Originally Posted On February 16, 2016
I apologize for the delay in between articles – I’ve been without internet at the new house. Now I’m set up, though, so releases should be back to a frequent level! To make up for the gap in posts, today's writing holds a lot of weight.
For a few years, I’ve had this social construct-ish idea bouncing around inside my head. After talking it out with a few select people and, with time noting the changes in myself/watching the changes in my peers, I feel that I can finally represent the idea that I want to. Today I speak about an issue that plagues the world with hardly anyone even realizing it – people believing that the “third state of mentality”, as I’ll call it, is the end-all of mental development. This level of mentality is held by many teachers, leaders, parents, and politicians and (despite what the rest of the world would lead you to believe!) is part of the underlying causes of conflict, racism, and even war!
Do I have your attention? Good, this is important. Almost everyone does not make it past the third level of mentality and this hurts everyone. If you read this and it offends you then I don't apologize, instead I challenge you to objectively think of why it does so and what level of mentality your thinking falls under. (Secret: This is also the best way to ascending through the levels of mentality and get better – internal analysis!)
Regardless of education or background, everyone has the potential to change their mindset and by understanding the constructs on which we’ve built our thinking, we all can rise to the fourth level of mentality – maybe beyond (if there is a fifth level of mentality, I have not yet found it. If someone has, I would love to hear your thoughts and strive for further enlightenment). It wasn’t until well into my transformation of becoming the person that I am today that I realized what was going on inside my own head and others'. Since doing do, this realization has been the most beneficial in my journey to become a better person and will be the framework on which I continue to grow.
My realization is as follows…
The Four Levels of Mentality
There are 4 levels of mentality (that I am currently aware of) which people may climb through during the course of their lives. With each state of mentality that we discover (often unknowingly), we never go back to a previous state and from that day on the way we perceive our own realities is completely changed.
The first level is often held by children of a younger age. This level says that there are certain truths about the world – that this is the way things are – and the individual knows so because this is what was told to them by someone else (primarily parents or peers). In the first level of mentality, the individual doesn’t have the capacity to rationalize why they believe things to be ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, they just have a preconceived bias on the matter. When it comes to unrelated subjects, the individual doesn’t know what to think or how to act because they have no backbone or rationale as to why they believe the way they do. If they can relate the new idea to an old one, the belief surrounding it will be duplicated despite any potential logical contradictions. In the event of conflicting ideals imparted to them by multiple parties, they will believe whoever they trust the most OR reject the idea of the party they trust least. (Ex: “My mom said if I get bullied at school, I need to tell a teacher. But my peers say if I do that, I’m a snitch and they won’t be friends with me. What do I do?” -- Note that in this level of mentality, these are the only two options to the individual – to tell or to stay quiet.) Without having a basis for why the individual believes the way they do, their actions can seem erratic, forced, and illogical. Most people do not stay in this state for very long and nearly everyone surpasses this state.
When a sense of independence and confidence hits the individual, they will begin to feel the pressure of power struggles and will observe the importance of “winning”. Having the beliefs that they do (the ones that have survived for whatever reason), the individual now knows that they are right because THEY believe it. While the ideal has been imparted from an external source, the belief has been internalized. This is the second level of mentality. The individual now has the thinking power to rationalize ideas that are outside of their preconceived notions and determine themselves how to classify new concepts. (IE: ‘right’, ‘wrong’; ‘good’, ‘bad’; etc.) While the individual is still able to be influenced, they will often reject beliefs that they do not share simply because they want to be ‘right’. (Or, more likely, that they do not want to be looked down on for being ‘wrong’.) This is when the conflict begins. (Ex: “You’re doing it wrong – do it my way”, “Red is better than blue”, “I’m a better person because of the color of my skin.” – Note that in this level of mentality, everything other than what the individual believes is rejected because the individual is unwilling to accept that they are wrong.) Almost everyone surpasses this level of mentality, but some people take longer than others and there are even rare cases of people who seem to be trapped in this level of mentality for the majority of their lives.
