A Review of the Problems of Mental Reductionism,
of Being a Detail Freak, of Being Negative and Pessimistic, and How to Change.
“Hello, Ruddy. Could you explain ‘mental reductionism’ and what causes it again? You have written about it in brief, but if you could (when you have time) give us a really thorough explanation of it, we would appreciate it. If I understand it properly, that seems to be something that most of my family do. Is there anyway to correct it? And if so, how can you correct it? Thanks ahead of time, DD & BC, on the Rappahannock and standing.”
Answer: Okay, D & B, I’ll be glad to go into “mental reductionism” (MR) more thoroughly. It will be a good review for us all. MR, in the way we’re speaking of it, is the extremely cynical view that one particular thing is the only thing and nothing else will do or can do. MR severely restricts people’s choices, because there are no choices to make. It’s one thing and one thing only.
Negative thinking produces cynicism, and that in turn causes millions and millions of people to have reductionist views, thereby austerely reducing their choices in life. Which means that their mental focus is narrowed down to what philosophers and neurologists call “the nothing but” conclusion. Or the “only this—or that” conclusion. In extreme cases, this can extend to all parts of people’s lives, as shown below.
MR can go deeper. You’ve heard the cynical adage: “If it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it.” In other words, cynics inform us by that statement that nothing can possibly be better than what they’re doing and the way they’re doing it. Nothing can work better; nothing can taste better. There is no better place to live that where I live. There are no better cars than the one I’m driving. There are no better places to shop, or to eat, or to go.
People who believe that way have mentally reduced their choices regarding that particular subject to one thing and one thing only.
Those people are what we call No-Change Normans or Normas. They fight against any type of change, and they definitely won’t voluntarily make personal changes in their lives.
At times, the MR is so bad that they won’t change for life or death, as in the case of when a doctor tells them they must stop drinking, or they must change their diet—and they won’t even try to change. You’ll hear things like, “I’ve been eating this way all my life. It’s been good enough that long, so I’ll stay on the same diet.” One might ask them, Well, if it’s all that good, why is it that your doctor is telling you to change?
People with healthy, optimistic minds, however, are always open to new inventions, to new ways of trying things, to new routes to take, to bettering the things they do in life, to honing every skill they have by using new information, new inventions, new ideas. Folks with this view are less depressed and are far less negative, and their minds are much healthier, all of which tend to make their overall health better. They tend not to accept negatives out-of-hand, as No-Change Normans and Normas do. They also tend not to demand to give one the details of everything they do.
Small-minded people are not only MRs, but they are usually detail-freaks. They see the small as super important, rather than as something that can be generalized—that ought to be generalized as a solid day in and day out rule. Instead of saying, “We won the game,” as your asking them who won.
A small-minded mental reductionist detail-freak might say, after your asking who won, “They were leading 6 to 2 in the first quarter. The second quarter we tied them. The third we scored and they scored; it was tit for tat. In the fourth, it went down to the wire, one for one, two for two, until finally, it was don’t to the final down…” Uggh! Ugggh! and more Uggggh! Now, at that point, they’ve not only killed the first joy of hearing who won—you’re so damned irritated and nauseated, you don’t care who won.
To correct MR, work to think optimistically, that things can improve, that new things can make things better, and force yourself to put variety in your life. Try new things: new product brands, new music, new TV shows, new books, different news outlets and sources, different foods, different restaurants, and other things.
If you’ve not tried something new at least once a week in these areas, then you’re most likely a No-Change Norman or Norma—and have severely MRed your choices in life. You’re cynical, negative, insist on pounding others with details, and are likely depressed more often than not. These folks tend to accept negatives without investigating their validity, and they’re negative people, as a rule. And frankly, without a lot of work, they’re not going to change.
E.g., MR thinking produces these type of views: As for eating steaks, I eat only sirloin steaks. I’ve never tried Filets, what I’m eating now is just fine, so I’m not going to try them. I drive only blue cars. I drive only Fords, and I refuse to check out any other brands. My house is not only a great house; it’s the only house. The area I live in is the best area in the world to live in. I watch only NBC for my news. I watch only black and white movies. I love my hair stylist, and I wouldn’t change for anything. I own bulldogs, and they’re the only dogs to own. I’ve never owned a dog and have never been around dogs, but I don’t like them, and I would never own one. I am a Republican, and I don’t care what the other parties believe; I’m still going to vote Republican. I eat dinner everyday at the local Diner, it’s the best place to eat, and it’s the only place I will eat outside of my home. I use only Palmolive Soap. I drink only Folgers coffee, it’s the best coffee, and it’s the only coffee for me.
As far as what causes MR, a constant stream of propaganda by politicians, the government, sales people, commercial ads, and/or the media trying to plant one side of an issue into people’s brains, or one side of a view of a person, or a product into people’s minds can cause people to reduce their choices. This is normally the case with people who tend to accept negatives out-of-hand.
As many of you have noticed, as an excellent example of MR brought about by propaganda, a large amount of the people who accept the negative claims out-of-hand that the earth is warming to a dangerous degree, that the atmosphere is terribly polluted, that the oceans are hopelessly polluted, that the coral reefs are dying, that the polar ice caps are melting, that the earth is quickly running out of resources, that sea levels are rising, that the planet will soon be uninhabitable because of its being over-populated and humans raping it, as a rule those folks have so mentally reduced their choices that they adamantly refuse to look at the positive side of these issues.
The above types are definitely No-Change Normans and No-Change Normas.
The positive sides would be that the earth is powerfully resilient, that is it far more vast than most people realize, that both the oceans and the atmosphere have such powerful cleansing systems it is impossible to pollute more than minuscule areas (which the oceans themselves and creatures designed as cleaners quickly cleanse), that they too are far larger than people realize, that both replenish tons of natural resources needed for humans to survive quite well, and that more resources are discovered nearly every day beneath the earth’s surface.
