An exercise to clear your mind.

This exercise is designed to help you clear out your mind from aberration. I will go through it myself and write down the results in order to illustrate the steps. I invite you to do the same on your blog if you want, or do it for yourself without posting about it, however you want to do it.

1. The first step is to list all your identities. An identity is any social role or status, anything that makes you say “I am…”, which entails beliefs, guilt, “I should”s or “I must”s. Your list does not have to be exhaustive right away, as the most obvious ones should still give you plenty to work on. Of course the process can be reiterated later on.

Here is my list of identities:
I am… a heterosexual man, an adult, someone’s child, a Canadian citizen/an American citizen, francophone, white, fat, poor, worker, consumer, Anarchist, atheist.

Note that your list should include any identity (some have been melded together because they overlap), whether it has any importance to you or not. You may not even believe in it (for instance, I don’t believe there is such a thing as “being a citizen” since there is no legitimate State or State border), but you are still indoctrinated on the basis of being in that identity, so write it down too. You may not even self-identify as some of these except when you’re forced to do so (I very rarely think of myself as being “white” or “heterosexual” specifically).

You should also include identities from your past, if they still have some influence on your thoughts or behaviour. In my case, I didn’t include any since the two past identities I have identified (baptized Catholic, rich) have been completely and cleanly replaced by two new identities (atheist, poor) and I have no outstanding belief or issue from them. Your case, however, will probably be different. I also did not include past identities such as “teenager” and “child.”

2. Using this list of identities, enumerate all the items you can under each of them, using the following forms:

* Blame statements, of the form “X are Y.” (e.g. “Poor people are lazy,” “poor people are losers”)
* “I should”s and “I must”s. (e.g. “I should be more ambitious.”) I use “must” to designate statements that are backed by threat or coercion. (e.g. “I must pay my taxes,” “I must follow orders from my superiors”)

If you want to include beliefs as well, formulate them in terms of “should”s and “must”s. (e.g. “I should believe in Hell,” “I must believe Jesus is my saviour”) We’re only trying to clear out aberrations, not all false beliefs: false beliefs which do not influence behaviour in any non-trivial way are not relevant.

Realize, however, that your list is personal. Don’t write down things that you think other people are indoctrinated to believe, or that other people actually believe. This is about the stuff that has been going on in your mind. Whether from your parents, friends, schools, the media, or anywhere else, you heard this repeatedly and it left some impression on your mind. If you’re not sure, or can’t think of anything, then just think of what one might feel or believe in that situation, and see if it applies to you as well.

If you stumble upon a feeling, try to formulate it. If you can’t, then just skip it or file it aside for later.

3. Now that you have this long list of statements, evaluate each of them on the basis of your values and actual beliefs. If you don’t agree with a statement, then note how far along you are in clearing it from your mind (which could be anywhere from “can’t even imagine not believing it” to “completely and utterly gone”)

Here is my list, with evaluations.

***

Identity: I am a heterosexual man.

* “Men are obsessed about sex.”
I am not obsessed about sex, nor do I wish to be. This belief doesn’t affect me, as I feel no shame on the subject of thinking about sex or thinking sexually about women.
* “I should be courteous to women.”
Although certain women probably don’t like it, and I don’t believe in gender, I don’t really have any problems with this belief. One should probably be courteous to everyone, not just women. I think I am a courteous person.
* “I should not have women friends unless I intend to have an intimate relationship with them.”
This prejudice has been an issue for me in the past. I don’t believe it myself and never have.
* “I should only love one woman at a time.”
I think this belief is absolutely laughable and would never intend to even try to enforce such a thing on myself, even if it was possible.
* “I should only be in a sexual relationship with one woman at a time.”
Same as the previous one.
* “I should not act in an effeminate manner.”
This is not an issue for me, and I don’t care if a man acts in an effeminate manner, although I would take notice of it.
* “I must wear clothing appropriate for men.”
This has never been an issue for me, as I have no desire to wear dresses and so on. While I don’t think the belief is valid, I admit that I do have a gender bias against men wearing “women’s clothing.”

Identity: I am an adult.

* “I should be mature.”
I definitely do not believe this and have no problems whatsoever in not being mature.
* “I should be responsible.”
I don’t believe this, as “responsibility” is generally used as a button to manipulate people in staying in whatever game they’re in. I believe I am responsible only for my own choices and actions, not anyone else’s expectations.
* “I should want to get a career and make a lot of money.”
I don’t believe this and have no qualms or regrets about it.
* “I should be a good consumer.”
I do not believe this at all, and I try to consume as little as I can. I still have to work on this though.
* “I should get married.”
I am married, but strictly to manipulate the system. I do not subscribe to the belief in marriage as a desirable goal. I have no hangups about this.
* “I should have children.”
This is definitely not something I have any problem opposing, as I am strictly opposed to breeding.
* “I should be polite.”
I have no problems with being polite, as long as it doesn’t interfere with telling the truth, which it sometimes does. I have no qualms in being impolite so I can tell the truth.
* “I should not swear in front of children.”
I think this is a silly belief. Children should not be “protected” from taboo words, otherwise they will grow up believing in taboos.

