Once upon a time I was profoundly in conflict with everything I knew. Despite feeling like I couldn’t support my views, despite how I could find no one who would agree with me, I felt certain, certain that school was sapping my will away and would lead on to something even worse.
So I threw away my exam grades – wilfully failing and wilfully ending my life of institutions and external authority. It was the right decision for me. I’ve never regretted it once.
But my parents thought I’d gone crazy (it didn’t help that my coherence *had* started to fray around the edges, but that doesn’t mean that my action had been wrong) and came to Madrid expressly to pick me up from boarding school.
I remember the conversation on the journey back:
Father: If you do this you will never have any friends. If you reject society like this no one will accept you. You will be alone forever.
[I’m not making this stuff up…]
Me: No, YOU’RE WRONG, YOU’RE WRONG!!!
I screamed at the top of my lungs. I had no argument to offer him, but I knew he was wrong. He was wrong and he was wrong and I had to force his aggressive opinion away from him with the loudest scream by body could manage.
These days I don’t need to scream to hold onto what I know is true. But sometimes it still seems hard to maintain my feeling of justification when others claim to be right with a powerful sense of authority. I guess most people have this problem.
Yesterday I was thinking about the criminal system and how our very language suggests that it is just right and true that a “criminal” deserves “punishment”. The whole of society is behind that belief. And if you ever do anything against the law, the whole of society wants you to believe that you are wrong.
I had been reading about Abdullah Ocalan, you see. He’s a Kurdish leader who is pushing for a political (rather than military) solution to the Kurdish conflict in Turkey.
I thought how hard it would be to be in prison, where the very surroundings you are in and your inability to escape them scream at you that you are wrong.
It’s through these thoughts that I came up with a solution to this mental conflict I have with external opinions.
I’ve used this solution on other things since then and it helped every time to help me feel like I support my own point of view, even if I’m against a million people who think I’m wrong.
The solution is a mantra: I reject your reality and substitute my own! (Or supplant my own, as it flows off the tongue more easily).
I first read this phrase in The Principia Discordia, though I hear it came from Dr. Who originally.
For instance, I often have an issue with people who think that there’s something wrong with how I dress (I’m a male to female transsexual). I usually can feel okay when I’m all done up, but sometimes I let my beard grow out a bit, not because I like it but because sometimes I don’t want to shave for whatever reason. Then I might feel discomfort at other people’s reactions.
But – I reject your reality and substitute my own! When I say this to myself the balance of power suddenly switches. I realise I have the power to decide what’s true for myself and no-one else has that power. So I decide that it’s okay for me to dress as I like and be lazy with my grooming as I like and to absolutely flaunt that I am a transsexual. I decide that it’s positively cool. And suddenly the weight of hundreds of opinions have no effect on what I myself think and feel.
Or somebody might be trying to argue with something I believe, for instance veganism. I could get defensive. Or I could say to myself, I reject your reality and substitute my own! Suddenly I remember who defines what I believe. The other person may argue as hard as they can, but so long as I remember who owns my reality there just isn’t anything they can do. What’s more, I don’t have to try and win them over or defeat their arguments. I don’t need to. I already know what my reality is and don’t need to change theirs.
I’m still playing around with this mantra but liked it enough to share it already. I’m hoping that by making this thought a habit I can cultivate a bedrock of absolutely unshakable self-assurance.
I don’t intend to never change my mind of course. But I reject your reality and substitute my own! reminds me that physical-world power doesn’t change what is true. It doesn’t matter if someone can argue harder than you, has more people on their side, or can put you in prison. You can still decide to hold your own reality as true and no one can take that away from you, ever, ever, ever.