Breaking Free of the Conspiracy Virus

Conspiracies are all the rage nowadays. It seems that Facebook has become a petri dish for conspiracy theories. Whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, Black or White, protester or Trump supporter, you can find a group that supports your particular brand of conspiracy ideology.

My particular belief is that some wicked force is trying to brainwash us all into believing ridiculous conspiracy theories. I’ve seen some of my friends — good people — get so brainwashed by their beliefs that I can’t even talk to them anymore. It’s like they’ve become part of a zombie apocalypse.

It’s important to remember that whatever you believe is simply B.S. By B.S., I mean you’re identified with a Belief System. Belief Systems are very hypnotic. They lurk inside our head, and when we totally believe whatever the voice in our head tells us, we start to see the world through a very tiny lens. Sometimes the lens can get so tainted by the belief that we’re right that we get very upset with anyone with another belief system.

The Symptoms

So, if the “conspiracy virus” is going around, what are its symptoms and what can be done about it? One of its symptoms is thinking that you know what’s really going on with something controversial, such as Covid-19, vaccines, Bill Gates, UFO’s, Q-Anon, or even the JFK assassination. The truth is that you don’t really know. None of us do. The world is too complicated in reality, and there are no simple answers to these topics. Yet, we all hate not knowing stuff, so we glob onto B.S. (Belief Systems) in order to feel like we’re on top of things.

Another symptom of the conspiracy virus is you feel like you have to defend your position and make other people — “them” — wrong for having a different opinion than you. Thus, conspiracy enthusiasts are inevitably locked into a world of polarization. Admittedly, it feels good to be on the side of “right,” but there is also a price that is paid for all this conspiracy believing masturbation.

One problem with heavily believing in the latest conspiracy virus going around is that it stops you from impartially seeking the actual truth. If you know you’re right, then why would you even look for additional information that may not support your B.S.? You wouldn’t. The result is nothing new can come into your head.

A second problem with the conspiracy virus is that it inevitably closes down your heart and your compassion to other groups of people. It creates an “us vs. them” mentality, and although self-righteousness can feel like a sugar high, it ultimately creates a feeling of separation and despair.

The good news is that breaking free of the conspiracy virus is actually rather easy to do — and can feel surprisingly enjoyable. After all, the reality is that you (and I) don’t really know all the facts underlying the latest conspiracy theory. All we know is what we read or see in the news, and that is almost always coming from a source with some kind of bias. If you read a source with a totally different point of view, it can help you see there’s always more to the story than what initially meets the eye. Reality is complex and infinitely nuanced; conspiracy theories are simple and usually black and white.

Breaking Free

When friends of mine present me with their latest theory, I have ten words I rely on that help me to respond to their argument: “I don’t know. Maybe you’re right, and maybe you’re wrong.” The reality is that I really don’t know — so I feel like I’m on pretty solid ground with that response. In fact, “not knowing” is a very pleasant place to embrace. After all, there’s nothing to defend, and no one to make wrong. I can relax with not knowing. There’s freedom in uncertainty.

Recently, a friend told me that Democrat elites are sex trafficking children for fun and profit. This is a conspiracy theory put out by Q-Anon and other organizations. It sounds preposterous on the face of it, but I refused to get “hooked.” I calmly said, “I don’t know. Maybe you’re right and maybe you’re wrong.” I’ve had too many debates with people who know they’re right to want to go down that rabbit hole again. It’s just not a good use of my energy.

Some people argue that it’s important to know that “they” are out to destroy the world. I agree. Just because I try to avoid getting infected with the conspiracy virus doesn’t mean I am totally uninformed or fail to vote. I read both the New York Times and Fox News. I have my personal opinion as to what’s going on; I just don’t take my opinion or belief system so seriously. In fact, if I look back on my life, I’d have to admit that my opinions and beliefs have occasionally been totally wrong. I suspect the same is true for you.

Once I decided to break free of the conspiracy virus and embrace not knowing, it felt truly wonderful. It was as if a heavy burden had been lifted from my shoulders. Instead of living in a confined mental world of good and evil and right and wrong, I embraced the full complexity of reality. With that embrace came more mental freedom, less separation, and a feeling of lightness. I truly don’t fully know anything (except maybe that I don’t really know anything), and that’s okay. In fact, it makes the world a more wondrous, vast, incomprehensible miracle. If you’ve been bitten by the conspiracy virus, I hope you’ll try embracing not knowing sometime. It’s a fascinating and wild ride.

is the author of 12 books and a frequent guest on Oprah. His website is FindingHappiness.com and his podcast is “Awareness Explorers.” email: iamjonr@aol.com

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