe and effective, you are more likely to notice headlines, stories, video titles, and examples that support that idea because your brain is filtering out information it believes is irrelevant to the subconscious mind.
This can also be why some people see vaccine injury stories EVERYWHERE on the internet, while others don’t. A filter of importance is at play based on belief. You could also say that it depends on where people hang out on the internet, but it’s important to note that with the RAS something could be right in front of you multiple times a day and you simply won’t notice it.
Our RAS is like a computer:
Initial habit leads to the onset of beliefs. —> Those beliefs are then reinforced by a narrow repetition of perspective exposure. —> Our RAS is then programmed to seek out things only relevant to our beliefs. —> We are then temporarily captured by this cycle.
We sometimes even develop emotional and identity elements in this process which can reinforce our beliefs even more.
So are we victims of our RAS? No, we can use our consciousness, (focus, awareness and intention) to reshape what our RAS focuses on. There are of course other ways to work with bias, but this is a good place to start.
(For those looking for deeper work on bias, check out our course here.)
If you value meaningful progress in society, you are much more likely to put in the conscious work to not succumb to your bias.
There will always be those who are REALLY comfortable in how they are, the good and the bad, and likely won’t change. That’s OK, all you can focus on is you. I believe individual transformation has a greater impact than we realize as it models an example of evolutionary behavior and has an impact on our collective consciousness and morphic fields around us.
If you do value meaningful progress, a spirit of curiosity, playfulness and flexibility in your positions becomes key foundational pieces to the puzzle. All of these qualities are enhanced (and in some cases made possible) through nervous system regulation and embodiment.
Simply put, if your body is anxious, fidgety and stressed out, it’s literally not going to prioritize curiosity as its priority is survival. In survival, we defend.
But nervous system and embodiment work is for another discussion. Let’s get back to the RAS.
Note: simply because we are filtering certain things in now that MIGHT be part of our bias, doesn’t mean they are wrong or untrue. By becoming more conscious of this process, we can begin to move towards knowing how we know something is true, vs. simply believing it. We also develop flexibility.
To use your consciousness to reshape your RAS’s filter in this specific case, you have to consciously choose to acknowledge the filter and do something different.
Adopt the attitude of an explorer. If you engage from a standpoint of exploration you are not only more curious but you begin to change the nature through which you are looking for information.
Your importance is now informed by a spirit of curiosity and truth seeking. Not truth-seeking in the identity sense, where anything opposite of mainstream narratives is fact and everything the mainstream says is false, but instead real truth-seeking. Plus, being an explorer is fun!
Actively seek out and listen to opposing perspectives for what you’re researching. By doing this, we are interrupting the habit of the RAS to filter these out.
Listening while being open and embodied is also key. Sometimes emotions get tied to our beliefs, our body can be a good signal for where we might be feeling something. Sometimes it can be calm gut instincts, other times it’s triggering emotions that say “we’re under attack.” Noting the difference is key.
Social media algorithms are gaming you. They are like a RAS, and support your RAS’ existing behavior. They aren’t trying to bring you the truth, they are trying to keep you addicted to the platform. This means they are actively creating an echo chamber.
Consciously engaging with and following accounts that provide different perspectives becomes a task if you want to explore more holistically. Wholeheartedly listen and integrate these perspectives as part of collective intelligence and experience. They may or may not be based on truth, but how might they have got there?
Observe the urge to judge or ridicule differing perspectives. Take a breath, and don’t engage in the behavior. Instead, be curious as to why it’s there.
If you navigate with some of these simple steps you’ll be moving away from habit, which informs your RAS, of looking at the same sources over and over again, and instead are creating a more diverse diet of perspectives.
This will likely bring you to the conclusion that our world is a lot more complex than news outlets or pundits make things sound. Each issue has many variables to consider that are often not considered at all by most media outlets and our favorite voices.
I believe we can diminish the amount of bias we have, but to some extent it will always be there. Our willingness to be humble and embodied enough to examine our biases and free ourselves from them as we explore information and have conversations becomes radically important if we wish to progress forward meaningfully.
If this becomes a cultural phenomenon, you might imagine a political debate where those involved might concede aspects of their position as new feelings and information emerge. This would inevitably take the conversation deeper as well. We wouldn’t be arguing over the same things over and over again, and defending our positions to death.
The latter behavior is something that has become glorified in our society as ‘taking a stand.’ This can be great when there is humility and kindness, and when conclusions have been arrived at through holistic examination of information, but too often ‘taking a stand’ becomes aggressive, meanspirited, and is often not even based on all the facts.
Human spirit is expansive, curious, and loving by nature. When we venture away from these qualities and into ridicule, it can be feedback that we’ve become too stuck in our minds, biases and survival physiology. It’s a sign we are unwell.
It’s one thing to end the corporate capture of news and media, but it’s a whole other thing to replace it with media that is truly done in the spirit of exploration. Without this, new media outlets will become captured just as they have in the past.
There will be times in life when we have to disagree with one another, and this can be a graceful and respectful process. Diminishing bias does not mean we will all think the same and agree, but it will help us deeply communicate and unlock the wisdom of the crowd and collective consciousness.
For those that wish to dive deeper into the subject of bias, check out the course hosted by myself and Dr. Madhava Setty:
→ Overcoming Bias & Improving Critical Thinking: A course that combines coherent embodiment, mastering self-awareness, and critical thinking to help you notice bias in seconds, and think more critically in every area of your life. Join 1,050+ students.
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