The third level of mentality is where it appears the majority of adults make it. Based on the concepts of the second level of mentality, this level differs because the beliefs held by the individual are not backed by “I’m right because I’m right”, but are instead based on the experiences the individual has encountered. While the individual can now encounter new ideas and handle most of them with ease (using the past to predict future consequences), the individual is now even more attached to their beliefs, some passionate or eccentric about them. They KNOW them to be true because they’ve seen evidence proving it to be so - even when the ‘proof’ is one-sided or skewed! (Ex: “All the kids who study make good grades and the kids who don’t perform poorly. You need to study to make good grades.” “It doesn’t matter what you eat – all I eat are chips and I’m fine!”, “You’ll never be able to retire early – if you could then why don’t people do it?!” -- Note that at this level, the individual is convinced and needs significantly more proof to be able to change their opinion. Often times, they will still reject contradicting ideas because “their way has always been good enough”.) There are many capable people in this level of mentality, people holding respectable jobs, people in power, intellectuals and leaders. The issues don’t arise until they meet another capable person with a different background and a different set of beliefs. Then, unless one person holds the belief “I’m not going to say anything to avoid a fight” there is a clash. Anyone who tries to force their beliefs onto someone else because they know “I’m right, the other person is wrong” is suffering from third level mentality (3LM). What do all the cultural/religious wars, hate-speeches, and acts of terrorism all have in common? The answer… a belief that they are correct... 3LM!
But there exists a level of mentality beyond the third level. Beyond the bickering and the “I’m right, we don’t share the same belief, therefore you’re wrong” thought process, there exists the fourth level of mentality. Whereas we could follow a mental development with the first three stages, the fourth level distances itself from any of the other levels of mentality. In fact, I think of it as taking a step backwards. Imagine you’re in an art gallery examining a gigantic masterpiece. You get really close to it and you can see all the individual brush strokes and attention to detail that the artist has created. However, once you get to a certain closeness, you can only focus on a little bit of the painting in a given time. This represents the mental state of 3LM! To fully appreciate and understand the painting, you need to take a step backwards so you can see a bigger picture. The key element in 4LM is that you are now able to take a step backwards and examine yourself (and your set of beliefs) objectively. I mean this on a more global scale. People who have attained 4LM understand that they believe everything they do because of their experiences, their environment, and the individual quirks that make up themselves. Following this idea, they also understand that an individual with a differing opinion has also been shaped by their experiences, environment, and individual quirks. Taking that step back, the individual sees the opinion (or, often, ‘fact’) that each party holds as equally valid and says to themselves, “What right do I have to say that my beliefs are more valid than someone else’s? I know I’m right, they know they’re right. Why can’t we both leave winners?” THIS is the essence of 4LM. This need to win that we’re taught as children disappears and by releasing your ego (and accepting that your way is not the deciding factor of life) you can truly learn from other people unlike you ever could in a previous level of mentality. But it doesn’t end there – practitioners of 4LM have an intrinsic respect for others, as well as sense of understanding and sympathy. It’s also harder to make them angry because instead of blaming someone for something that’s happened, they try to understand why it’s happened – eliminating a lot of misunderstandings! Imagine if our world leaders all progressed to this level. The wars over a difference in culture/religion would end. By taking a step back, nations would be able to see things from their opposing nation’s perspective, putting an end to many violent protests and terrorist attacks. The gaps caused by social injustices, such as the discrimination by gender and race, would certainly be closed and the promotion of multiculturalism would flourish. Because 4LM-ers can look at themselves objectively, they also realize that educating others hurts you in no way and are often eager to help others who may not have the experience or skill that the 4LM-er does. Education is the biggest barrier between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’. If there were more 4LM-ers, we would be able to help close the education gap between the upper, middle, and lower class of socioeconomic status by truly creating an environment where education is readily accessible and available to anyone who wants to better themselves. (In fact, we already have something that does this – the internet – but the 3LM perception that “this is the way it is” is so strong that people often reject anything that suggests otherwise. Hence why 3LM is so limiting!)
It’s easy to think of ourselves as wise, understanding people, but as I mentioned earlier I’ve only met a small handful of people who actually seem to think like this and who actually understand what I’m talking about when I bring it up. Often times, I’m met with people who immediately reject the idea that there could be a level of mentality beyond their current understanding because “they’re adults who have lived their whole lives like this and they’ve done just fine”. Don’t let this be you. We never want to stagnate. The only way to keep this from happening is to continue progressing – both in our lives and inside our heads.
Obviously, this subject is very complicated and controversial. An article of this length cannot really go into the nuances of 4LM. In the future, I’m sure I will be discussing this more in-depth. Readers, regardless of what level of mentality you believe you hold, what are some things that you have found have helped you progress in your own thinking? Or, the opposite, what are some things that seem to be holding you back? And if someone believes they have discovered a 5LM, please contact me so we can talk, I’d love to hear your thoughts.