FAQ

 
   EOF stands for end of fear, but is there really an end to fear?”
 
   End of Fear is more of a slogan really. It’s not about deleting all fear,
   which can actually help alert us to threats and problems. Rather, the     
   point is to understand fear, and thus be able to distinguish between
   fear that alerts us to a tangible issue and abstract psychological fear.
 
   However, it is in some ways true: when you understand irrational fear,
   then it ends or at least diminishes over time, and you can understand
   fear of fear so to actually be able to face it and think about it rather
   than being paralyzed by it.
 
   But it doesn't mean “we have the solution so there's no more fear and
   all will be happy/positive and you never experience fear again”.
   Fear is an emotion and isn't just purged forever.


   “What is the EOF all about?”
 
   It’s people inquiring about how mindsets and beliefs function and can
   even compromise our ability to think critically, to the point where they
   even ‘think’ for us. The possible understanding of such biases can
   potentially bring into being a healthier and more productive psychology.
   Not ‘productive’ in a business kind of way, but rather regarding our
   own life, psychological well being, peace of mind, and even
   interactions with others. 


   How Does The EOF Project Define Confusion?

   Th word confusion is everywhere in our work, for many confusion is
   just a vague term, so it is understanable that one may not know what
   we are referring to exactly.
   Confusion as we see it is when the mind is overwhelming us with
   constant contradictions leading to mental afflictions and unpleasant
   patterns that just loop over and over again. We struggle with things we
   think we want only to get them and find out we do not want them or
   we know they are impossible things, fantasies out of reach like     
   wanting to recreate the past for example. Oftentimes we fluctuate back
   and forth to the point we do not know what we want or trust what we
   thought we wanted before because now their our doubts that all those
   things those ideas is just a house of mirrors that haunt us at every
   corner with more unpleasant reflection of reality projected at us to us
   and from us, it shows us things about ourselves we really do not like. 
   We feel stuck held prisoner by a so seeming merciless mind.
   How did we become so confused?
   Why does it feel like the mind has turned on us? What are we to do
   when confusion episodes happen?
   Where can we go who can help us understand this confusion?
   All of us struggle with this confusion in one way or another and it can
   be a real pain to get a handle on.
   These are the questions we tackle at The EOF Project.
 
  
   “Do you think we should control ourthoughts?”

 
   No. The point is to understand our thoughts and how they work, as
   well as the thoughts behind those thoughts and the ideas we have
   about them, and the thoughts behind those ideas, and so on….
   We tend to try to control our thoughts when we are afraid, in an
   attempt to bring about some kind of order and psychological security,
   but ironically this actually creates a very unstable, nervous and chaotic
   psyche that is constantly creating and engaging in battles without
   understanding the original problem. This distracts us from thinking
   critically about our thoughts and our reactions to them, thus hindering
   the possible understanding of our psychology.
 
 
   “What’s the difference between controlling our thoughts
    and observing them?”
 
   Trying to directly control and suppress our thoughts like a warden is
   counterproductive and merely makes us into the jailers of our own
   minds. Criminalizing thoughts does not free us from them because the
   prison is our own mind and because this does nothing to address the
   roots of those thoughts and our dysfunctional relationship with them.
   However, in observing one’s thoughts and attempting to understand
   the relationships among them, there is an intention to eventually bring
   about a more peaceful and clear mind. 
 
   We do not really have a random kind of psychology with no direction
   or influence from “us” (at the mercy of and following whatever whims,
   thoughts or moods may come about) as our goal but rather a more
   resilient and flexible mind. We attempt to achieve this by no longer
   trying to constantly control it in such a way, yet at the same time still
   exert some degree of influence over it through observation, attention
   and other higher order cognition. The difference is, instead of trying to
   use force, fight and silence all thoughts that we fear, like an
   authoritarian dictator, we actually communicate with them, take the
   time to understand them and why they may be here, passing through
   our consciousness.
 
   As long as we are focused in the “how can I control my thoughts;
   I must control my thoughts;
   I must become ___;  how can I become ___!” we do
   not leave much room to think and observe freely. This is just like the
   way focusing on how much we need or want sleep or inspiration to
   write can prevent us from actually sleeping or writing. There are things
   that we can do to increase the chances of both of those things, such
   as eliminating distractions, taking care of obligations, and going to a
   quiet place, but ultimately we have to relax a bit and let our mind be
   free to do its thing. Even though we are oriented toward a particular
   activity or goal, the outcome cannot be the focus. The process has
   to be free, but that does not mean directionless, just like how 
   psychological freedom does not mean limitless! 
 

   “Do you think thinking is the solution for everything?”

   Well thinking by itself cannot solve everything. Sadly, many have been
   tricked into believing that simply repeating mantras of “positive”
   thoughts can change things, but this does not bring about any real
   investigation or understanding of issues, let alone an accurate
   framework from which tangible steps can be enacted.
   How can we possibly find out a solution that really addresses the
   source of our problems without thinking critically about how we think?
   How many problems are there that rely on us clinging to particular
   structures of thought, which cannot think?
   Because while thinking may produce thoughts, thoughts cannot think,
   nor be aware of themselves or question outside of their own
   assumptions. Only the thinker (thinking, hopefully) can do that. 
 
 
   “Why are humans so irrational? 
 
   This is an immense question as well as one of the main inquiries of the
   project. There are some biases and susceptibilities that have been
   shaped by evolution, and of course the social cultural beliefs,
   superstitions, normalcies, and so on that we have been inundated with.
   We are told what to do and think at nearly every turn in society: by
   religions, by our parents, by media, by other people, by what’s popular
   and what’s rewarded, and even in the school systems, which are
   ostensibly supposed  to be about education and thinking, but instead
   value obedience, conformity and quietness often at the expense of
   creativity, exploration and intellectual engagement. We are constantly
   busy in projects and work and even when we are finally done we
   usually spend all of our time focused in entertainments and distractions
   or just trying to recover. We live in a society where this non stop
   lifestyle is promoted and we never have time to stop and think about
   what we’re doing and why.
 
 
   “Why is it so easy to be fooled?”

   I think that a great deal of us being fooled is caused by our desire for
   certain ideas to be true and our fear of other alternative possibilities
   and our ideas about what those possibilities mean, which can cause
   us to filter and even deny reality, consciously and unconsciously.
   Another component of being fooled is the fact that we often cannot
   even think of alternative possibilities to the ways things appear, let
   alone conceive of different explanations. Finally, we are often very lazy
   when it comes to thinking about things and determining what is most
   accurate, or perhaps least wrong. It’s much easier to latch onto an
   answer and be done than to invest time and energy thoroughly
   investigating an issue. Reading peer-reviewed scientific journal articles
   is surely more difficult than skimming a news article or yahoo answers,
   for example. You can read a bit more on the topic of why people are
   fooled here
 
 
   “What if I want to help someone?”
 
   This can often be a very counterproductive ideal if we’re not careful,
   even if we have the best intentions, often having the best intention
   is not enough. First, we might not actually know how to help someone,
   or even end up doing something to make things worse, like
   indoctrinating them into biases and beliefs that we don’t even realize
   we have and thus making them more stuck! Second, it’s generally
   not a good idea to believe that you can change someone or are
   responsible for changing their thinking or making them care about
   their own mind, and believing in such obligations is generally a result
   of arrogance or naivety. Why don’t you try “helping” yourself first with
   your own fears and confusion, and  maybe begin inquiring a bit more
   deeply about what these ideas of “help” are, where they came from,
   and why you think they are necessary so to see if they are actually 
   helpfull or just junk?
 
 
   “Are you going to try to make me change my beliefs?”
 
   We’re not here to make anyone do anything. It is up to you whether or
   not your beliefs change and whether or not you feel the need to change
   your beliefs in the first place. We’ll try to do things to encourage people
   to think more about their beliefs and why they’re important to them, but
   it’s up to them what they do, not us.

   Freethinking cannot be coerced. 
 

  “Is there any resources from others who care about thinking?

   I really like this essay about becoming a critical thinker.
 
 
   “Is this similar to cognitive behavioral therapy or other    
    psychotherapies?”
 
   There are some similarities in revaluation of beliefs and illogical
   mentalities, as well as some differences, but the project is not a
   therapy. The EOF is for anyone who likes to think and encourages
   questioning personal and collective ideals and value systems,
   including spiritual and religious beliefs, our ideas of relationships
   within family, marriages, work, and education, as well as inquiring
   as to why they take root, and which are actually productive, which
   are not and to what extent. 
 
 
   “What if I don’t want to think?”
 
   Well, we can’t make you want to or tell you “you need to think!” or what
   to do, but we can try to show you the results of a lack of clear thinking
   and the problems caused by irrationality, which history is littered with.
 
   You may want to check this out.
 
   Also, in the words of Edward de Bono: “If you never change your mind,    why have one?”
 
 
   “Is the EOF based on the “blank slate” theory?
   Like if you put someone on a deserted island they would
   have no problems?”
 
   No. There are definitely limits that we are born with. While many  
   problems do arise from the irrational structures and thought
   processes embedded in and transmitted through social institutions,
   simply removing these cognitive and societal structures would not
   in itself bring about an understanding of how such structures are
   formed and function.  
 
   If someone was in a place with no viruses, and somehow all of a
   sudden a virus appeared, then they would likely be very susceptible
   to it. Being isolated doesn’t necessarily guarantee having a robust
   immune system against viruses. The same goes for “psychological
   viruses”, ideological infections, confusion, paranoia, credulity,
   manipulation, abuse, and so on….

   Therefore, ideally, we should try to promote the development of the
   capacity for critical thinking and reflecting, so to not be as susceptible
   to illogic, rhetoric, manipulation, and so forth, building up the
   psychological “immune system” as a way of approaching and
   addressing these problems. 
 
 
   “Doesn’t thinking freely encourage people to be selfish?!”
 
   Most of our problems actually come from a lack of self-orientation
   and clear thinking.  People often mistakenly conceive of
   “thinking freely” as being totally unhinged from reality and the
   consequences of one’s actions, therefore likely to abuse and take
   advantage of everyone. But it is actually through various values and
   belief systems that perceived obligations are maintained by some
   kind of narcissistic psychological abuser or other toxic person.
   Abuse often arises because of abusers seeking to escape their own
   misery and the abused who are unable to think clearly and end up
   manipulated through confusion and fear.

   This is a very helpful website for more information on abuse and
   abusive relationships and there many forms. Here is another useful
   article on some toxic behaviors .

   *This is not to blame the victim but rather to point out the very fact
   that the mind of such a person is used against him or her, and what
   we can do about such situations, since we cannot just rely on the
   abuse to stop, the abuser to change, or someone or thing to fix
   everything. And ultimately if we understand how abuse works then
   we will be better equipped to work toward creating a world where
   it is no longer tolerated. “Self-interest” does not have to equate to
   exploitation.
 
 
   “Why are you not for the concept of enlightenment?”
 
   Enlightenment as the idea of “a final spiritual state marked by the
   end of desire and suffering” is unrealistic and promotes a nebulous
   perpetual searching for some ultimate answer. The only time we
   never desire anything again is when we are dead or perhaps
   in a coma. Essentially this is an idea of ultimate
   becoming/transformation and the end of failure and feelings that
   we do not like, which is completely static, dead and anti-evolutionary,
   just like all ideals of “perfection”. There would be no more thinking or
   understanding, just a petrified existence.
 
   “What is the difference between techincal beliefs
    and existential beliefs?”
 
   Well, there’s a difference between technical “beliefs” and existential
   ones that make up our identity, which we cling to, fear to lose and
   allow to think for us. Here’s something to consider: is the
   understanding of addiction, addiction? Is the investigation of how
   beliefs function a belief?
 
   Here’s an example: if you believe that you have half of a leftover
   sandwich in the refrigerator, does this occupy such relevance that it
   prevents you from being able to think or make fresh observations?
   Does it prevent you from being able to realize the sandwich was
   actually left in the freezer accidentally or that you ate it, or that
   someone else ate it? And how does this compare to the idea that the
   sandwich was your entire purpose in life and that you must protect
   it at all costs?
 
   Once your ideas about the sandwich become a faith and a priority way
   of structuring reality, then you have a problem because it prevents
   you from figuring out that you are wrong and gaining a more accurate
   understanding of reality.
 
   In general, we tend to think that it’s better to consider ideas in terms
   of varying degrees of certainty, rather than absolutes or strict binaries
   of “definitely” and “not at all”.
 
 
   “What about the good done in the name of beliefs?”
 
   What about the bad done in the name of beliefs? Why do we need
   beliefs to do something good? Why cling to such insufficient mindsets?
   Do beliefs really make us want to do things that are “good” or just
   things that allow us to protect and feel consistent with the beliefs and
   identity we have made? To justify one belief is to inadvertently support
   any belief, simply because by going on faith to believe one thing you
   cannot dismiss anything else that is based on faith. Regardless of
   the content of beliefs, the form of believing is in itself detrimental.
 

   “What are your thoughts on meaninglessness?”

   This depends on what exactly you are asking about. Why is it that
   we seek for “ultimate” petrified meanings and purposes to cage our
   minds into and enslave ourselves with? Is there perhaps a difference
   between belief and identification in meanings, and logically
   understanding things? Why are we afraid of “meaninglessness”?
   It must mean something to us for us to be afraid of this concept, right?
   But meaninglessness itself is in fact meaningless. And that can be
   incredibly freeing to realize, because it means we can stand on our
   own, no longer dependent on meanings given to us by other authors. 


 
   “What do you mean by ‘you are not your thoughts/beliefs’?”
 
   Often we are the result of the beliefs that we acquired more so than
   our own private thinking and self-observation, but we are not just the
   beliefs or identities that we cling to. The beliefs are just thought—they
   cannot think outside of their own assumptions. We often mistakenly
   believe they are us and that we need them and thus try to protect
   them without really observing and thinking about whether they are
   really so good or helpful or if we really do need them. We often miss
   the fact that these beliefs have a beginning and a possible end, and
   that we can continue to live without them. The beliefs are not life, nor
   do they have a monopoly on emotion and meaning. 

 
 
   “What is psychological freedom?”
 
   Freedom from the known. Not denial. Denial exists because of
   our fears, which are located in the field of the “known” and the
   relationship we are having with it. Denial is against what is new and
   unknown; it is tied up with slavery to the known and our fear, trapped
   by the known and the fear to lose our conceptualizations of it.  
 
   Free from incessant needs of becoming. Free from the slavery of all
   belief systems. This does not mean ignoring such things, but rather
   understanding the thoughts that we have about them and the
   relationships we have with those thoughts and being able to think
   about them without thinking through those ideas—without letting
   them take over our whole process of thinking.

   When the mind is free from belief systems, that is when we can think
   clearly, fluidly, whether the most imaginative perceptions or complex
   logic. In fact , much of our most meaningful reflection happens when
   we are not doing anything at all and least expect it. 
 
 
   “What if people are happy in their beliefs?”
 
   A lot of people think that feeling good is enough, and that this is what
   “happiness” is, but that’s not really true. Mental well-being is not just
   feeling happy no matter what. It’s about feeling well and functioning
   well. We may believe we are happy and psychologically healthy, but
   that doesn’t always mean that we are, or that we’re thinking clearly.
 
   Unfortunately the gratification that comes from believing tends to
   hinder our ability to think critically. The assumptions we like and take
   for granted tend to form barriers that narrow our vision to the point of
   not seeing things outside of those barriers. They inhibit our ability to
   function well, to respond to new evidence, to think and see when
   something isn’t working. We think those barriers protect us, but they
   actually trap us. By believing that we need them we become afraid of
   losing them and willing to fight to protect them. This is evident in the
   reactions of people when their beliefs are so much as scratched by
   something that does not conform to them, whether it’s hostile attacks,
   venomous accusations, curt dismissal, patronizing condescension,
   denial, or utter disbelief, fear, and confusion.
 
   Luckily, we don’t actually need these beliefs to live an enjoyable life.
   That is to say, we do not have to be so dependent on such beliefs
   and afraid to lose them, addicted to consensus, and constantly trying
   to prop them up and coerce others into following.
 
