Learning How To Broaden Perspective

This book by Ellen J. Langer is not about the Buddhist take on mindfulness, but rather about a more secular perspective of getting off automatic pilot and taking the time to discover our many options and reconfigure our life using fresh perspectives.

Before Langer explains how to cultivate mindful attention, she describes the many ways that humans exhibit “mindlessness“. I am struck by how her depictions of mindlessness paint the perfect image of how cults render their rank and file into robotic, controlled clones.

Below I’ve listed some of the ways which Langer describes mindlessness and you will see how “mindlessness” definitely applies to how cult members are groomed to perceive and think.

Here are some ways that Ellen Langer describes mindless people. She says they:

1. Accept or create categories and become trapped by them
2. Are caught in automatic behaviours
 3. Act from a single perspective, thus compartmentalizing their lives
4. Allow others to create context and are blinded by power of that single context
 5. Believe in or act with limited resources
6. Educate themselves for the outcome their single context requires
7. Accede control to experts or higher authorities
8. Display learned helplessness
9. Co-operate with stunting of their own potential and live from a limited self
10. Are suspicious of new information
11. Are committed to one predetermined use of incoming information
12. Are caught in predetermined mindsets
13. Not used to listening to own intuition and treat it as suspect
14. Limited ability to discern or understand nuance, metaphors or analogies
15. Think in only “right/wrong” or “either/or” categories
16. Are easily primed by constant cues in their closed, controlled environment
17. Do not exercise critical thinking skills and eventually lose touch with them
18. Accept the stereotypes fed to them
19. Easily dismiss information that runs counter to their assumptions and beliefs
20. Become comfortable not moving beyond already determined categories
21. Allow their ability to think creatively to atrophy due to lack of use
22. Assume the limits of past experience should determine present experience
23. Dismiss variables that contradict what they already believe
24. Don’t think to ask questions that would shake up context or categories
25. Rarely consider being innovative with beliefs, choices or behaviours
26. Do not know how to approach life or decision-making playfully
27. Follow unproductive routines and unquestioningly follow senseless orders
28. Never question the personal or group cost of their mindlessness
29. Live in a shared, limited reality they do not question
30. As children made premature cognitive commitments to beliefs and practices

With the constant input of a single-minded perspective (in a tightly-controlled context) from a cult environment, many of Langer’s above depictions of mindlessness actually reveal how cult leaders create powerful controls over so many normally intelligent people. Again, I encourage you to read Ellen J. Langer’s book “Mindfulness” to reinforce ways that you can truly and finally break free from any lingering effects of undue influence and mind control and become mindful instead of mindless.