How To… avoid toxic ideologies.

In a world where we live fairly easily and happily, ideologies quickly take hold and spread and soon everyone has an opinion on everything and everyone has labeled themselves as something.

But many past ideologies were based around suffering, strife and a need for change. And when there isn’t strife, what happens to all the people selling books, skimming off the top of their charity organization and using strife as an excuse for their own inadequacy? Well, they either leave the cause and find a new one to leech off. Or they remain, causing their ideology to stagnate and turning a once favourable beliefset based on questioning and investigating into a thin veil for their opportunism: a toxic ideology.

A toxic ideology is one that needs you more than you need it. Without learning to cross the street, many children each year would die. Without God, many religious people would find their life meaningless and empty. Without anarchy, many anti-establishment people could put themselves at danger by acting independently against authority.

Don’t get me wrong: these groups don’t represent an ideology in the same way and none are without their leeches. Wherever people congregate and follow they can be exploited. But generally people turn to them because they need the ideology or the product that comes from the ideology.

However certain ideologies emerge, either independently or from an expired ideology, that are the other way around. Without the ideology, the people would find their own perspective and not run riot. But without the people, the ideology and its leeches will die. Here are some warning signs that you have found a toxic ideology.

1: No shared mission.

All ideologies share beliefs and statements. “To further the wellbeing of mankind,” “we must erase poverty” and “nobody deserves torture” are all very reasonable statements that are believed by many humans. But they aren’t a mission, a direction everyone is headed in.

If an ideology’s only mission is something as abstract as that and nobody agrees on the mission beside that one point, then it doesn’t really have a shared mission. Think of it as an organization. If you had a charity “to fight cancer”, but one manager thought only herbal remedies would work, another was pro-chemo and another believed in spiritual healing, would you donate to them? Like a charity, if there’s no shared mission an ideology can’t move forwards toward its goal.

2: Complete adherence required.

Ideologies are supposed to serve you. Yes, you can be in it to serve other people, but if you’re being evicted or attacked for small slights, then the ideology is frail. It can’t have a shared mission if everyone doesn’t agree on the mission, but it also can’t have a shared mission if every follower and supporter must adhere to every single rule. If the end goal is to stop something, then every single step towards stopping it is valuable. If the end goal is to create something, then every penny and minute of time towards creating it is valuable.

If you’re being continually berated for not doing enough, guilt-tripped for your contributions and insulted for breaking a few minor rules or disagreeing with an orbital opinion, then this ideology isn’t trying to complete its mission.

3: Infighting and segregation.

A result of complete adherence rules is that the ideology becomes very divided. It’s perfectly natural for an ideology to split after a long period of time has passed and new evidence has divided the community. But when the community and its leaders disagree and fight among themselves daily, evict individuals regularly for minor offenses and split up every few years, then there is no central cohesiveness. This is a symptom of not having a mission or of leeches at the top not wanting their mission exposed or completed.

If the ideology is continually fighting over matters they’ve always known about, repeatedly bringing up past debates that were once concluded and never stops splitting and attacking the splitters, then it is headed nowhere.

4: Continual demands for money.

The more overt forms of money demands are easily picked up on by newcomers, but people who are committed to an ideology won’t notice even an overt demand. But covert demands also happen. Guilt tripping about donation levels, complaining about salaries or going to twitter to bemoan their poverty are a variety of ways that the leeches in toxic ideologies demand their money. Some may even get creative and come up with false charities and schemes to get you to “invest” in.

It’s fine to put money towards a charitable cause or maintaining a community. Even ongoing payments are fine as long as the issue is ongoing. But if you’re regularly being asked for random or undetermined amounts of money and you can’t see where it’s going, then that is a leech.

5: Insistence on finding illness.

Many ideologies are born of the need of the people. All good ideologies are. When someone needs support, faith, answers or defense, then an ideology is born. To a human, a social animal, rejection, discrimination, lack of basic resources and lack of freedom of thought are all illness, as they limit our ability to be social with out community. So when someone is discriminated against, alienated or has their access to basic resources and education restricted, an ideology is born to ask why and to fix that problem.

But what if there is no illness? Well, this is where the Munchhausen effect comes in. A toxic ideology is like a mother with Munchhausen by proxy. It can’t stand to be ignored, to be left, to not be needed. So the ideology will approach various people and insist that they are ill. Even if you are perfectly happy, freely making your own choices, physically and mentally healthy and provided for, a toxic ideology will tell you that you are unhappy, oppressed, ill and denied. And it will repeat this again and again until new followers are convinced that they are ill.

Worst of all, toxic ideologies encourage their followers to make themselves unhappy, to restrict themselves, to make themselves ill and to deny themselves, just so that they can become “proof” that the ideology is right. Toxic ideologies make their followers want to be ill to justify the ideology.

6: Bitterness and anger.

