Make Critical Thinking Great Again

Date: 08.Aug.2021Category:Mental Health,Personal Power

"The greatest tragedy for any human being is going through their entire lives believing the only perspective that matters is their own." - Doug Baldwin

Kick In The Ass

Military helicopter at Air Show.
Photo by Curioso Photography / Unsplash

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to search for opposing viewpoints, not to criticize but to absorb into your brain. Why open yourself to potentially irritating views which you may strongly disagree with, you may ask?

Because it’s important to gain perspective on all topics, but especially the views you may not agree with. It’s a sign of intelligence to hold two opposing views in your mind. In this day and age where we’re fed opinions and lazily digest them as fact from any given source, we must work even harder at gaining perspective and avoid that ever fateful echo chamber.

It may feel warm and cozy to surround yourself with opinions you agree with. However, this is a sign of a truly myopic view of the world and will only drive you further into divisiveness. The world may appear to be in complete turmoil, but could it be that that’s the only view you’re allowing yourself to see? Your perception and what you absorb will become your reality. So if you only consume information from one point of view, that’s all you’ll ever see.

Why give up your power to only one side? Why assign yourself to only one tribe? That’s what “THEY” want you to do. They’re counting on the fact you’ll lazily go with whatever the rest of the tribe believes. Have an independent thought outside of the things they’re trying to spoon feed into your brain. It takes a shit ton of awareness and the desire to seek other views in order to become a more rounded individual. It’s those who enjoy their comfortable echo chamber, which you need to avoid at all costs. That’s a person who’s easily influenced. It’s not someone you want to turn into, as there are many adversaries who just LOVE close-minded people that refuse to take the time to critically think about the information they’re being fed.

Do not succumb to ideology you may already lean towards. You’ll get you locked into it, so much so you’ll refuse to acknowledge any facts or figures from an opposing view. It’s called “tribal epistemology”. We’ve all run into someone, especially these days, that no matter how much scientific information you provide, they adamantly refuse to acknowledge a different viewpoint. They dig their heels deeper into their tribes’ ideology. This can be incredibly frustrating for the person who’s trying to convince someone to join their way of thinking. One might even suggest the opposing tribe lacks education or scientific knowledge. That may play a minor role, but what’s really going on is tribal epistemology. The person is so ingrained with their camp of like-minded individuals that no amount of facts from any source will change their mind. They will ignore facts in order to stay locked in with the tribe, avoiding going against their own people. It’s that ever important sense of belonging which can blind us from other groups’ viewpoints.

I’ll give you an example of this in action. For many years, my morning routine consisted of waking up and immediately going to CNN.com and MSN.com for my news. But about 7 years ago, I noticed something odd happening. They were no longer serving me unbiased news on a platter each morning. They were providing THEIR interpretation of the news. I noticed this trend happening more frequently. They used persuasive writing tactics, trying to drum up an emotional response from their reader. I rejected this, as I knew what they were trying to do. I was hyper-aware of the angle they were taking. From what I could see, CNN was no longer a balanced media news source for me.

Can you guess what I did next?

I pushed myself to read FoxNews.com. They’d have similar stories as the other news sites, but with their own spin, which they, too, were trying to feed my brain. I understood the core mission of these media giants. It’s all about gaining eyeballs. That’s all that matters. They NEED you to feel anxiety about the world so you continue to tune in. The media sells a drug, and it’s called “Anxiety”.

  • Next time, you watch a news video/channel, close your eyes and listen to the words. You’ll hear words and structure of sentences they specifically use to make you feel a certain way. That’s all expertly crafted. It’s scripted that way on purpose.

That’s not to say I don’t read/watch the news. But I will say, I look at it with a very critical eye to ensure I’m not being pulled into any one tribe or way of thinking. It’s okay to have a healthy degree of skepticism. In fact, it’s encouraged! Leaning heavily in any one direction is when you get locked into an echo chamber. Broaden your horizons a bit. Get out of your comfort zone and allow your brain to absorb other points of view.

And guess what? It’s okay to change your opinion on issues. You’re not a flip-flopper. You’re a human being who’s interested in growing your consciousness. No one said you’re locked into the tribe you chose. Mingle around a bit with the information that’s out there. In fact, you can agree with both sides of an argument! That’s not only doable, but it’s a sign of intelligence.

  • Take a hotly contended issue and see if you can make valid arguments for each view.

Whatever you decide to absorb into your brain, always be very aware of how and why the information is being presented to you. Think of the media as the very first Influencer. They’re pushing stories in order to gain advertising dollars. They want your eyeballs and need your clicks. And the media will do and say anything to get them.

