Personal identity has been created largely in the process of differentiating ourselves from others.

It doesn’t matter the age, the studies or even the intelligence. It is also not subject to a geographic area. Simply put, fanaticism stifles any kind of criticism. It relies on passion, strongly held beliefs and a constant selection of information that is consumed and digested. The best way to protect against this is to train critical thinking, despite our own brain’s difficulties.

There has always been disinformation and propaganda, especially in times of war or elections. Politicians around the world and throughout history know it well (although there have always been some brighter than others). We consume information, which mixed with two basic emotions, fear and indignation, create an identity in each one of us. Little by little, we are differentiating the world between them and us. Our mind, with its primary need to be part of the group, does all the work unconsciously. You don’t realize it, but you position yourself in conflicts, in political parties, in the region where you are from, in a soccer team… I am left or right, pro (whatever), from Madrid, Buenos Aires, London… It’s something subtle, but personal identity has been created in large part in the process of differentiating ourselves from others..

This process of personal identity is natural. We need to be part of a group for survival. We are mammals, very clumsy during the first years of life. If we didn’t have that instinct, it would be impossible to survive. Thus, affiliation or the need to be part of a group has helped us to continue our species. The problem comes with the emotions that, evolutionarily had a sense, can be a brake on our growth: If I am a nationalist, for example, of any kind, how can I question the party that represents me if that means questioning my identity? Daring to question our identity is what scares us the most and what is a total act of courage, especially in the times in which we live.

We are now more vulnerable than ever to fanaticism.

We are now more vulnerable than ever to fanaticism. This does not require aggressive expressions or acts. One can be fanatical in a more elegant way, simply by eliminating any critical thinking in our environment. Today, social networks and the information bubbles we fall into because of search algorithms make us more prone to reduce self-criticism. We receive endless news similar to what we think. Information is exponential, coming from millions of sources, not only from the mainstream media, but from anyone with a WhatsApp or Telegram channel. And it is not only in the cloud that the problem lies, but also in the people we surround ourselves with. They are most likely similar to us. Well, we need to act.

Not only do we need to develop critical thinking in children and adolescents, but also in ourselves.

Not only do we need to develop critical thinking in children and adolescents, but also in ourselves. We need to identify those passions that are born with force and that lead us to divide the world between them and us. We need to expose ourselves to different information as a sport and as self-reflection. For example, we can follow people in networks with ideologies that are completely different from what we think in order to understand their point of view. We must question what happens to those with whom we do not share beliefs and find common ground. We need to look into the causes of conflicts in order to understand beyond appearances. In short, we have to consciously put our brains to work to get out of a comfort zone: the comfort of what we think. Critical thinking is not an automatic exercise. It is hard, it is difficult, but it is the only way to protect ourselves from the subtle fanaticism that can emerge in any of us.

#Changemindset #Criticalthinking #leadership