Because of all the above, toxic ideologies and their followers are full of bitterness and anger. This is because they are continually walking the tightrope. They have no shared mission, so their legitimacy is just a thin veil, always at risk of exposure. They require complete adherence and dogmatism and are continually angry at and afraid of anyone who rejects their dogma. They are always fighting among themselves about petty matters and splitting up into small sects, denying having anything in common with other sects and defending their sect above the others. They are always thinking of new ways to make money for themselves or for the ideology. And they are always sacrificing their own wellbeing to make a point. If, worst of all, they are in the majority who actually believe it, then they end up angry and bitter because they believe they have intelligently found “the truth” and that everyone else is blind. Because there are so few of them that believe exactly the same thing and because they argue so much (read 2 and 3), they feel very isolated.

And that is how you identify a toxic ideology. Any ideology that meets those six requirements is dangerous. Any that meets even a few of them is unhealthy and not going in a good direction. And if you’re finding yourself looking for excuses as to why your ideology is exempt from toxicity despite meeting these criteria, then you may have been deceived.

TTFN and Happy Hunting.

10 signs someone is worth your time.

Everyone wants their relationships with other people to be meaningful and rewarding. Whether we’re talking romantic partners, family or friends, we often have to decide who is worth our time. This is especially the case when your time is more valuable, such as when someone very attractive dates or someone with a lot of work spends time on coworkers. This guide should help you work out who adds value to your time and who is a drain on it. In no particular order, here are ten things that, all together, mean someone is worth your time.

1. You can talk without getting uncomfortably heated.

A bigger one than many people would think. It’s fine to have a debate. It’s fine to disagree. It’s fine to agree. It’s fine to have an opinion. It’s fine to get a little passionate now and again. But if you find that this person escalates arguments to levels of emotional intensity that you find uncomfortable and that they do this often, they could be causing issues. Uncomfortable arguments weigh on your mind, fill your time and are often unproductive as both of you turn defensive under uncomfortable levels of passion. If someone offers no conversation without a risk of explosion, then they may be a drain on your time.

2. You respect them as a person.

It is impossible to maintain a healthy relationship with someone you can’t respect. It’s actually possible to benefit from relationships where the other party doesn’t respect you, although you have to know that they disrespect you for it to work and these relationships wouldn’t be considered healthy. But you need to be able to respect someone as a person to make them worth your time. The amount of trouble and drama and resentment that is born of when people disappoint you or leave you is too great. You need to see them as a human with their own needs, wants and ability to move.

3. You both know what you want from each other.

This one has three layers. Firstly you must know what they want from you and you must make sure they know what you want from them. Secondly you must both be willing to fulfill those wants. Thirdly, where the other can’t fulfill your wants you must be willing to compromise and they must be willing to compromise the wants you cannot fulfill. If any of these layers is not met, then they will waste your time and later on disagreements and heated arguments may arise.

4. You enjoy time spent with them.

This is a very important one. So maybe they are  waste of time in every other sense. But if you like the time you spend with them and enjoy it whilst it lasts, they may not be a waste. On the other hand, if they are useful in every way but you hate spending time with them, you might want to consider replacing them.

5. You don’t feel you are getting the raw deal.

Relationships aren’t a zero sum game where someone wins and someone loses. But there will be upsides and downsides to every relationship. If you feel like you’re getting a bad deal and they’re resting on their laurels then it’s time to wonder whether they are worth the time you’re putting in. Even if on a rational level you are about even, if you resent them then the use of your time might not be wise.

6. You can do uncomfortable or difficult things together without turning against each other.

A sure sign that someone is worth the time you invest into them is when even unpleasant tasks don’t turn you against them. If you approach a difficult problem or a strange situation as a team, with the goal being to get everything sorted and over as soon as possible, then they are definitely a good use of your time.

7. You don’t bear grudges.

Bearing a grudge takes time and energy and interferes with future interactions. If you find yourself remembering matters you’d both agreed to put to bed and judging them based on these matters, maybe even bringing them up in arguments, then your time is being used poorly. However, if you find it easy or simply worthwhile to fight the urge to bear a grudge, then they are clearly adding a lot to your life.

8. You have the time to give.

A huge one. If there isn’t the time, there simply isn’t the time. No matter how much you like someone and how useful or pleasant they are, if you can’t find the required time then they aren’t worth your time. If they were worth your time you would make some.

9. Nobody else fits their place better.

Another important one. Is there someone with relationship seniority, who meets more of these criteria or who is just nicer to be around who can do their job just as well as they can? Too many cooks spoil the broth and too many people competing for the same places in your life means you’re putting so many times more energy and time than you need to.

10. Nothing else would fit your time better.

Finally: is there anything more productive or useful you could be doing with this time? If they add a little to your life but learning a language, developing a skill or traveling would add ten times as much, then you shouldn’t spend time developing a relationship that you will resent as you struggle in other areas of life. It’s better to not start relationships like that at all.

And those are ten solid indicators that someone is a productive use of your time. Depending on how social you are you might think anyone who meets five or more with worthwhile or you might decide that someone needs to meet ten to make them worth the time, but I wouldn’t encourage relationships with anyone who meets less than five of these criteria.

How do you make sure you’re using your social time well?

TTFN and Happy Hunting!