Are you convinced your opinions are totally correct? Are you so certain about it that you are habitually obsessed with trying to convince others you are correct? Do you distort information that is contrary to your opinion? Consider this example:
John: “Fred is the most honest man alive.”
Zoe: “Fred told me he got a promotion at work. My friend, Betsy, works in the same department as Fred and said no one in the department received a promotion in the past year Sounds to me like Fred isn’t all that honest.”
John: “Obviously Fred meant he hoped he would get a promotion. Betsy heard him wrong. Fred would never tell a lie. Why are you trying to ruin Fred? He’s an honest man. I’ve known him for years. He would never, never, tell a lie.”
How about this one:
Larry: “I’m glad I voted for our current Senator. He cares about us.”
Clare: “Where have you been? He just voted against giving a tax break to a company that wanted to build a plant here that would employ 5,000 local workers.”
Larry: “That’s bull. The company bosses are lying. Since when can you trust what big business says? Like the drug companies.”
Clare: “But that company has built large plants in three other states and boosted the local economies. They have a good record of following through with what they say. Our Senator showed lousy judgment on this one.”
Larry: “That’s just fake news that his political opponents want you to believe. The Senator has always looked out for our welfare. He obviously knows that there’s behind-the-scenes stuff going on that will screw us.”
In these examples, John and Larry seem to have a blind spot when it comes Fred and the Senator. No matter how compelling the evidence against them, John and Larry are determined to stick with their opinions, even if it means distorting the evidence.
What’s going on here? Are John and Larry just being stubborn? Maybe so, but psychologists look for deeper reasons when folks get really animated in defending their opinions. Sometimes people are so irrational they put themselves in danger. Why would Jim Jones’ followers allow him to lead them down a path to suicide? Why would followers of David Koresh accept his self-proclaimed special link to God, even when he was having sex with several of their wives?
We’re beyond stubborn here. Are they avoiding something, denying something by holding on to their blind, intense, and obsessive allegiance?
Consider this possibility: Whether it be James or Larry, or a Jones or Koresh follower, is it possible that deep in their psyches, they are insecure and unsure about themselves and their actions, and need to avoid facing that fact? Are they trying desperately to convince others, and themselves, of the wisdom of the choices they make?
For instance, do those who are guilt-ridden on the inside have to yell long and hard to convince you, and themselves, how pure and sinless they are? Similarly, do those with strong dependency needs, but who fear rejection, need to strut around loudly proclaiming how self-sufficient they are, to avoid facing the fact that inside they are a quivering mass of insecurity and anxiety?
Have you ever heard someone say, “Trust me, I’m always right.” You might think, “Wow, a narcissistic personality disorder!” Of course, applying a label explains nothing. What you need to consider is that the cocky person is following an avoidance strategy to deny inner insecurities by wearing a protective armor to hide those insecurities from others and self. Why? Because those inner feelings are saturated with fear and anxiety. What better way to deny and avoid them than to act precisely the opposite!
It seems like a great strategy, but if you travel the road of avoiding facing your fears, frustrations, anxieties, guilt, anger, or any of a number of negative emotions, you are heading in one direction: Depression.
To get off that road and deal better with your stress, to feel secure in your own skin and to stop presenting a “false you” to others and yourself, you must confront your inner demons, accept them as real, and get help in resolving them.
Know the warning signs that you are on the dangerous road of avoidance: (1) You proclaim your opinions intensely and habitually; (2) You hold onto your opinions in the face of contradictory evidence; (3) You discard family and friends who reach out to help you evaluate your opinions in realistic ways; (4) You are unable to reach inside yourself and answer the questions, “What am I avoiding? What am I afraid of?”