   This goes for “family values”, ideals, identities, religiosity, spirituality,
   and ideologies, just to name a few examples.
 
   The more one nourishes these kinds of authorities and identification
   in them the less one is able to think clearly and outside of them,
   which actually brings about the decay of clear communication and
   mutual understanding that those values should protect.
 
   Common religious arguments include:
 
   “It makes people better/more kind/etc…”
   “It make people happier”
   “It’s out of context”

   These do not hold up to scrutiny. Religions outright support and call
   for  reprehensible  acts—and no, that’s not taking verses “out of
   context”. Furthermore, religion actually has a negative effect  on
   altruism around the world, with the negative relation of religion and
   spirituality with altruism increasing over one’s lifetime across cultures.
   Additionally, religion is associated with greater authoritarianism  and
   decreased scientific literacy , as well as being a risk factor  for
   depression. 
 
 
   “You say you have no methods, how can you do something
    with no methods?”
 
   What we mean by this is that we don’t adhere to any strict procedure,
   methodology or prescribed way of doing things. We just question
   things and think and try to observe the movements of thoughts and
   behaviours and see how they work, then we discuss it.
   There’s not something we “have” to do because of a method.
 
 
   “Is this some kind of intellectualization of everything?”
 
   No, the point is not to ignore the emotional and other parts of the
   psyche and contexts of things but instead to not think through only
   them and fragment our mind. That means, yes, using our intellect to
   think with our emotions, memory, and so on… to understand our
   movements of thoughts instead of just pitting them against each
   other or clinging to intellectual dictatorships of belief to control the
   whole mind, which make it more unstable and chaotic. We don’t
   think that intellect and imagination, emotion, perceptiveness,
   and so on should be viewed as enemies or treated as such but
   rather as a team that make up the psyche. Without all the teammates
   it’s unbalanced, just like a cell that’s missing its mitochondria or
   DNA or nucleotides, cytoplasm, cell wall, rna, and so on…. 
 
 
   “Do I have to question everything?”
 
   You don’t “have” to question or think about things. However, to clarify,
   there are differences between things like one’s taste and food
   preferences and one’s ideological and existential beliefs. One of these
   is subject to rational thought and selections based on empirical
   observations, the other is ideology. 
 
 
   “Is there such a thing as too much thinking?”
 
   Thinking is not something that’s always pleasant. Sometimes it is
   necessary for us to think about problems, situations and fears that
   really bother and upset us, in order to understand them and not just
   perpetuate them.
 
   Much of the time people’s thinking is full of all kinds of tiring cycles of
   repeating thoughts run by fallacies and fear. It’s not really a free      
   process of thinking but rather one rooted in stress and confusion, and    
   which does not really question itself or the thoughts behind it critically.
   We sometimes refer to this kind of “thinking” as “thoughting” because
   it goes through a bunch of pre-generated thought patterns
   (which are a result of thinking) but there is no actual thinking about
   thinking going on or awareness of these cyclical patterns.
 
   One of the big fears of “overthinking” is related to this. It’s really more
   of a mind and process of thinking dominated by worry, anxiety, fear of    
   depression, meaninglessness, contradictions, and so on…. However,
   ignoring these fears by trying not to think never makes them go away,
   and just buries the mind until it’s stuck in bogs of belief. Then this
   suppression of psychological problems without understanding even
   becomes something normal. We are stuck, yet afraid to move.


   “How can you say god is not real? Isn’t that a claim?”

   Do you believe santa is real? What about the cosmic hippo?
   Are you on the fence about either of those existing? We see no
   reason to be agnostic about these or other claims that lack evidence.
   Also see:  burden of proof and this nice explanation . Additionally,
   the real question is: “why do we care?”

 
 
   “Is this project atheist? Is it only for atheists?”
 
   While we tend to attract many atheists and those who formerly
   belonged to belief systems, I don't think the project is necessarily 
   atheist. You could also be agnostic (as in refusing the idea that the
   existence or nonexistence of god(s) are knowable) or apatheist (don't
   care) but I don't think any of these is sufficient to describe what the
   project is about. You can be any of these things and still permeated
   by other cultural beliefs and conditionings that you are not interested
   in observing and thinking more critically about.
 
