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Choosing Our Battles, Defining Our Terms

In high school, I was fascinated with the knowledge that my thoughts may not be my own. I voraciously read Subliminal Seduction and every other book about neurolinguistic programming, advertising, and other forms of mental and emotional manipulation. I abhorred the fact that the things I thought, or bought were furthering someone else’s agenda, one that may not have my best interests at heart.

I was reminded last night of my lifelong passion of self determination and liberation while listening to the Wyrd Ways radio show. Though they were discussing the first annual Polytheist Leadership Conference, much of the discussion centered on the overculture’s hostility to polytheism and paganism. Though others refer to this overculture as “the filter,” or lens, (or any number of other ways to describe the way we look at the world), is greatly influenced and manipulated by the prevailing culture. Currently, the people of the US have an overculture which is capitalist and Protestant Christian, among other things.

Much of my life’s work (or meta-work) has been about getting clear about what is in my head and making conscious decisions about whether or not that which is in my head stays or goes. This blog is precisely about inspiring myself and others to liberate themselves from unconscious agendas and taking a critical look at habits, lifestyles, and even thought patterns to determine which are helpful and which are detrimental. Additionally, this means developing a personal agenda that furthers the individual’s needs and aspirations, free from the exploitive machinations of others.

 

Motivations and Goals

An instructor I once had insisted that people are motivated by both sex and/or money. I tend to agree. Despite Dr. Phil’s many faults, I think he had it right when he said people are motivated by the need for acceptance; so I add this to the list. Sex, money, and acceptance are all both motivators and goals, and correspond more or less to the foundational blocks of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Of course, many people go on to develop secondary, more altruistic goals and motivations, but only after their need for security has been satisfied. This then leads to questions of right livelihood, how we choose to use our resources (time, money, effort, etc.), what kinds of relationships with others will be mutually satisfying, the criteria we use to determine which people we want to be in relationship with, how we want others to express their acceptance of us, presenting ourselves in an authentic way to the world, finding our tribe, and getting social support.

The overculture has some specific prescriptions for how you should make money, how you should spend your money and time, the kinds of people you should be attracted to, and the criteria with which you judge yourself and others to be acceptable. I personally find the overculture’s criteria and agenda objectionable, so I have chosen a less well-traveled path to my own ideas about a good life.

 

A Battle with Several Fronts

Depending upon one’s personal circumstances, the focus for gaining control of one’s very thoughts, will vary. Fortunately, work in one area will often result in positive changes in other areas.

I have chosen to focus primarily on my health, which has resulted in helpful outcomes and trends in other areas of my life. For example, last year, I switched to a plant-based diet and vegan lifestyle for the (primary) purpose of increasing my health. This significant change in my lifestyle has yielded some remarkable benefits: I’ve lost almost 30 pounds, I haven’t been sick, the effects of seasonal allergies has been greatly reduced, my skin is clearer, my mental acuity has increased, my energy levels are stable and strong, and my moods are even and generally good.

The unintended and positive consequences of this change include: reduced food costs, savings in health care costs (not getting sick = no copays, no prescriptions to purchase, no lost work days), knowing I have’t contributed to the suffering and slaughter of animals, and less environmental impact (smaller personal carbon footprint, less water usage, less energy usage, etc.).

Others may choose other battlefronts, for example money. Many people choose to start with determining their values (reducing environmental impact, reducing animal suffering, reducing poverty, supporting local businesses and artists, supporting charities, political causes, or other groups, etc.) and then aligning their spending habits with those values. Many times their choices will begin with saving money, but other choices, though more expensive, support personal values that are deemed to be more important (example: buying organic or fair trade items). Often, they will supplement the alignment of values and spending habits with other changes such as limiting their exposure to advertising, experimenting with homesteading or growing food, getting involved with do-it-yourself projects (learning a trade, skill, or craft, maker’s faire, creating businesses and cottage industries, etc.).

 

Conclusion

I would encourage you to take a hard look at your lifestyle. Are you doing and buying things because you want them? Or is it because the overculture put it in your head that you should want and strive for these things? Question authority, question everything. It seems overwhelming at first, but start small and focus on one area. Pick something you dislike – why does that thing, that phenomenon, that concept make you uncomfortable? Whose agenda are you furthering? Who gains from your thoughts, actions, and behaviors? Follow the money. Look at things you like and try to tease out why you like them. Do they flatter you? Do they give you comfort? Do they give you feelings of joy and happiness? Then ask yourself, do these things really give me comfort and happiness? Or am I simply reacting, like Pavlov’s dog to what I am conditioned to respond?

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