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Keeping an open mind #health

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I think keeping an open mind can be good for mental health. If we run with the pack and accept what everyone else believes we can not only share their beliefs but their fears too. People tend to fear what they don’t understand.

We have a duty to try to allay the fears of others, we have to accept they don’t understand us. People generally don’t always warm to me very quickly. I have to admit being different and I tend to be a little facetious. I question everything and don’t accept what I’m told unless it sounds really plausible. I don’t criticise people who believe in the supernatural, I just don’t readily indulge them. If they say they saw a ghost last night, I don’t get into a conversation about it.  I’ll just assume a there is a logical explanation for the apparition and move on. People believe all sorts of rubbish, sometimes to make a tediously boring life less tedious and sometimes just because it’s convenient.

I joked a little about a ghost switching on lights in my house last week but that’s all it was a joke at the expense of people who believe in that stuff. It’s not just ghosts that people find spooky, it’s other people who are different. It might be gypsies, immigrants, people of a different colour or people with a disability. They fear what they aren’t familiar with.

I had a graduate from China stay with me earlier in the year. She’s in Shanghai now but she still asked my advice this morning via Skype. When she stayed with me, my family accepted her easily because I had. They became familiar with her through me talking about her. She also accepted them easily because she had got used to me and the way I live. She knew we kept open minds and didn’t judge people easily.  This allowed her a lot of freedom to do and say what she wanted.

There is a natural tendency to want to fit in and this makes keeping an open mind difficult, it’s easier to follow the crowd and think like them. I tend to follow the crowd to a certain extent and obey social rules. I try to be polite and helpful, where others often express their individuality by ignoring conventions. You can think differently, very differently, but still be acceptable when it comes to behaviour. Treating everyone as equal for example won’t usually be against the collective thinking. We all tend to believe in fairness and justice, we just have different ideas of what that is.

I often hear of people calling for tough or even inhumane punishments for crime or even punishments for minor infringements of social etiquette. These harsh punishments are thought of as being justified and fair but are really not sensible. They don’t motivate the offender to change their behaviour, they often provoke even more antisocial behaviour and hostility. We need to be open-minded when we feel someone is behaving badly and try to understand what motivates them

Being open minded is, to a certain extent, about having empathy with others, trying to understand their beliefs, feelings and motivation. We need to accept that they are different  but still like us. They are still human regardless of their culture, their language or the colour of their skin.

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