 
   “How do you know that you really understand [something]?”
 
   You’ll probably never be able to fully account for unknown unknowns,
   but as you’re more able to observe things without identifying in or
   thinking through them and the meanings you attach to them (ideas,
   pictures, etc…), you’ll eventually start to get a feel for what it means
   to understand. You won’t construct things based simply on belief or
   faith as much anymore, but rather logical arguments, reason and
   empirical evidence. Most of all you’ll be able to continually question
   (hopefully) your assumptions and investigate what assumptions you
   may have and why, as well as make fresh and less filtered
   observations.
 
   There won’t be such identification in the answers you’ve acquired,
   and thus you will not view things that fall outside of these ideas to
   be quite so threatening to you or your existence (whether you are or
   were aware of such types of responses or not). You’ll be more open
   to them and what is different, more able to question things and
   approach them logically to find out if there is any veracity to them
   as well as what’s junk and what’s not and why.

   There may not be a way to “completely understand” or “understand
   everything” or be and think “fully clear”, but there can at least be
   people deeply interested in finding out about their own confusions,
   fears, biases, mindsets, assumptions, and modalities that make up
   their various processes of thinking, which can lead to gradual
   improvements in their psychological well being which will allow
   you to be able to avoid and decrease many unnecessary problems.
 
 
   “What do you mean by intelligence?”
 
   Broadly speaking there are two types  of intelligence that we mean.
   Originally coined by the psychologist Raymond Cattell , there is fluid
   intelligence, or “…the ability to perceive relationships independent of
   previous specific practice or instruction concerning those relationships”,
   and crystallized intelligence, which is our ability to use knowledge that
   comes from prior learning and past experiences.

   We tend to lack in our ability to think outside of our past knowledge,
   but this doesn’t mean we should forsake knowledge. On the contrary,
   both types of intelligence are important, and it’s useful to balance
   them, thinking with our past experience and knowledge but not only
   through them.    
 
 
   “What do you have to say about love?”
 
   What is it that we mean by love? Do we love people or is it more our
   ideas of them and ideals of love? Oftentimes people make others
   into an addiction and even use “love” as an excuse for abuse and
   controlling behaviours. “Love” is not something detached from the
   rest of the mind, and the quality of our relationships is undoubtedly
   shaped by the quality of our thinking. If we throw the whole mind
   away in the name of “love” it leads to confusion filled messes.
   Much of the time our “love” is really more fear to be alone, and
   so we try to consign others to relationships or even lock ourselves
   into abusive situations. For these reasons we think that it is of
   paramount importance to think more critically about such concepts
   that are so often claimed to be held in very high regards, yet taken
   superficially. 
 

   “What do you have to say about meditation, yoga, and other
    practices?”
 
   There’s not really anything wrong with these just as practices in
   themselves, which can be beneficial, it’s just they are often tied up
   with gullible belief systems. Furthermore, none of these things are
   thinking about how we think. Meditation practices may relax the mind,
   but they don’t bring about sober thinking. 
 
 
   “What are some common errors in thinking?”
 
   Jumping to conclusions, “questioning” that already assumes
   a particular answer, universalizing experiences and “normality”
   when they do not fit, changing mid-argument to an irrelevant
   subject, dismissing any personal problematic behaviour pointed
   out by saying “nobody’s perfect”, believing that objectivity means
   never making any decision on anything, assuming the middle of
   two extremes must always be correct, and turning all disagreements
   into contests of identity (who’s smarter?!).
 
   You can read about a bunch here and look at a few
   in this cool picture!
 
 
   “How can people be intelligent in one way but not another?
    How can someone with a high IQ fall for something like the
    pseudoscience of the flat earth beliefs or scientology?”
 
   It’s helpful to think in terms of different forms or aspects of intelligence.
   To use a fitness analogy, just because someone lifts weights all the
   time and is super buff doesn't mean they can run a 5k. You can be
   muscular but lack cardiovascular fitness and vice versa. Maybe you
   have lots of knowledge, but lack rationality, or lots of rationality, but
   less empathy, etc... Perhaps you are very muscular but not flexible
   at all, just like being good at some things you have a lot of
   experience with and practice in, but perhaps not as perceptive
   and open to ideas overall.
 
