2.c.5 – Does a psychological pollution exist?

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February 20, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

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Does a psychological pollution exist? 

When we see that beliefs are totally unfounded, we call them superstitions, if they relate to natural events and magic or religious practices, or prejudices if they relate to human nature and society. However, we are aware of the groundlessness of beliefs only when we judge those different from ours, since each of us is not usually able to assess his own beliefs.
Superstition and prejudice are traditionally considered fruit of ignorance, but according to the above it is evident that they are natural phenomena, due to the amazing process that produces human knowledge starting from a few sensations and a lot of imagination (or intuition); if we recall that most of our beliefs are not due to direct experience, but to our cultural tradition, we must admit that prejudices and superstitions are often the result of our culture and not of ignorance. The examples are many: discrimination for women or religious minorities, the various forms of racism and beliefs in the various magical practices are clear signs of cultural origin ranging from people to people and over time.
The false beliefs seem real to us until it is proven otherwise, and often even later, if there are no better alternatives; they have been accepted because apparently create no problems to our lives, but the negative consequences may arise even after many years when they are deeply rooted in our mentality. It is not easy to revise the consolidated convictions, but in a quickly changing world, the updating of our system of belief becomes a necessity more and more frequent, because it is increasingly easier that in our minds there are ideas not only wrong, but even harmful in the new formed context.
The widespread belief that drinking alcoholic beverages is a real man attitude has brought to very serious consequences ,especially after the use of the car has become common, since the number of deaths in motor vehicle accidents caused by alcohol is very high every year; this custom caused serious problems even before, for example cirrhosis of the liver, but people had to drink a lot more and longer in time for risking their lives. As another example, we can cite the belief that rulers always, or almost always, act in the interest of the homeland and citizens, a belief that always brings the masses to die in time of war for others’ interests.
We must then distinguish between false beliefs and harmful convictions: the first are part of our nature, are unavoidable, but generally do not give problems, the second are those that bring consequences of a certain gravity. According to the logics of nature, when an idea involves too much trouble, the same should be replaced with a better one, but this happens only if our mind perceives the real cause of these troubles; for example, standards of hygiene are rationally distributed only after the discovery that diseases were caused by bacteria. Sometimes though, not even the awareness of the case is sufficient: the lung cancer has been associated with cigarettes, but as it is a relatively rare phenomenon, is perceived by smokers as a misfortune that hits more unfortunate smokers; for them the real cause is bad luck and not the use of cigarettes; a similar reasoning can be done for the excess of speed or alcohol abuse.
Our tolerance levels about the problems that afflict us are too high; we must improve the processes by which freeing us from bad habits and harmful beliefs because our mind is increasingly full of harmful ideas that, together, form a sort of psychological pollution that leads us to move against our interests. This mass of rubbish ideas, which may result from our cultural tradition or incorrect personal assessments, sometimes can have a positive function: the belief in the evil eye, for example, helps us to overcome fear of the unknown, identifying a fictitious cause against whom there is a remedy; however, after that the magician in turn has taken away the evil eye, we can deal with renewed security and overcome a difficult period, a thing impossible before, without a cause to be eliminated to solve our problems; similar superstitions become harmful only when we go to magicians to cure a disease, for the rest, against misfortune, it works well and would be a mistake to remove them without replacing them with something else.
We all know that high speed is the main cause of accidents, but the incident is a rare event that happens only to the most unfortunate; it follows that when we go out and run with our car, we think that the incident will ever happen to someone else. At our first incident, however, even if slight, our attitude will change and for a long time, sometimes forever, we’ll drive more cautiously remembering that this problem can happen to us. As we said, learning of unconscious depends on the experience: our conscience was aware of the risks of high speed even before the accident, but the unconscious, the dominant part of our mind, had the need of a good scare to fully realize it and change the perception of danger. It is therefore clear that to combat psychological pollution is often not enough to rely on our conscience, no matter how well informed, it becomes necessary to improve the perception of reality through appropriate and controlled experiences.

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