Thursday, November 13, 2014

The (supposed) Strength of Weakness

This may seem like a strange phenomena to occur in my life, but indeed, I realize now that life in the COG caused me to behave more like an old person. 

This realization came to me when I was climbing a mountain a few years ago that I had climbed about 15 years previously, while still a faithful cult member. As we neared the summit, the terrain became rocky and somewhat dangerous. We needed to jump from boulder to boulder, use a rope to scale a steep rock face, etc. It was then that I remember having done climbed it before. (For some reason, I had blocked that memory until then.) 

When I had climbed it before as a cultist, I can remember being overly cautious at every turn. I insisted on being helped by my husband, holding his hand or arm while gingerly and ever-so-slowly navigating those rocky challenges. What a sharp contrast to my behavior that last time, where I jumped from rock to rock like any sane person would.

Why was this? What would have caused me to act in such an overly-cautious manner?

I have found a credible explanation in the concept of priming.

As I've mentioned, we were fed a constant mental diet of the writings of our elderly "prophet," who was our role model and "father in the Lord." His lifestyle was held up as the model for our ideal behavior, his food preferences were published, and of course his daily exercise regimen - a stroll before dinner. (Not exactly what a formerly very active competitive swimmer would want to do.) 

Any publications that touched on exercise or fitness levels espoused a very low standard. A great emphasis was placed on "the strength of weakness" and how when we are weak in body, we are closer to the Lord. "When I am weak, then am I strong," (2 Corinthians 12:10) was a fairly common theme. A daily 2 hour rest time after lunch was a universal part of home-life in the cult. This was, of course, for reading publications as well as for naps for those who were "weaker" or pregnant.

I now believe that this daily mental priming unconsciously affected me to behave in a more weak and elderly way. Psychologists have studied this, most notably John A. Bargh, Mark Chen, and Lara Burrows of New York University. In a simple experiment, they provided their study participants with a series of words relating to the elderly, such as bingo, Florida, wrinkles, etc., and then found that as their participants left the study room, they walked more slowly than they had upon arrival. People primed by polite words behaved more politely, etc. Of course, these reactions were done totally unconsciously. 

The psychological experiments that demonstrated these effects were rather brief. The priming I experienced was daily and for decades.

So, not only was I deceived, living under several false narratives, and led a crazy man, but I was acting old before my time. Could it get any worse?

No comments:

Post a Comment