How do I stop my old self from influencing my present self?
January 19, 2013 11:44 PM   Subscribe

I want to mentally rebuild myself, so to say. There's a lot of wrong and/or conflicting info in my head. I noticed that I have too many prejudices, too many predetermined opinions about people/stuff, I do too much quick jumping to conclusions and too much judging. I want to stop doing that.

Any kind of advice would be cool - your own words, book recommendations, videos...

posted by _Seeker_ to Religion & Philosophy (13 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
If you might be interested in a Buddhist approach, I often recommend Pema Chodron's audiobook, Getting Unstuck.
posted by scody at 12:15 AM on January 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

You are aware of your problem - that is halfway to fixing it. Articles and books might be helpful to widen your basis for decisions and opinions. But basically your own vigilance is the key.
When you think you have 'leaped' perhaps you could check yourself, ask why you think that way. Try to find contrary opinions so you can re-think, and make an enlightened assessment.
posted by Cranberry at 12:19 AM on January 20, 2013

Hi _Seeker_!

You also might be interested in mindful meditation approaches.

Personally, I can't sit still for 30 seconds, so I rely on guided meditations apps that feature Binaural Beats.

My BEST success with this included 20 minutes of yoga at home + a meditation with binaural beats.

The combo makes you, I dunno, more self-aware? More in control of your reactions?

Fuck it. It'll make you like Neo in the Matrix. Suddenly, you'll know Jiu Jitsu!

(Ok. Maybe NOT that effective. But pretty much.)

You might google "Monroe Institute." They have some free downloads for meditations with the binaural beat technology underneath. They are the pioneers of binaural beats.

That said...

There are TONS of free or cheap apps that do this on your smartphone or laptop.

All you need are headphones to listen.

Good for you. Get to it!!
posted by jbenben at 12:29 AM on January 20, 2013 [6 favorites]

I agree that by just thinking about this, you are way ahead of most people. And trying to do something about it puts you even farther ahead.

The advice above is all great. On a very concrete level, you might also find it useful to check out The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. It offers some great insight into how we get into certain habits, including entrenched patterns of thought and feeling, and what we can do to get rid of the negative ones and get the process on our side.
posted by rpfields at 2:16 AM on January 20, 2013

There are a couple of great chapters on Judgement and Compassion in the book Self-Esteem that I found really helpful for learning to be less judgemental.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 2:35 AM on January 20, 2013

If you can get past the heavy-handed Christian references, The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman is an incredible read and made a huge difference in how I interact with others. It made a very crucial difference in my life, being fairly isolated socially to being particularly outgoing once it had really sunk in shortly thereafter and with some practice.

I discovered my own language I didn't realize I had, and can pick up on languages that others are speaking indirectly, and can speak in that language to them that perhaps they don't even realize about themselves and connect with them on profound levels.

Chapman is a relationship/marriage counselor, who noticed patterns and formulated five particularly noteworthy language styles that people can "hear" indirectly as expressions of love (or genuine interest, even if you aren't that interested) interpreted personally to themselves, but can also fluently "speak" languages (perhaps different ones) by their nature of expression.

Helping couples to learn each others and ways their own native language conflicted with their partners' made worlds of difference.. and made a pretty big difference in how I saw others.
posted by Quarter Pincher at 6:10 AM on January 20, 2013

There is a lot of information about rationality, human biases and how to think on Less Wrong.
posted by katrielalex at 6:12 AM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

I want to mentally rebuild myself, so to say. There's a lot of wrong and/or conflicting info in my head. I noticed that I have too many prejudices, too many predetermined opinions about people/stuff, I do too much quick jumping to conclusions and too much judging. I want to stop doing that.

As a first step, rather than looking at what is "wrong" or "too much", consider how "right" and/or "enough" looks. One of the first steps in the process is self-acceptance – literally getting to the point of saying "there is no problem here". With problem-centered thinking, you are trying to "fix" something for which there is no solution. You can say all day "I shouldn't judge so much", which belies the issue of 'how much judging is enough?'.

If you go from an improvement basis, you wipe the slate clean, realising that in this moment, you are who you are, and everything is fine. What has happened in the past exists in the inaccurate storehouse of your memories, and the future is an illusion. The only moment in time in which you need to operate is this moment. And in this moment, everything is fine.

From there, you can come from a place of positivity, rather than negativity. An example is instead of criticising yourself when you are judgemental, congratulate yourself when you are uncritical. When you find yourself being judgement, simply note that in that moment you were judgemental, and move on. When you have jumped to a conclusion, simply note it and move on.

