Independent thinking – if you ask people, most would probably say that that is something they mostly do; but that’s likely not the case. How can I say that? Where’s the evidence? Well that’s the trouble with self reports, polling, even psychological testing. Independent thinking is something one can only surmise by observing and recording behavior accurately over a long time, and who does that? You are the only person that has been there for all of your life. Have you been trained as an objective observer and recorder? Just asking?
Maybe, maybe, in the process of deep psychoanalysis over years with an expert practitioner – the truth might emerge – whether or not you think freely for yourself or what you thought were your ideas are really those you’ve absorbed from others?
I don’t know anyone who’s willing to come forth and speak freely about that. After all, psychoanalysis is confidential and protected by ethics, rules, and law. The therapist’s office might be the only place that is secure (hopefully) in an insecure and uncertain world.
However, quality therapy is expensive; and it’s a fact that lying to one’s provider is not uncommon. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-therapy/201610/why-people-lie-their-therapists
Lately, there is a lot of fuss and fashion regarding independent thinking, truth, reporting, democracy, rights, freedom and totalitarianism, represented by keywords and phrases, and practices like mindfulness, groupthink, identity politics, intellectual property, meditation, propaganda, and so on. In other words: Who decides what is true and what is real?
There will be consequences
Here’s what I think: I think independent thinking is rare, maybe one of the rarest personality traits there is, and I do think it’s a function of one’s personality. But, it can be attractive and advantageous to claim, but and also risky.
Lying is great! if you can pull it off. However, even when you do there are consequences. Such as: you have to convince yourself it was worth it and you’re not a liar. That’s one of those rock-and-a-hard-place places. Actually quite common for (some) independent thinkers. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
Which is why groupthink is the default mode. We (humans) go along to get along. We need others to survive. Absolutely, we need affiliations, friends, and allies – because the world is a hostile and chaotic place.
Order, structure, belief and worship, make life easier within the tribe.
Not thinking, but being told what to do and how to do it, is simpler and much less stressful. If you spend too much time thinking – sorting through and weighing all the probabilities and possible outcomes, – you might just get left behind. Or … you might find yourself outcast?
Risk and reward
However, that’s what independent thinking is – taking all of the available (to you) knowledge, considering it, and then coming to a not-yet thought of possibility that things might not be as simple or complex, as the group or chief, or tradition has determined.
Independent thinking takes time, and that is risky. But, the rewards could be great!
There is safety in numbers and groupthink. Those in positions of power know this. In addition, the group, the collective, likes for things to function smoothly. All factors favor going along with tradition. Unless? “things” change.
That is where reward lies. If your independent thinking can solve a problem, who knows?
That’s all well and good for most people, but for some people, that calculus seems beyond them and they can’t help themselves – they just must disagree; and want to do things differently, even without cause.
I just heard of a new theory (Shout out to Joe Rogan) that of “Many worlds” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Many-worlds_interpretation ), which sort of destroys the biological theory of Charles Darwin (that of natural and sexual selection), as well as Freud’s theory of unconscious motivation, Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious and archetypes, “Terror Management Theory”, “Paleo Deficit Disorder”, and all other theories or beliefs.
Shout out to these independent thinkers.