   People can have a very high IQ, but lack rationality when evaluating
   claims, and fall for pseudoscience like the flat earth model or astrology.
   Or they may be well versed in logic but lack empathy and emotional
   understanding of themselves and others. Or they might be very
   knowledgeable, but not open to considering anything beyond the
   scope of that collection of knowledge that they are familiar with,
   or even automatically start trying to disprove it. Or they may be very
   open minded, but not lacking in the ability to evaluate claims rationally
   and thus less able to distinguish likely and unlikely possibilities. 
 

   “Is there right and wrong then if you refuse beliefs?”
 
   Basically, ideas of what’s “good” often get turned into authoritarian
   regimes that we exploit ourselves and others over psychologically
   and socially, so can we think a bit more about what is considered
   right and wrong, good and bad without thinking through our ideas
   of what they are? That is, without letting them think for us?
   So to be able to figure out what’s actually junk and what’s not?

   In other words, we are not advocating turning a blind eye to
   everything or always choosing indecisive “neutral”, but advocating a
   more well informed and thought out way of thinking about what’s right.
    
  
   “Are you merely conforming to ideas of nonconformity,
    identifying in having ‘no identity’?”
 
   This would indeed be quite silly and contradictory. To study and be
   interested in understanding how a virus works is not merely to
   replicate it with another virus. To under-stand a structure is not
   merely to replace it with another structure.
 
   This idea of “proving” nonconformity requires consensus from others
   by matching their ideas of “nonconformity” to feed such an identity
   and is thus also a form of conformity.

   There isn’t exactly “no identity”, and we do not advocate sacrificing
   your mind to the whims of others. But you can think outside of an
   identity as like you can think outside of any other set of assumptions
   and thoughts if you realize they are there and how they function.
 
 
   “Why is it so difficult to think about how we think?”
 
   The fact that we do not tend to think much makes our brains very
   weak and lazy over time. We do not get much practice thinking
   critically. It’s just like how when you do not exercise your body
   becomes weaker and weaker over time, atrophying.
   Eventually things like running 100 meters become exhausting
   and your muscles get sore easily. We even become averse to
   exercising because of how hard it is to get back in shape.
   But after the first few weeks of training it starts to get easier
   and we can push ourselves more. We might be surprised to find
   that we even start enjoying it! Likewise mentally “exercising” works
   the same with our brains. It can be incredibly difficult to question our
   long held beliefs and deeply ingrained fears, but over time we start   
   getting better at it. We can catch ourselves when we’re doing
   something illogical and rationalizing it, and investigating our thoughts
   and behaviour can even start to be interesting. We start reacting less
   severely and can think a bit more clearly about what upset us.
 
   One of the truisms of our minds is demonstrated by neuroplasticity:
   our brains are constantly changing, building and pruning connections,
   and you either  use it or lose it.
 
   The more we are lazy in our thinking the easier it becomes to be lazy,
   and the harder it is to think. The converse is also true: the more we
   practice thinking about the way we think, the easier it becomes,
   and the harder it is for us to succumb to irrational and lazy thinking.

   Just like muscular strength, cardiorespiratory endurance, flexibility
   and other aspects of our physical fitness, we can build up aspects
   of our psychological fitness, such as our attention, ability to focus,
   capacity for doing “nothing”, skill at analyzing, emotional
   understanding, and metacognition—thinking about thinking.
   When we actually start paying attention to our thoughts and feelings,
   observing them instead of shutting them away and fighting all the time,
   things start to change. 
 
 
   “Why do you write so much about stupidity?”
 
   We’re interested in discussing and studying stupidity in order 
   to understand it and not be at the mercy of it so much. One useful
   definition of stupidity is “an immense lack of self-observation and
   critical thinking regarding what we think, follow, and do.

 

   “Are we just supposed to feel emotionless and nihilistic
    then?”


