The Extreme Need To Be Right
We've all come across articles relating to the supernatural, psychic abilities, and even the possibility of leftover creatures from the days of the dinosaurs. We've all been witness to political and economical events in our country, having been bombarded with diverse information regarding those events, through media, personal discussions, and of course, as the unfortunate citizen suffering the results.
There are always opposing views
There's always two sides to an issue, and sometimes maybe another one or two that may be found somewhere betwixt the extreme ends of the spectrum. Whether you choose one end or the other, you can be sure you will be labeled either a skeptic or a believer by the group with views in direct opposition. I've often wondered by what criteria one must judge the issue in question, in order to be labeled a certain way.
I decided to look up the exact meanings of the words skeptic and believer. According to the dictionary a skeptic is a person who maintains a doubting attitude, as toward values, plans, statements, or the character of others. By the same token, a believer is a person who has confidence in the truth, the existence, or the reliability of something.
I decided to use an old event to test the definitions, and chose the subject of President Kennedy's assassination. When it happened, there were very mixed views regarding how it came about, who was behind it, and how many people were involved. Everyone was in agreement that the assassination was a tragic and horrific event, except perhaps, those who orchestrated it.
Without going into all the details and the subtle innuendos, the crux of the matter was this: The official story contended that a lone gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald, had committed the deed without any help from another single person or agency/organization. The official story claimed that he alone had managed to fire a “magic bullet” that entered and exited the President through his neck, entered Governor Connolly's back, exiting his chest, struck his wrist, and then became embedded in his thigh, zig-zagging all over the place to make the connections stated.
Once the shock had worn off, those who had been present at Dealy Plaza, began to sense something was wrong with the official story. 88% of the onlookers recalled hearing three shots. Reporters just a couple of car lengths behind the motorcade all reported hearing three separate gun shots. There was a problem with the lone man theory. Evidence showed that no one man could have fired the shots in the necessary frame of time using the weapon Oswald was purported to have used. There had to be at least two assassins. That's when the stories began to change. The initial reports concerning the evidence being gathered, were suddenly changed to reflect an entirely different scenario.
The upshot was that two factions regarding the validity of the Official Assassination Story were formed; those for the story and those against the story. My question is about who became whom? Those whom accepted the story with no questions, regardless of the conflicting evidence, came to be known as skeptics. Skeptics of what??? Skeptics of the theory that there was more than one gunman. Skeptics of the idea that there was a massive coverup in place. Those who didn't believe the Official Story came to be known as Conspiracy Theorists, or for this purpose, Believers (belief in the 2 gunmen and the coverup).
Which is which? Skeptic or Believer?
Let's flip it around. Wouldn't those who believe the story, now be viewed as the Believers, while those who don't, would be considered the Skeptics? No matter how we personally may choose to look at a situation, we inevitably are both Skeptic and Believer. Which takes me to my next point.
When speaking of Believers, one either sees them as silly, unrealistic dreamers who refuse to live in the “real” world, or as hopeful, cheerful people with a broad view of life's possibilities. The determination of view depends on who is doing the viewing. If I'm considered to be a Believer, and you, too, believe the same set of ideas, then it's not likely that you will see me as being frivolous or silly. However, if you are one of the opposition, you may very well view me as being unrealistic, silly, and maybe even lacking in education.
Extemists are ruled by emotional opinion
The very meaning of the term Skeptic implies negativity. Intense skepticism is the hooded figure carrying the gleaming, bloody scythe who sucks away the essence of life with all the can'ts, doesn'ts, and won'ts. There can be no calm discussions or trading of thoughts on the given subject. All that can be heard coming out of their mouths is no, no, and no.
I've yet to meet an extreme Skeptic who can point his listeners to valid, hard evidence which lends some semblance of truth to his opinions. That's not to say that none exists, but merely that most extremists don't bother to take the time to become educated about their opinions. Their stance is usually that since they can't do it, be it, see it, then it can't possibly be true.
Now mind you, I'm referring to the extreme Skeptic, not all types of Skeptic. For the extremists, there simply is no possibility, and anyone who says otherwise is either unintelligent or delusional. Should they meet an expert in the field of question, who laid claim to having managed to accomplish just that of which they are skeptical, they will still refuse to believe it, unless every expert can duplicate the claim of the first. Until total duplication can be accomplished, they will continue to claim it never happened even once.
On the other side of the fence rests the extreme Believer. These folks are no easier to deal with than the extreme Skeptic. The difference is that whatever set of ideas they have embraced, they are the opposite of no, so then we get to hear yes, yes, and yes. They can be equally venomous. They, too, will insist on the truth of their statements without much to substantiate their claims. Just like their counterparts, if asked for the documented proof, they will resort to telling you all the reasons why you should believe as they do. If you fail to see the light, you may end up being lectured about your ignorance and lack of education.
The Moderate, Middle-of-the-roader
Then we have the Middle-Of-The-Roader, or Moderate, if you prefer. These people will usually have a tendency to lean a little one way or the other, but they will maintain an open mind. They will seek out information that can either prove or disprove their pet belief or non-belief. And, if by chance there simply isn't enough information on which to base a concrete belief, they may settle on their personal opinion, and wait for more evidence to either support or dispute their idea.
After sorting out the different types of Skeptics and Believers to which I have personally been exposed, I wondered what prompted the extremists to behave so drastically as opposed to those who stood somewhere in the center. I began to research the question. Why were extreme Skeptics and extreme Believers so determined to hang on to their views, even in the face of hard evidence supporting the opposition?
Why are they so extreme?
In an article at the Psychology Today site, psychotherapist Mel Schwartz claims one of the most prevalent and damaging themes in our culture today is the need to be right. He also writes it is “the raison d'etre for most acts of hatred, violence, and warfare.”
Peter Michaelson is in agreement. He states “While it appears that the righteous, argumentative, or dogmatic individual is passionately concerned about truth, he or she is interested in something much more personal.” He goes on to identify an inner comfort and emotional reassurance felt by allegedly being in the know or ahead of the pack, as that personal something. He says that such individuals are not fighting for truth, but for the glory of their own wisdom and a protection of self-image.
Hmmm.... So, whether an extreme Skeptic or an extreme Believer isn't really the question, because the issue isn't honestly about establishing truth. It is about the individual's need to protect themselves from their own sense of worthlessness.
Since the fear of being wrong and the need to be right is ego based, then those of a low sense of self would be likely to respond in these manners. Michaelson also states that an evolved person doesn't fear being wrong, because simply who he is, feels right to him. The need to be right has nothing to do with feeling right. That right feeling is based on his belief in his intrinsic value and existence.
But what about those who don't necessarily need to be right, but merely enjoy being right? Is that the same thing? Apparently, it would depend on why it's enjoyed. If you gave personal advice to a friend who decided to follow it, you might like the idea of being right simply because you want your advice to help your friend. If you want to be right so you can say “I told you so,” then that is a need to be right, and it's all about you, not your friend.
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