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Mental Rigidity

Release yourself from the prison of your own mind

“Somebody whyo is very rigid in his thoughts and emotions believes he is perfect becausehe does not allow room for any other way of looking, thinking, or feeling” – Sadguru, Breaking Your Barriers of Rigidity

Mental Rigidity is a cognitive bias where we find it challenging to change our perception or recognise those of others that differ from our own. The foundation is, in my view, a fear of change. Our minds seek comfort in the known and familiar. Anything challenging that stability can be perceived as a threat. 

In 2019, a 20 year long study was published at Cambridge where they looked at the basic ability to switch between different concepts and tasks. It turned out that the attachment to concepts and the rigidity was not an emotional bond, but rather a congnitive inflexibility. The study also found that mental rigidity:

  • Leads to radicalisation.
  • Affects the ability compromise and empathise.  
  • Allows opportunitst to capitalise on extremist views for their own gain.

If we grow up in communities where indoctrination and one-sided conditioning is rife, without any exposure to other viewpoints we are likely to end up in echo chambers continuously validating our own views (confirmation bias). If someone of an opposing view, who is also labouring under mental rigidity, tries to convince you of their opinion, you are likely to immediately go in to defence mode and become suspicious. “Warning! Someone is trying to take you out of your safety.”, is what your subconscious will say. It is likely to entrench your views and your mental rigidity. Hence, you can’t be dragged out of it, you have to be challenged in another way. 

As with anything, it starts with you and how you approach and show up in the world. Change is enacted through you showing up as a role model, showcasing that it is possible to do it differently. Individually, we can work on:

  • Accepting our own journeys and those of others.
  • Practicing non-judgement.
  • Being objective while maintaining our boundaries.
  • Take a birds-eye perspective on our experiences.
  • Show compassion to yourself and others.
  • Seek to build bridges by endeavoring to understand others and by having empathy.
  • Expose ourselves to a variety of viewpoints.
  • Set the intention to grow.
  • Improving our emotional intelligence (EQ) by doing our own work and thus strengthening our empathy.
  • Accept the imperfection of the world as opportunities to learn about ourselves and how we react to it. 
  • Seek to understand rather than convince or be convinced.
  • Be solutions focused.

At the end of the day, seek to be the best version of yourself and show up as a role model in your community and networks. Now get busy changing the world. 

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