This is classic MR brought about by listening to and/or reading only one side of issues that eventually produces a mind that refuses to think about—much less investigate or listen to—the other side of these views. Only the negative side can possibly be correct in their minds. These type of people will accept almost every negative given them, and they will take each one as an absolute—and no amount of truth, evidence, or proof will change their minds. They have reduced their minds to accepting only negatives.
If you question these folks by giving them a positive and a negative about the world, they’re most likely going to accept the negative side a large majority of the time. They will also have people and things in their lives that they believe cannot be replaced, or at least they could not imagine replacing them: doctors; hair stylists; restaurants; areas to live; type of cars they drive; TV and news shows; colors; travel routes; and many other similar things, places, and people.
Sometimes, people mentally reduce their choices in life because for one reason or the other they think their situations are hopeless and that they have no way of obtaining anything any better than what they have. Or, they believe they have no possible way to move to any other place than where they are, to obtain anything any better than what they have. In their minds, they are stuck in their jobs, their homes, their marriages, their relationships, their cars, their families, their homes, etc., and they have no possible way of changing or getting out of those situations. By MR, such people tend to trick themselves into believing that what they have is the best and that not one thing is or can possibly be better.
Nihilism is the philosophy of hopelessness, which negative thinking also produces. Nihilism is hopelessness, the concept of having no possible way out of a situation. This view is often what leads to suicide. That hopelessness can cause people, let us say who are in prison and have no way out, to tell themselves these type of things: “This is the best place I could be at this time in my life. This is where I belong at this point in my life, and I’m glad I’m here.” It’s the mind playing tricks on itself to survive horrible situations. This very often causes MR.
Yes, you see MR brought about by cynical folks who believe their lives and situations cannot possibly get any better. So, they trick themselves into believing (and try to convince others) that their living conditions and situations in life are perfect for them, and there’s nothing any better anywhere. By so doing, it helps them to survive their conditions. Although in this case, MR does help folks survive, it is still not good for the brain or the overall health for people to mentally reduce their choices in life. There are always at least two choices in everything, oftentimes more.
I know men who believe that bright colors are sissy colors. They are so concerned about looking anything other than Mr. Macho that they wear only drab, depressing earth-tone colors: army greens, slate grays, browns, coppers, blacks, dingy golds. Their cars are brown, gray, or black, and they won’t change. They are always negative, cynical, and typically depressed. They accept any and all negatives without any investigation into the positives that may exist.
All of the above things are the result of MR, which may be brought about by any of the above-mentioned things.
One of the worst things about “mental reductionism” is that it affects the production of positive brain chemicals in a negative way. The brain loves variety. It loves a dynamic life. It does not like a static one. The brain in fact needs variety. Without it the brain stops producing the positive chemicals humans need to stay healthy.
I often hear folks say, “I used to love doing that, but it doesn’t interest me anymore.” That is because when you first do a fun thing it’s exciting and your brain enjoys it, and it can enjoy doing the same thing again and again—for a while.
Let’s use this term to understand what happens to the brain: It gets bored. When it gets bored it’s not going to produce those wonderfully positive chemicals for you that you so desire and that your body desperately needs to stay healthy. Thus, you can continue doing a fun thing for years, but you must vary what you do to have fun, or your brain is going to get bored doing the same thing over and over.
Now, to clarify, as an example, if you’ve gone to a restaurant and tried various things that you think you may enjoy, and you’ve found one thing you like, there’s certainly nothing wrong with sticking with that one thing at that particular restaurant. The key here is to try other restaurants. At those restaurants you would want to find something different that you enjoy eating—other than what you eat at the first one.
Another example, we here drink mostly water, tea, and coffee. We have various types of teas and coffees that we drink. We may drink two different kinds of each in one day, or we may stick with one for a week, and then change. But we do vary these.
There are things to stick with. I started drinking coffee because LifeX told me numerous new studies showed it was very good for the brain and the prostate. They recommended that, because I had never drunk the first cup, I should start drinking it black and try to continue drinking it black, because it’s best for you that way. Use a little milk if you must, they said, but sugar takes away the health value of coffee. So, don’t use it, which I do not any way. So then, I always drink coffee black. That’s not MR.
Being too left-brained, or either stuck on one side or the other of the brain, can be from genetic deformities, or from habit. To simplify, although both sides of the brain are always working, the left-side is the serious side, the side of order, and so, you will see people who are left-brain dominant being more serious, not laughing as much, and oftentimes being order freaks.
Order freaks reduce their choices. They must have things a certain way, normally in a line (or row). They do everything a certain way, and that’s the only way to do it. When things are out-of-order, it disturbs these poor souls. Order freaks are usually negative and often depressed. If their problem is habitual, they may be able to beat these terrible habits by working to change them, by using clusters to store things, by varying what they do. If they’re stuck on the left-side of their brains because of genetics, then they’re going to need professional help to change, because they are indeed “No-Change Normans or No-Change Normas by birth.”
To beat being an order freak, one must try to do things that work the right-brain more than the left. I think we’ve done enough studies on the left- and right-brains that everyone knows how to activate the right-brain—to break the habit of being an order freak.
No matter what causes MR, an improperly performing brain, someone playing tricks on their brain by forcing the view into their own psyche that what they have or where they are, indeed are the best and only things to have and the best and only places to be—it takes an organized effort of doing things I’ve mentioned above to reduce the amount you’ve MRed your choices in life and to give your brain a break by putting some variety in your activities and your choices of clothes, fun, TV/movies, colors, routes to travel, music, etc.
Hoping this helps: Ruddy Adam