Are we victims of circumstance or do we choose our circumstance?

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This topic contains 47 replies, has 7 voices, and was last updated by  PopeBeanie 2 weeks, 1 day ago.

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  • #29062

    Jody Lee
    Participant

    I often wonder about why people make the decisions they do. We all (mostly) have control over our actions and reactions…right? So when I see people living their life as a victim of their past/current situation I question what it takes for people to make change in their life. I know overcoming tough things isn’t easy. Is it a matter of intelligence or awareness?

    #29063

    Jody Lee
    Participant

    *For the record, I feel as though I personally am a mixture of victim and master, BUT I wonder if my awareness has come from wisdom, age experience,  education?  All of the above, perhaps?

    #29064

    jakelafort
    Participant

    Jody, it feels like we choose. It feels like we have free will. The general understanding from culture is that we make our own luck, that we are the masters of our destiny. That understanding is consistent with religious notions of free will (god gets a pass for evil if everybody is doing their thing of their own volition)

    Reality and understanding of reality are opposed. Circumstances that are clearly beyond our control, so called acts of god or mother nature can wayleigh the best laid plans.

    From philosophy/science the notion of strict determinism negates choice/free will. It is not settled as to whether it is so. But any notion of pure free will is fanciful. Since we have begun to share anecdotes i will share one.

    My dad has always been a paragon of strength. He is gifted intellectually…was a navy pilot…have seen him ready to fight at drop of hat…has always said he would on penalty of death to loser debate any theist. Just an incredibly strong person and fearless. But a few years ago he suddenly got aphasia. Got an MRI and he had a large brain tumor. He has had 3 surgeries. Mr. stoic and mr. fearless developed crippling anxiety. He continued to be stoic as he fell and fell and broke bones but anxiety was present to such a degree that he did not seem at all the same person. His third surgery was successful and he is recovering. Anxiety gone. The compression to his brain caused the anxiety. He did not choose it. And there is nothing he could do to prevent the behavior that the anxiety produced. Just think about all of the disorders and problematic behavior that the actor has zero control over and which produces bad circumstances. It is easy to celebrate our individual triumphs and to castigate our failures but how much control can the actor exert?

    #29065

    PopeBeanie
    Moderator

    but how much control can the actor exert?

    But oppositely, it doesn’t feel right to not even try, right? It seems that when something is difficult to achieve, all one knows for sure is that it cannot be achieved unless one exerts effort.

    #29066

    PopeBeanie
    Moderator

    […] I question what it takes for people to make change in their life.

    I often don’t know where inspiration comes from, except when someone else encourages me, or someone else needs me to act.

    BUT I wonder if my awareness has come from wisdom, age experience,  education?

    As for myself, I was handicapped by severe social anxiety for decades, which eventually brought on depression that drained away motivation. I didn’t even realize that help was available until my daughters stepped in to find it for me. The first therapy focused on treating the depression, and then we could work on the social anxiety. It took about six years, learning not to blame myself but just keep learning (with help) how to focus on the goal, one step at at time.

    The biggest clue about how severe my case was came only about two years ago when, for the first time in my life, strangers actually came up to me to start conversations. Before then, I had some kind of wall around me that scared people off, that I didn’t even know about.

    So it seems to me I was a victim of circumstances or at least didn’t know how to deal with them. And then luck stepped in and showed me the way. It still took a lot of work, and I can see how some people, not so lucky, cannot change because they just don’t know how to, or don’t know where to find help (sometimes due to stubborn pride, or just plain hopelessness).

    And I can say the state of American health care surely delayed my success. VA benefits made the crucial difference.

     

    #29067

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    I like the saying, “self control sets you free”.

    #29069

    _Robert_
    Participant

    I had nothing to do with the opportunities and challenges presented to me. I had nothing to do with my basic nature, intelligence or instinctual reactions. Other than that, LOL I take all credit for the good and bad that I have done.

    #29070

    Jody Lee
    Participant

    I had nothing to do with the opportunities and challenges presented to me. I had nothing to do with my basic nature, intelligence or instinctual reactions. 

    Right, but did you have the control change the way those opportunities and challenges affected you?

    #29071

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    I’d say it definitely takes experience to be able to manage oneself in difficult situations.  That experience comes from having lived through difficult situations.  [Therefore] the first time around, one often makes a mess of it.

    I find that the formula, “give the maximum benefit and minimum harm available to all concerned, including oneself” helps a lot as a moral compass.

    #29072

    _Robert_
    Participant

    Right, but did you have the control change the way those opportunities and challenges affected you?

    I do not know. I take personal responsibility and tend to make rational/logical decisions for the most part but that could just be my nature. I used to look down on family members who just kept fucking up. I gave up on them so I would not be dragged down. Now I am not so sure that they have much of a choice and I have more compassion.

    #29073

    jakelafort
    Participant

    Pope, I am not asserting that my position is an excuse for indolence or capitulation.

    You have articulated one of the criticisms atheists have for theists who prey instead of do.

    #29074

    jakelafort
    Participant

    Pope, that is a very difficult road you took. Like Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting, not your fault. And to the degree that you are not experiencing those things it is because your brain has changed for the better. The tendency to view mental illness (a misnomer bcoz all illness is physical or else it is not an illness) as a matter of shame to the victim is another of the myriad consequences of religion.

    #29075

    jakelafort
    Participant

    Jody, thank you.

    My gut tells me or is it the little man in my brain who rules me if there even is a me that it extends to more than just medical conditions. Praise be Allah, but Robert has spoken in a way on this topic that i concur although i go further.

    Have you read about the impact of abuse on children later in life? It is fucking astonishing. There is a story that was in a book about legalizing drugs…Jewish women who were pregnant, terrified and hidden out in Eastern Europe during holocaust who survived and had the baby. All of the children had major problems as adults.

    The more it becomes evident that there is no control and how we feel about things is completely separate from how things are the more strange it feels to be HUMAN. The parable of the cave applies to our consciousness and our behavior. That is what that little man is telling me.

    #29076

    Unseen
    Participant

    You seem to be particularly new, so you won’t see this coming from me, but most will.

    Everything we do, including our choices, is due to antecedent conditions over which we have no direct control.

    So, while we make choices, those choices come from neurons in our brain, which we don’t fire consciously, and in response to conditions both in the external world and our interior physical world.

    So, while you can choose, how you choose is beyond your conscious control.

    Whatever we do follows from our individual nature responding to events presenting themselves to our nervous system an consciousness. Once you are conscious of having made a decision, it’s already been made in a preconscious mind-within-a-mind.

    Anything else would involve invoking a kind of magic or a soul/spirit totally free of events in the physical world yet somehow, able to act upon it. Which is absurd.

    If an evil person does evil or a good person does good, there have to be reasons controlling those choices and making them inevitable.

    • This reply was modified 2 weeks, 4 days ago by  Unseen.
    #29078

    Jody Lee
    Participant

    So, while you can choose, how you choose is beyond your conscious control.

    I don’t know about this statement. I feel that I DO consciously control most of the choices I make. Especially if I take time to reason.

    If an evil person does evil or a good person does good, there have to be reasons controlling those choices and making them inevitable.

    Yeah, I have to disagree with this…or maybe I’m not understanding what you  mean. There are definitely reasons that would make people “likely” make certain choices, but reasoning is a process and even in situations where something might be more likely,  I think the possibility is there to choose something  else.

    • This reply was modified 2 weeks, 4 days ago by  Jody Lee.
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