Mental Entrapment

Your Belief System as a Cage

Throughout my adulthood, I have pondered the power of a group to entrap the minds of those who belong by allowing someone else–a living leader or a dead one or even a group as a whole–to do their thinking and decision making  for them, and to tell them how to live their lives and what action to take on anything. This applies not just to cults, but to religions, politics, philosophical ideologies of all stripes, social media and identity politics (race, gender, sexual identification and orientation, vegan or not, victim of ___, 12 step member, etc). 

Group think goes beyond what to believe and how to act. The group can become your very identity and your ‘family’. Consequently, it becomes very threatening if you start to have any questions or doubts. A warning sign of group think is that you are not only told what to believe but honest questions or debate are ridiculed, disallowed or even punished.
A belief by definition is something that is not or cannot be proven, but which is just accepted on faith. It is one thing to accept unimportant things on faith from what you consider a good source until such time as you find a better source. But it is another thing to accept important things on faith without extensive research and thought, and it is even worse to defend such unexamined beliefs by attacking those that do not agree with you. 
Another warning sign of group think is that you are told who is’ good’ and who is ‘bad’, who to love and follow, and who to hate or censor, who and what to support, and who and what to protest or punish. Such group is oppressive to personal growth and evolution even if it claims to be spiritual or take the moral high ground. The leaders that endorse group think are into ego, control and manipulation. You might consider the teachings of any such group as propaganda or mind-control. Especially is this true if fear is used to discipline and control members. 
It can be comforting to feel certain about things, and for someone else tell you what to do instead of making the hard decisions yourself. It is also very seductive to feel that you are on the ‘right’ side, that you are ‘enlightened’, ‘progressive’, ‘spiritual’ or in any way morally superior to those that have different beliefs or group affiliation. Your ego can get caught in a trap that mistakes your beliefs or group affiliation for your core identity. At that point, it becomes progressively harder to examine and move past those beliefs or to find your core self.

The truth of who you are is separate and apart from your beliefs and the group that shares them!

I was reading an article about a particular religious group. I am not interested in debating the merits of this group or the veracity of this critic, so I have deleted it’s name. But do feel that the comments of this person could well apply to ANY GROUP. Consider his observations when you think about the increasing polarization in our society.
“The problem is that the longer you’re in something …. you start to form your identity around your belief system. Your ego can keep you from undoing this to the point wherein you can’t divorce yourself even from something that is bad for you. It even becomes near impossible to think clearly enough to ask yourself “Am I still a truth seeker, or am I now just blinded by my own beliefs to the point wherein I can’t be objective?” Which is it for you?
 
The hardest thing for most people is to question …[their group] once they’ve committed to it, especially after a number of years. You’ve got too much invested — friendships, habits, ways of thinking, belief systems and even part of your personal lexicon. Your identity becomes attached to these ideas that are adopted as your own. Thus, you can be a part of a big lie and self deception because your ego just won’t let go. You’re too close to the problem to recognize it. You become entirely defensive. You defend the lies, the plagiarisms, the accusations, the contradictions and the injustices of … [_____] as if they are all an attack on you personally. In the long run this is bad for you because you are being controlled by two forces: 1. the … [_____] organization and 2. your own set of beliefs.
To look at the truth about … [____], including the good and the bad, you have to check your ego at the door. This is way too much for many people to do. But if you’re brave and open-minded and are really a truth seeker, you’ll do it for your own good and the good of others. If not, you’ll continue to be in denial and to live a lie. It’s your own choice.”
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While everyone needs teachers and guidance, in the final analysis, each of us has take personal responsibility and go inside to that still, small voice for the big issues. It is only there that we will find the answers for ourselves.