   Beliefs can affect our feelings but feelings and sensations do not
   have to be beliefs. It’s when we shut out our ability to think and
   feel with authoritarian beliefs that we actually lose our connection
   with our empathy and sensitivity, or they merely end up bombastic
   and irrational under the reign of belief systems. There is no empathy
   or compassion without logic, and to try and proceed without or against
   reason rather than logically teasing out if what is presented to us as
   reason is really reasonable, we resign ourselves to superficiality and
   confusion, which tend not to be very empathetic at all. This is why we
   like to ask the questions can the mind be emotional and logical at the
   same time, why does it have to be one or the other?


   “What is the difference between a belief and a not-belief?”

   Some people will tell you that everything is a belief, but this does not
   seem to be a very useful definition because it does not distinguish
   between how we think about things.


   What we are concerned about is the identification in particular
   ideas, concepts, information, symbols, knowledge, and so on, and how
   and why that so often biases our thinking and hinders us from gaining
   a more accurate understanding of reality. In other words, how the
   possessor of beliefs becomes possessed by those beliefs.


   These sorts of intractable “faiths”, beliefs, assumptions, or whatever
   you will, do not merely exist in religions but also in the forms of
   traditionalism, “normality”, spirituality, pseudoscience, and all sorts
   of ideologies and cultural cognitions that corrode rationality.


   People tend to interpret “faith” as only relating to religion and things
   that lack evidence, but this misses the way that certain ideas and
   assumptions bias our process of thinking because of our attachment
   to them and inability to see out of what we believe is true, as well as
   the vast scope of faulty “evidence” for many claims.


   Obviously we have to take some things as priors, at least to some
   degree, and we do need to take some kind of stance on issues, but
   the point is to become aware of our biases, fallacies, fears, and
   assumptions so that we improve our ability to see when this is
   happening and question it. 

 
 
   “You often talk about not suppressing things. Does this mean
    that we should ‘let everything out’?”
 
   We often have a misconception that our only options are to fear and
   suppress or forget and follow our impulses, yet in neither case do we
   actually really think about them or understand them. Automatically
   suppressing thoughts and automatically following them both entail an
   inattentiveness that rarely, if ever, leads to an understanding of how
   we react to our thoughts and fears.

   It is a common misconception that “venting” anger and taking out
   feelings on others actually makes you freer from them and acts as
   a “necessary release”. Rather, such behaviour merely further
   conditions you to react in the same way to those thoughts and
   feelings. It does not bring about attentive self-observation regarding 
   them. This doesn’t mean anger and other feelings
   are bad—sometimes they can be our most helpful friends—but
   that we should think critically with them to understand them and
   our  discontent rather than just react through them and pretend the
   problem has disappeared. 
 
 
   “Why do you think thinking or ‘thinking about thinking’ is
   important?”

   Because to do otherwise invites credulity, the enslavement to belief,
   prejudices, biases, assumptions and ultimately stupidity and suffering
   as shown all throughout history. 
 

   “Lately I have been feeling down, will I always feel this way?”

   Discontent can be incredibly helpful as a motivator for understanding
   what is bothering us and changing things. It is not something to shun,
   suppress or fight, but to observe. The key is to understand our
   discontent, not run from it and let it morph into a misty paralyzing
   discomfort that is harder to deal with and often appears to arrive
   out of nowhere.  Sometimes we are captivated by something
   fascinating and interesting, other times we feel like we do not
   know what to do with ourselves, and still other times our mind
   wanders through all sorts of ideas.
 

   “If you do the coaching, will I no longer be confused and how
    long does it take to be able to make significant progress?”


   Confusion is more of a scale than something black or white, but in
   general it greatly diminishes. There can be a major improvement
   in the first year, but the second year is often important as well.
   There’s no exact time though since everyone is different in where
   they are. After the coaching it’s up to you to keep thinking,
   questioning, observing, and applying yourself and what
   you’ve learned.
    
 
   “I want to collaborate with you guys in some way;
    what can I do?”
 
   If you would like to talk with us or know someone who would be
   interested in working with the project, please feel free to
   contact us here.  
 
 
   “This sounds like a really cool project, where can I find out
    more!?”
 
   Check out the Facebook group, orientation books ,
   take a look through the website, and try some EOF exercises!
 
Created November 22, 2015
  Last Edited January 31, 2016
 
         
 

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