Identity: I am someone’s child.

* “I should cherish and respect my parents.”
I don’t think parents are owed any more love or respect than anyone else you’ve known for a very long time. You should not feel a duty to parents who have wronged you. Fortunately I am not in that situation.
* “I should respect my parents’ teachings.”
My parents have taught me a lot of things, all of which was well-intentioned but much of which was misguided. I don’t really have any hangup on any of it though.
* “I should support my parents whenever needed.”
I don’t think I have any obligation to support my parents. They took the obligation to raise me of their own free will, with no trade on my part. Anything I give them must come from my relation with them.

Identity: I am a Canadian citizen/an American citizen.

* “I should believe that being Canadian/American is good because Canada/America is the best country in the world.”
I don’t believe that “countries” exist, therefore there is nothing to evaluate. I don’t believe that the ruling classes in Canada or America are any better than any other. All rulers are essentially the same, and only differ in the power they are able to bring to bear at a given time.
* “I should support our leaders/the military.”
I don’t understand this and I hopefully never will.
* “I should believe in democracy and vote.”
Democracy is nothing more than the sublimation of violence through the ballot box. Voting has never brought about freedom. I don’t subscribe to it and will never participate in it.
* “I should feel superior to people who ‘immigrated’ here.”
I do not believe in the concept of “immigration.” Despite that fact, I feel I may have some residue of cultural supremacism left in me. It may be simply that one is more comfortable with what one already knows.
* “I must pay my taxes.”
I feel no obligation whatsoever to finance activities to which I am morally opposed. So far I have had no need to pay anything in taxes due to my low income, but if I ever do, I will not pay.

Identity: I am francophone.

* “I should support the French language.”
I don’t support the French language, in fact I think the French language is cumbersome and rather more rigid than English. I feel no particular loyalty towards it.
* “I should support Quebec secession.”
I support Quebec secession, although for purely technical reasons. I don’t share the obsession of secessionists about independent governance and the French-Canadian culture, and I never have.

Identity: I am white.

Having been raised in Quebec, I did not receive much indoctrination as regards to race specifically. The only indoctrination I got on that was from the American media.

I don’t believe I am responsible for any black person’s hardship. Apart from my responsibility in supporting the system, I feel no personal guilt towards the hardships of black people.

Identity: I am fat.

* “Fat people are lazy.”
I am lazy, although I don’t think all fat people are lazy. I accept the fact that I am lazy, but I don’t feel any guilt about it.
* “Fat people have an unhealthy diet.”
I do not have an unhealthy diet. In fact, I probably eat better than a majority of the population. I just eat a lot and don’t exercise very much.
* “Fat people are less attractive.”
I really don’t think this is true. I think some of the most attractive people that exist are fat (given how strict the criterion for fatness is in the mainstream media, this is probably a truism).
* “I should lose weight.”
While I wouldn’t mind losing a few pounds, I am satisfied with the way I am and don’t feel the need to lose weight.

Identity: I am poor.

The general strategy of indoctrination, especially as regards to gender and wealth is this: we (enlightened modern capital-democratic people) now live in a classless, free society, therefore, anyone who’s poor/oppressed is poor/oppressed of his/her own doing. Instead of trying to justify classes, we simply deny them and put the blame on the victim (which is, by the way, also how cults work).

* “Poor people are lazy.”
I am lazy, although I don’t think all poor people are lazy- quite the opposite. I feel no guilt about being lazy.
* “Poor people are losers.”
This is still a button for me. I feel guilty about being called a loser, even though I do not agree that I am a loser. According to my own standards, I am actually doing pretty good. But I seem to still have an aberration about the term “loser.”
* “Poor people cheat the system.”
I have nothing against people who cheat the system or even fight against it, unless they commit acts of physical violence against other human beings. Even if it was true that poor people like to cheat the system, I would have nothing against it.
* “I should be more ambitious”
This is still a button for me. For instance, I don’t like saying where I work, since I think it makes me seem less intelligent, especially since most of my co-workers are as dumb as bricks (some are mentally handicapped and yet still do almost as good of a job as me).

Identity: I am a worker.

* “I must follow orders from my superiors.”
My job does not involve much responsibility, so I don’t get any orders that I am morally opposed to (at least I haven’t yet). Still, they are an annoyance, and I try to look through them as much as possible.
* “I must not talk about sex in the break room.”
I swear to Bob, I actually got this one by a manager. I rolled my eyes at him and he got mad because of that. I will talk about whatever I damn want.
* All sorts of corporate rules I must follow or I’m totally fired: too numerous to list.
They sure are an annoyance.