It hasn’t always been this way. With the advent of social media, news corporations had to fight for your eyeballs. The more sensational the story, the more likely you would click on their page. It’s difficult to blame the journalists as the powers that be will reject their stories if goes against the news companies’ narrative. Unfortunately, this is where journalism has ended up. I believe it will shift back to being a vehicle of information, not infotainment. However, in the meantime, it’s YOUR job to assess the very things you read or watch and determine for yourself what you believe. Do not give up the power of your thoughts. It’s very hard to get it back when you do. If it sounds like you’re being brainwashed, that’s because you kind of are. I’m not saying to swear off all media sources as evil agents with hidden agendas. Not at all. It’s about making critical thinking great again. That responsibility is solely on you. Just because we have access to any and all information at any given moment does not mean we should turn our brains off. Avoid becoming a zombie.

Both my mother and I were trying to make time go faster. She was checking Twitter and I took photos of her, checking Twitter. What a time to be alive.
Photo by Marten Bjork / Unsplash

What's Good, Kira?

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A year ago today, I was on the road with my 2 dogs and 2 cats (in my coupe), making our way from Los Angeles to our new home in Atlanta. I said “goodbye” to my life in California and was on my way to place myself in the peaceful hands of nature.

I moved to Los Angeles in 2005, one year after graduating from college. I didn’t have a job and had about $100 to my name. But I wasn’t worried as I knew with every fiber of my being it would all work out. And it did. I built an amazing life in Los Angeles for 15 years. Los Angeles, however, is not for the faint of heart. You’ll hear of people moving out there, only to move back home after a couple of years. It’s absolutely unrelenting and will chew you up and spit you out if you allow it. Unlike NYC, Los Angeles is an “every man for himself” type of environment. There’s no helping your fellow man. You have the best of the best mixed in with the worst of the worst, all vying for the same meat like vultures. But over the years, I grew to love Los Angeles. There’s no place quite like it, and I still consider it home.

But in 2018, the energy in the city started to shift rapidly and not for the better. Each city is made up of people. And we, as the delightful human beings that we are, are made up of atoms and molecules. So we’re all walking energy blobs on this Earth. This is why we say things like “That person gave off a weird vibe”. Living in any city (big or small) is a give and take of energy. In 2018, however, Los Angeles was starting to take more than what it was giving. I felt my time in Los Angeles was coming to a close, but had not foreseen my life changing so dramatically last year.

A few things contributed to my decision to move across the United States in the middle of a pandemic. Los Angeles was increasingly becoming more difficult to live in. People were nastier to one another. You add in a pandemic, and it became a regular shit show living there, one in which I didn’t feel the need to partake in any more. As if to add insult to injury, the city became a Mecca for mosquitos, which found their way off a shipping container in San Pedro. (In fact, Los Angeles just outranked Atlanta as the worst city with mosquitos.) With the increasing fires, the air quality became unmanageable. I’d constantly deal with headaches from the smoke permeating my nasal cavity. The homeless population was completely out of control, and it became sketchy to even walk in my pleasant neighborhood of Los Feliz. The non-stop protests every single day, along with the police helicopters constantly above your head, were enough to make anyone feel like a big ball of anxiety every minute of every day.

Even though it was increasingly becoming hell to live in LA, I could’ve handled it had I not also been dealing with severe mental illness under my own roof. My boyfriend at the time had moved in with me at the beginning of 2020. His mental health had always been a bit of a teeter-totter, which explains why artists are so brilliant at what they do. The pandemic stresses threw him into an absolute tailspin, however, and I became collateral damage. I pleaded with him to see a therapist, as past traumas he hadn’t worked through were all coming to a head. He threatened violence on me, verbally attacked me almost every day, and was out of control. I didn’t recognize him at all. So much so, I thought about grabbing my animals and just renting an Airbnb until I could get him out of our place. But we were in the middle of a pandemic with little information about this deadly virus. And along with the riots, Los Angeles instituted curfews every day. I was trapped in my own personal hell.


Photo by Anthony Tran / Unsplash

My partner was extremely emotionally unstable, which was affecting my own mental health. No matter how hard I tried to get him help or provide a different perspective, he was too far gone down into his rabbit hole. I felt myself slipping emotionally and mentally as I pleaded with him to stop the verbal abuse. It got so bad I had a nervous breakdown in June 2020, which then triggered a PTSD episode. He witnessed it, but his ego refused to allow him to see the damage he was causing. That was the final straw for me.

This was a man I was going to marry. I was deeply in love with him. To say I don’t fall in love easily is an understatement. I met his family in New Zealand. We had discussed wedding plans. I was utterly heartbroken to see him destroy everything in his life and allow the ego to take hold. But I worked too hard for too many years building my new self to allow someone else’s destructive path to take me down. I finally had learned in my life I mattered more than any relationship or job. For my own sanity and health, it was time for me to move out of an incredibly toxic environment.