Whatever you reinforce will come to dominate, or as the Buddha said "what a man thinks, is what he becomes". If you attempt to become critical of moments when you are being critical, you will simply become better at being critical of your own criticism! If you want to be less critical of others, the first step is then to be less critical of yourself. When you think about how you want to treat other people, first treat yourself that way.
posted by nickrussell at 6:44 AM on January 20, 2013 [8 favorites]

One quick piece of advice: don't deny that your "old self" exists. Many people who try to make big, sweeping changes to themselves attempt to mentally or behaviorally make an abrupt, complete break from the things they want to stop. They classify those as "not me" and thus no longer relevant. This can work if you're, say, quitting smoking, but if the change you want to make is overcoming something shyness or drama-seeking or judgmentalness, you can't exactly put those things on the curb and proceed as if they never existed. If you ignore your past, you can't learn from it.

If you catch yourself doing or thinking an "old you" thing, instead of reacting with "No! I don't do this anymore," tell yourself something like, "I've had a habit of doing this and want to break that habit, so I will do X instead."
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:08 AM on January 20, 2013

Let me add a comment about rushing to judgment -- of other people or yourself.

I try to delay reaching a conclusion about people for as long as I can. I'm not going to dissemble facts or ignore glaring problems, but I try to keep in mind that I am only observing most people for very small fractions of their day. So I really don't know much about them, and does such slight familiarity even require me to make a judgment? Usually not.

For instance, I used to work for a company where we had a multiple floor office. There was a gentleman on another floor who had a very disheveled appearance. A few times I passed by his desk and it looked like a pigpen. But I did not draw any conclusions -- why did I need to?

Then one day he was moved to my floor and given to my team. I asked what he had been doing and he described his expertise as handling very detailed technical aspect. It was at that point I finally had to judge him -- was I confident in his abilities to do what he described? Worse, I did not have immediate access to his records. This guy was totally outside the mold for people who did this detailed role and it was my job to trust my instincts. But I went with a trust but verify approach, and he turned out to be a very good worker who was in the top 20% of his job area.

Likewise, with self-assessing, I try to be kind but also truthful. If possible, I postpone judgment on my actions until the issue has cooled. Then I go back, think over what I did, and recognize what served me well and what I regret. Then I put the outcome in perspective and file the information away with everything else that has happened in my life.

So my point is to delay making judgments on peripheral issues...judging too early creates the bias where you seek out information to re-affirm your opinion and ignore stuff that calls it into question. Sometimes you will find that no judgment from you was even necessary. But when called upon to make a judgment, don't hesitate -- think of everything you have noticed and decide what fits the data.
posted by 99percentfake at 10:54 AM on January 20, 2013


Tao Te Ching by Lao-tzu shows that in terms of living harmonious and being happy, actually not much has changed in the last couple thousand years.

Man's Search for Himself by Rollo May is a solid primer of how people create identities, values, and the interface with the experience of being in a modern society.

Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl explains the root of logotherapy, and Dr. Frankl is interviewed here. A notable comment on the interview: I happened upon Dr Frankl about 24 Hours ago and I now understand myself better than I ever have.

On Becoming a Person by Carl Rogers sees the introduction of unconditional positive regard, which introduces the tremendous power of empathy.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is a popular allegory of the small and large journeys many of us will undertake throughout our lives.

Feeling Good by Dr. David Burns is primarily about depression, however it's also a very strong introduction to Cognitive Behaviour Therapy.

The Penn programme is run by Martin Seligman – author of Authentic Happiness, with an accompanying TED talk

The Authentic Happiness positive psychology programme @ University of Pennsylvania has a number of tools you can use to register and track your progress on personal development.

The Flowering of Human Consciousness lecture is a good place to start with Eckhart Tolle

Are You Ready To Succeed? by Sri Kumar Rao and accompanying lecture from Learning@Google.

The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor and accompanying TED talk
posted by nickrussell at 11:22 AM on January 20, 2013 [4 favorites]

i think i would approach this experientially as much as possible. for example, if your prejudices are toward a group of people then over time start spending time with that group. you can read all about said group by their own authors and find out why they are they way they are from them. definitely don't start with the extreme factions of the group because that might end up confirming your initial bias but start with the more moderate people in said group. this doesn't have to be done all at once. you can start talking to an individual from this group and just get to know them a little where maybe they are someone you would usually not interact with.

my guess is we frequently have biases toward those we are unfamiliar with so i'd suggest moving toward those people you are biased against. or, we may have had a bad experience with someone from a particular group or that has a particular trait and we have globalized that prejudice to everyone with that particular trait. again, try to move toward these people and get to know them over time. as you hear their stories you will naturally develop a lot more understanding and compassion for them. that doesn't mean excusing them if they are involved in wrong behaviors but it can mean having more compassion. a guy i know said something that has always stuck with me: there is a reason why people are the way they are.
posted by wildflower at 3:28 PM on January 20, 2013

Response by poster: Thank you for your answers people! They are are very helpful!
posted by _Seeker_ at 7:51 AM on January 21, 2013

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