Identity: I am a consumer.

* Every single advertisement I have ever seen in my life.
And I don’t like any of them. Thank Bob I don’t watch TV any more.

Identity: I am an Anarchist.

* “Anarchists are violent.”
I am not a violent person, and Anarchism as a whole is not a violent ideology. Violence arises from helplessness and machoism, and many Anarchists find themselves helpless or still following the macho game and use intimidation or violence thinking they are achieving some aim. This is disharmonious with the principles of Anarchism.
* “I should try to work the system to get what I want instead of trying to do my own thing.”
“Working the system” cannot lead a society to any freedom. Political means can only engender more political means. I have absolutely no intention to “work the system.”

Identity: I am an atheist.

* “Atheists are immoral.”
I am not immoral. In fact, atheists as a whole seem to me to be far more moral than religious people. Atheism itself does not have a moral system, which does confuse Christians a great deal: furthermore they believe non-believers are going to Hell, which is hard to justify unless you also believe that non-believers are immoral.
* “Atheists are nihilists.”
I think this is similar to the previous belief. I am not a nihilist and neither do I know any atheist nihilists.
* “I should respect other people’s religious beliefs.”
I don’t really see any reason why I should respect other people’s religious beliefs any more than I respect their other beliefs. I have no qualms disrespecting any belief that I find ridiculous or absurd.

Did I forget any statements? I’m sure I did. I included all the ones that do bother me, which is the most important part. I don’t think one could really write down an exhaustive list unless one was working at it for a long time, but I think this is good enough to work with.

4. Look through your list and find the statements which you a) actually disagree with and b) still have an emotional hang-up or present some real-life difficulty. In my case, this would be: being a good consumer, cultural supremacism, being a loser, not being ambitious enough.

Analyze each of these statements or feelings very carefully, the whole what, who, when, why and how. How was it or is it being fed to you as a belief? Is there a part of you that believes it? What is its purpose in the system of indoctrination? What can you do in your life to change it? How can you act in order to banish this thought or feeling?

It is probable that many of the statements you have listed are the result of a friction between your values and that of other people. Do not fall into the trap of “there’s no point to this because I can’t be free from other people.” The true self is not the nature of the individual freed from social pressures and exterior determinisms (for that would simply mean to become a hermit), but rather freed from the effects of social pressures and exterior determinisms. The goal of clearing is not to liberate one from society, but to liberate one from those effects of society that are noxious.

Another interesting question is, how far do I identify with all these identities? At least for those that are artificial, how much do I still believe in their existence? I don’t think of myself as being Canadian or American, heterosexual or francophone. Still, there are certain categories that I can’t shake off. I often think about race and gender, even though I know that scientifically these concepts are bankrupt.

I hope you find this exercise to be of some use in your own life.

7 thoughts on “An exercise to clear your mind.

  1. alleee April 3, 2009 at 22:40

    This seems like a terrifying thing to do.

  2. Francois Tremblay April 4, 2009 at 04:14

    I don’t think it is. It’s more long than anything else, if you’re trying to be exhaustive. But you don’t have to go as far as I did.

  3. […] An Exercise to Clear Your Mind by Francois Tremblay […]

  4. Anarcho-pragmatiste April 6, 2009 at 11:57

    Superb!

    Enormous amount of thinking and re-thinking in this!

  5. Anon73 April 14, 2009 at 12:35

    Very interesting exercise… almost reminds me of something Nathaniel Branden might come up with.

    Is it your goal to be completely neutral on all these beliefs? Some of them sound eminently reasonable to me. On some of them you said you were “biased”. Like you say you have no problem with cross-dressing, but admit to being “biased” against it. I personally cannot see any obvious good from cross-dressing, does this make me “biased” or dare I say “prejudiced” in favor of gender roles?

    The part about not believing in monogamy sounds worrisome though. (“I should only be in a sexual relationship with one woman at a time.”) I’m not sure I could be like that. Jealousy and being territorial are part of human nature, even animals are this way. At least one primate species is known to be monogamous (gibbons). If humans did not have the practice of giving each male exclusive sexual access to one female, it seems like continual fighting and conflict would be the result. I hate to make the analogy, but it’s similar to how giving each person their “private property” reduces constant violence over who has access to what. It’s hard for me to accept that most people have to be monogamous but that you personally have transcended all the problems surrounding polyamory.

  6. Francois Tremblay April 14, 2009 at 15:12

    No one has no problems about human relations. I’m only talking about indoctrinated beliefs, not about “transcending all problems.” I have no idea how you could possibly get that idea from what I wrote.

    “Some of them sound eminently reasonable to me.”

    Then you are a naive fool.

  7. Everett Hennesy October 26, 2010 at 16:19

    Fine reading. Thanks, looking forward to your feed updates…

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