Black and White

Psychology Sunday – Splitting

Black and WhiteToday I’m going to talk about the psychological phenemonon called Splitting. It seems innocuous enough verbally but it’s a huge problem particularly seen in people’s voting rational. It is defined generally as the splitting of mental concepts (or black and white thinking). This sort of thinking has, in my opinion, caused the country to become driven into two different camps when in actuality most people are nearer the center of political ideology.

It is encouraged by the two viable parties, Democrats and Republicans, because it assures that if one doesn’t win the election the other will and this keeps out those who threaten their dominance of power. It is also encouraged by yellow journalists in their endless pursuit of ratings which, naturally, is a product of our viewing habits. I’ll probably talk about how we drive the media and not the other way around in a future blog.

Splitting is a dangerous way to think in many ways. It occurs not only in the political spectrum where you are inclined to believe a candidate not because of what they say but because of what party they are affiliated with but also in personal relationships when you attribute a person with particular virtues or vices. A person lies to you once so they are forever a liar or a person tells the truth once and so you believe everything they say. This is a natural phenomenon to some degree but it should be tested constantly. You should try to critically analyze each event in your life so as to properly judge it.

Splitting was first described by Pierre Janet and later analyzed by Sigmund Freud and his daughter Anna. However, in the sense that I am using here today we have Melanie Klein to thank. She argues this comes from when we are babies and there are good things and bad things and this mode of thinking haunts us into adult life.

Otto Kemberg argues that the ability to overcome splitting is one of the important developmental tasks of children. This ability to view the world in more complex shades is important for our overall development as adults. Generally things are complex and when we view them as simply good and bad we are acting like babies. This is the view that politicians would like us to have. They don’t want us to examine their propositions closely. They sieze upon relatively innocuous statements and turn them into full blown splitting insanity. President Obama says 57 states instead of 57 elections and he must be a moron. Newt Gingrinch mentions moon bases and he must be a lunatic. A political ally of Mitt Romney says Etch-a-Sketch and that means Romney will totally change everything he believes in after the primaries.

This sort of thinking leads us to vote for politicians who are uninterested in deep thought and real solutions. Simple splitting is the act of babies. Babies. Grow up and examine situations with an adult, critical mindset and we will get politicians who cater to that mindset. Keep thinking like babies and we’ll keep getting politicians who think the same way. And the country will suffer.

Tell me what you think!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Mob Mentality … Individually

There was a recent story about mob craziness that caught my eye and I want to talk about how that same crowd psychology effects individuals when communicating on the internet.

Sigmund Freud said, people who are in a crowd act differently towards people from those who are thinking individually.

I think it’s safe to say that what he means is that people will do things, bad things, that they would not do if dealing with others on a one-on-one basis. It’s fairly self-evident that this is true and I’m not going to devote time in this post to why it happens. What I would like to look at is how the internet engenders mob mentality even when we are sitting alone at a computer.

I don’t know how many of you read the comment section at the bottom of a story but it’s an ugly world. Every voice of reason is sandwiched by layers of vileness. A lot of times these comments come from the same individual who has multiple accounts but the effect is generally the same. A group of people say something vile, often with little or no merit, and it is amplified many times, so much so that other, more rational people, begin to give the ideas credence.

More than once people I know, decent, intelligent people, have repeated something they heard from friends or read in a comment section that was patently false. You can see my previous post about our obligation to correct those sorts of mistakes but that’s not my point here today.

The internet allows us the glory of exploring so many thoughts, so many ideas. There are many voices out there with new, and generally awful, ideas. Just because most of the ideas are bad doesn’t mean there aren’t good things available.

The voices of insanity are drowning out the reasonable. This is dangerous to our society. Good thinkers become discouraged and go into a little corner not to be heard from again.

My point here today is that you can blunt the mob!

Use your Critical Thinking cap when you read a story and even more so when you peruse the comments below. Sign up so that you can comment. Reply with rational arguments. Promulgate reasonable ideas. We can change this country by changing the way people think. Make the internet a force of good. Join in! One comment a day, that’s all I ask.

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Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist