April 9, 2018

How Minds Get Poisoned, and the Cure.


When your mind and heart are truly open abundance will flow to you effortlessly and easily.

By Deepak Chopra, MD


Everyone learned the norms of behavior somewhere along the line. None of us is a completely unique individual. Our worldview is an adaptation of a worldview inherited from someone else, whether family, friends, admired thinkers, or social groups. Once you adopt a set of core beliefs, they feel like your own. From this perspective, the conditioned mind is universal–no group, whether you approve or disapprove of its attitudes, has a patent on stubborn, ingrained beliefs.


When we assume that it’s easier to lead–and mislead–people who are poor, uneducated, ill-informed, or otherwise set apart from our own norms, we’re wrong. The best-educated and informed voters, for example, make up their minds the quickest. The notion that educated voters are open-minded barely holds water. The low-information voter is almost the only independent voter left, which isn’t complimentary to either side. 


Once you begin to see the effects of the conditioned mind, one of two impulses arises. Either you want to undo and escape your own conditioning, or you prefer to take a passive role and simply accept it. The second choice is perilous. If you happen to be privileged, going along with your inherited values and beliefs is likely, as with all types of conformism, to help you get along. But conditioning has a way of becoming deeper, more stubborn, and more unconscious the longer it persists.


Eventually, when every situation brings up a knee-jerk reflex and every belief has become totally embedded, one arrives at the state known as the poisoned mind. This, too, can be inherited, which accounts for the prevalence of mental toxins generation after generation. Among these poisons are racism, tribalism, the treatment (and abuse) of women as inferior, a predilection for violence, and all forms of us-versus-them thinking. The rise of openly expressed anti-Semitism in Europe at the moment, with the desecration of Jewish graves, Holocaust deniers, and even Holocaust defenders, speaks to how deeply embedded mental poisons are.


Trumpism is not my topic here, but clearly it contains a healthy dose of poisonous attitudes, bringing to the surface a set of toxic beliefs never quite absent in America but previously swept under the carpet. The immediate effect is deleterious. The long-term effect, if we’re lucky, will be to raise awareness. By bringing poisons to light, they can be subjected to scrutiny and choice. Nothing changes if it remains hidden out of sight. The acceptance of gay marriage, for instance, depended upon gay people coming out of the closet. Only then could toxic attitudes about homosexuality be invalidated and swept away.


Right now anyone can spot the mental poisons that Trumpism fosters. Speaking for myself, I’d rather see white supremacists exposed than to live in the Deep South of the past, where endemic racism was perpetuated because no one among the white population wanted to confront it. Left unexamined, the poisoned mind is self-perpetuating. Witness a president acting upon gut beliefs as if they are true, unable to even tolerate the possibility that the things he believed thirty years ago need to be examined and open to change. 


It’s frightening to have a poisoned mind at the helm of the government, and it would be foolishly naive to paint a rosy picture around it. But a call to awareness is a call to awareness, no matter what causes it. There’s little chance that the resistance to Trumpism will go away or fall quiet. I think a subtler threat is not from the poisoned mind but from an underlying susceptibility to become conditioned. As of last week, CNN had the president’s disapproval rating at  53%. In its way, this figure is as alarming as Putin getting 80% of the vote in the last rigged Russian election.


What keeps Trump’s disapproval rating from rising where it should be (75% would be a good starting point) can be found in how mental conditioning works. The conditioned mind is set in its ways. It doesn’t rock the boat. When faced with moral choices, it avoids them. Looking around at the contest between Trumpism and its opponents, around 40% of people tell pollsters they approve of Trump, which is inconceivable without the ingrained habits of the conditioned mind.  


Two traits are particularly malignant. The first is to absent yourself from moral choices by saying “a plague on both your houses.”  Millions of people have adopted such an attitude out of disgust with politics and general disillusionment about government. But imagine it is 1932 in Germany, and one side is openly anti-Semitic while the other opposes anti-Semitism. The two positions are not equal. A plague on both houses would be an immoral choice. The second malignant trait is tribalism. Political allegiance now trumps facts. “Alternative facts,” ridiculed when the phrase was first floated, now fuels the propaganda machine at Fox News with absurd conspiracy theories and attacks on “fake” news which are undisguised assaults on the truth.  But the vast majority of their tribe prefers loyalty over reason and morality.


The cure for the poisoned mind, then, is to address the conditioned mind. Poisoning is the second phase. Adopting someone else’s beliefs, attitudes, and tribal loyalties is the first phase. In one way or another we are all immersed in the first phase, and as damaging as this is, the opportunity is always there to free yourself by undoing your own conditioning. In freeing our minds, we make social renewal possible. Is there really any alternative?


Deepak Chopra MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation, and is Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Endocrinology and Metabolism.  He is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians and a member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. Chopra is the author of more than 80 books translated into over 43 languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. His latest books are The Healing Self co-authored with Rudy Tanzi, Ph.D. and Quantum Healing (Revised and Updated): Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine.  www.deepakchopra.com   


Write Your Comment

  1. Stéfanie-Nicole Little

  2. Stéfanie-Nicole Little

  3. I am always hesitant to say this because so may people have said it and it sounds like some hippy idea from the 60s but I have only ever observed a cure for extreme prejudice to be love. When you love that which you are prejudiced against or that which you fear... when you feel compassion... then you are cured. I think that is what people gain from stories but in recent times stories have become warped by a populist agenda. What sells.

More Comments