When you come to a decision you feel so strongly about with every fiber of your being, the Universe will open doors for you. And it had done just that when I decided I needed to move away from Los Angeles. I was looking at Colorado or Montana. I missed having nature around me. Atlanta wasn’t even remotely on my list of places. But as the Universe had it, it wasn’t up to me.

My brother called me out of the blue in July 2020 and said he had purchased an investment house which he was planning to rent out. He said it could be mine, no deposits needed, no lease, just full rent each month. And better yet, he’d allow my zoo (which good luck finding any place that allows 2 dogs and 2 cats). Full rent on the 3 bedroom house with a yard and two decks was $1000 less each month than my small apartment in Los Angeles. Done and done. I couldn’t pass up a wide open door such as this. Who am I to say “no” to the Universe?

So a year ago today, I found myself staying in hotels as I made my 4 day trek with my zoo to my new home in Atlanta. Was I nervous or scared? No, why should I be? It was the best adventure I had and enjoyed every minute of it. When others run away from fear of the unknown, I have always jumped into it.
Am I in love with my new city? No, not particularly. And that’s okay. I hated LA for the first 6 years of being there. I rarely, if ever use the word “hate”. But I really despised LA for those first few years. Do I think I’ll stay in Atlanta, though? Probably not. As of late, I’ve been researching my next city. I haven’t made any plans yet, but have been casually eyeing Nashville and Seattle. I generally don’t make plans. I throw it up to the Universe and say, “I’m ready to move to somewhere different, a place more along the lines with my edgy style.” And I allow It to open the doors.

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Until then, Atlanta is my home and I’m very grateful for everything it provides me on a daily basis.

Did You Know?

Anxiety handlettering drawn with Procreate on iPad Pro
Photo by Hello I'm Nik / Unsplash

  • Our brains are so evolved that they switch into “analysis mode” in order to alleviate any uncertainty about the future, activating anxiety neurons.

The problem with this is we sometimes get trapped into the “Well, what about this?” cycle, which will stop us from making a change in our lives. Anxiety stems from the fear of the unknown.

“Anxiety is an emotional response to a perceived threat that’s not actually there in front of you.” - Mazen Kheirbek, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

We need a healthy dose of anxiety to keep us safe from danger. There’s no way to turn off the “anxiety neurons” that fire up in our brain. However, we must be able to keep it in check to avoid paralysis of life.

How To Keep Your Anxiety In Check:

  1. Meditate, meditate, meditate. I can not stress enough how vital it is to include meditation into your daily routine.
  2. Breathing exercises. Are you aware of how often you may hold your breath without knowing it? Your brain needs oxygen to be able to function properly. Take a day and really pay attention to your shallow breathing and how to best to take bigger, deeper inhales and exhales. Get oxygen flowing!
  3. Exercise is an obvious one, but the effects of it are monumental. Even taking a walk outside every day will bring a level of awareness and calmness, which will tell those anxiety neurons to relax a bit.
  4. Fully embrace the FACT you do not have all the answers about the future and you only have control over your present. The minute you can release the worry of a future that hasn’t come into existence yet, the much happier you’ll find life to be.
  5. Limit your intake of the news for very obvious reasons.

“The problem is that imagining and predicting and preparing for bad outcomes can take a toll on us psychologically and biologically.” - Aoife O'Donovan, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychiatry

Would You Rather?


Photo by Sebastiano Piazzi / Unsplash

...go back in time
or
travel to the unknown future?

You could probably guess which one I’d choose. (The latter, obviously, as there is nothing in the past for me. There’s nothing in the past for any of us.)
Which one would you choose and why?

Make Humor Great Again

This is a shot of the owner of New Zealand watch company - Hunters Race.
Photo by Hunters Race / Unsplash

A man married a woman who had been previously married five times.
On their wedding night, she told her new husband, “Please be gentle, I’m still a virgin.”

“What?” said the puzzled man. “How can that be if you’ve been married five times?”

“Well, my first husband was a sales specialist. He kept telling me how great it was going to be. The second husband was an engineer. He understood the basic process but wanted a few years to research, implement, and design a new state-of-the-art method. The third was a marketer. He had a nice product, but was never sure how to position it. The other was a psychologist. All he ever did was talk about it. The last was a stamp collector. All he ever did was… God! I miss him! But now that I’ve married you, I’m really excited!”

“Well,” said the new husband, “but, why?”

“You’re a lawyer. This time I know I’m gonna get screwed!”