How Can I become a Subjective Objectivist?

I thought you’d never ask! Just email me your name, address, DOB, SSN, phone, credit card and bank acct numbers…

Just kidding. :)

Well the truth is, I really don’t know. I’m still learning the subtle intricacies of this way of thinking myself. It’s a learning process that is different for everyone. But I can tell you what I’ve learned, and let you take it from there.

The first step is to understand that emotions, by themselves, possess no inherent bad or good qualities. They are simply feelings. And any given feeling can be right or wrong. Anger can motivate positive action, and joy can be had from negative actions, and vice versa. The trick is to understand the thought process that triggers an emotion, and evaluate each emotion in terms of the validity (or logic) of the thought process that spawned it. Yeah. A toughie. But it’s doable.

There is usually some form of logic involved in emotions, whether we realize it or not. Even when the logic is flawed, if given enough inertia, the emotion center of the brain (The Inimitable Amygdala) can (and will) actually override the logic centers, making one act on the subsequent emotion alone, regardless of whether it is right or wrong. This is often referred to as amygdala hijacking. You basically turn into a neanderthal, all emotion, and capable of only limited logical thought. Captain Cave Man/Woman. (No offense meant to any contemporary cave people alive and well today) Or the Hulk/She-Hulk. Without the muscles. Or the brains. (She-Hulk was actually pretty smart). But I digress. It’s not a good place to be. We have to learn to short-circuit this process before it gets to that point.

We are each trained by our experiences and backgrounds to make certain correlations. Some of them are good and some of them are bad. Our reactions are usually the sum total of this training, our inner demons and angels, experiences, biases, assumptions, hang-ups, ethics, morals, perceptions, etc. It is these that determine how we react to a given stimuli, and once you understand that, then you’ll realize that all of our emotional responses, both rational and irrational ones, are actually controlled by these conscious and subconscious logical correlations. In other words, we are programmed. Just like a computer. :)

Now the problem is, much like a computer, we can be incorrectly programmed. Flawed logic often creeps in and messes things up. Experiences can teach us the wrong lesson. We often internalize assumptions and biases we have observed, consciously or subconsciously over the course of your life, both good and bad. And all of these affect your ability to think objectively. And because these biases may be unconscious, they are hard to pin down, much less remove. The only solution is a line-by-line debug of our internal programming code. In human terms it means asking yourself questions. Lots of them. All the time. Into perpetuity.

A subjective objectivist questions everything. Every emotion, good or bad, every rationalization, every excuse, every reason, is dissected. But the important part is not to just ask superficial questions, but rather to continue to delve deeper. Your questioning has to go beyond the surface layers. Ask yourself even obvious or stupid questions. You may find that you have difficulties answering questions that should be simple. Here’s an example. When someone does something to make you mad, ask yourself what exactly made you mad.

Telling yourself that the person did something stupid is not sufficient. Ask yourself what specific things about the stupid behavior irritated you. Ask yourself why these things irritated you. They are not the same question. As yourself whether you would still be mad if someone you like a lot (pick a specific person) did the same thing. If you are honest with yourself, you might be surprised at the answers. Or you may not. But the main point is discovery. Unless you really, truly, deeply, understand why you behave the way you do, you can never change.

This process does not guarantee instant objectivity, but over time you will get better at spotting inconsistencies in your logic, and will be better able to tell where you are likely to make these errors. It’s a process. Nothing more, nothing less. No magic pill. Not computer chip implant. But as you slowly begin weeding out the biases, assumptions and prejudices in your system, you will find it easier to deal with things in a logical, objective manner, without sacrificing your emotions, compassion or love of life. You may find you love life even more. And that you get along better with others.

And that, in my oh, so humble opinion, is the ultimate goal of a subjective objectivist. Try it. You might like it. :)