How to keep from getting frustrated?

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How to keep from getting frustrated?

Post  Matijs on Sun Sep 20, 2009 7:50 am

I keep getting extremely annoyed and frustrated when people come up with spiritual, religious, psuedo-scientific and plainly illogical explanations or views.

Being one who loves a good discussion, I can't keep myself from getting frustrated at the lack of rationale and logic when arguing with someone. I get angry, feel like shouting and slapping some sense into the other person. (I don't think I will ever slap someone, but I have been known to raise my voice from time to time)

I often hear and see other people arguing their case with a smile and staying calm and collected. So many non-believers seem to find the funny side of ridiculous claims...

So, here is my question: How?! How on earth does one stay so cool? How do you keep yourself from being annoyed and frustrated? How does one see the funny side of the ridiculos?
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Re: How to keep from getting frustrated?

Post  snafu on Sun Sep 20, 2009 8:59 am

I think the answer will be different for everyone.
Why do you get frustrated? Being frustrated is a response to something. What's the something?

What I'm getting at is beyond 'their ideas are stupid', to perhaps 'i get frustrated because they are insulting my intelligence' (for example only)

So why do you get frustrated?
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Re: How to keep from getting frustrated?

Post  Jim on Sun Sep 20, 2009 10:39 am

The first thing that pops in my mind is "set them on fire." But, of course, I'm kidding. Mostly.
I'd say walk away. At least that's the advice I give myself.

snafu wrote:Why do you get frustrated? Being frustrated is a response to something. What's the something?

What I'm getting at is beyond 'their ideas are stupid', to perhaps 'i get frustrated because they are insulting my intelligence' (for example only)
I think that sometimes the frustration really is that "their ideas are stupid." There might be something beyond that, but I don't think there needs to be. Sometimes it's just that simple.
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Re: How to keep from getting frustrated?

Post  NH Baritone on Sun Sep 20, 2009 10:41 am

Becoming frustrated with intransigent dogmatists can be a problem. Honestly, I don't like the way I feel after such a discussion, and Christian-Atheist debates do not warrant worsening my quality of life.

Here's a trick I picked up from my psychotherapy practice: Assess your "opponent's" intellect, investment in his/her ideas, and honesty. Silently ask yourself the following questions:

  • How intelligent are they? (Remember, half of all people function with less-than-average intelligence.)
  • How emotionally & socially invested are they in their pre-conceived ideas? (What would it cost them to change their minds?)
  • How honest are they? (Are they engaged with you just to share or simply to win? Are they manipulating you via withholding information or twisting your words to mean something they obviously do not [i.e., creating a straw man]?)
Psychotherapists have to speak to the persons who actually sits in front of us, not to text-book, idealized clients who enter our offices ready to make changes in their lives. And thus we must get to know a bit about how they think and in what contexts they live. Then we know how to address them in the way they can make best use of our time.

We who engage in discussions with the superstitious need to perform a similar assessment. Then we can modify our responses to achieve a reachable goal, perhaps as follows:

  • For those who are poorly educated or whose intellectual capacity shows lots of limitations, help them to become more tolerant by showing them that atheists share most of their values. You cannot expect full understanding or acceptance. Simply help them to crack open the nut of their preconceptions to let in a little light. And remember, "less-than-average intelligence" actually describes a large chunk of the people you encounter on a daily basis.
  • For those whose emotional and social world are built upon their superstitions, avoid provoking defensiveness. Try instead to find common ground. If they talk of Pascal's Wager, point out that we're all in the same boat, because they have to choose between Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Baha'i, etc. If they talk about morality, you can talk about how we all learned about morals from our parents, not from the Bible. If they begin to talk about the eschatology or finer points of theology, point out that there is plenty of disagreement among Christians, and you are just among the doubters regarding those elements of faith. After all, doubting others' ideas is a part of religion. If you notice any defensiveness, back off a bit until the theist shows a bit more flexibility. (And avoid speaking from your own defensiveness, as well.)
  • For those who are dishonest, you must be prepared to drop the rope in the tug-of-war. This is the most difficult, because we all want to believe that logic will win the day. But in such a game, you are dealing with the moral equivalent of a pick-pocket or scam artist, and you have to be prepared to get away in order to protect yourself.
There are a lot of parallels in the social implications of being an atheist and being gay. Much of the population (at least in the US) have not been exposed to the idea that atheists (or gay folks) are equally as good, productive, & loving people as theists. They need time to develop the cognitive dissonance that will allow for a shift in thinking toward acceptance. Most believers will not become atheists, but if not pushed into a corner where they must defend themselves, they may expand their world view to include tolerance of people like us (be it gay folks or atheists).

I hope I haven't sounded preachy. I liked your post and wanted to give it some thought. I'm certain there are other ideas, too. Let me know what you think.
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Re: How to keep from getting frustrated?

Post  jifrock on Sun Sep 20, 2009 5:01 pm

Caution: subjective and anecdotal content. User beware!


Everyone likes to believe that they are in possession of something called the 'truth'. While the actual status of this 'truth' is open to dispute, it is nonetheless an extremely potent force. It seems that this 'truth' is also extremely robust and supported by many pillars. These pillars may be chaotic and vulgar - a clash of styles and sizes - but they function quite well. They are accreted rather than engineered to pre agreed theories of design and degrees of safety. It may be that removing one will bring the whole edifice down. It is more likely that you will have to remove the majority before the roof begins to cave.

For me, the first step is a little intellectual humility. Admit that both of you believe yourself to be right and want very dearly to be right. Admit also that you both may be very wrong. It is from an assumed basis of equality that you can move forward - not through dominance but agreement.


Last edited by jifrock on Mon Sep 21, 2009 4:35 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : typographical errors, spelling anf grammar)
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Re: How to keep from getting frustrated?

Post  Nicholas on Sun Sep 20, 2009 11:58 pm

In short? I have no idea how to avoid frustration, aside from doing something else and taking your mind off of whatever the issue is entirely. I can keep my cool with the best of them, but I still feel the annoyance of absurd claims. Why? If a man wants to believe in a spirit in the sky, or homeopathy, or UFOs, fine. If that same man tries to change our (American) government, tries to legislate based on his delusional fantasies, then I don't think it's a small matter anymore. That's when Bruce Banner becomes The Hulk. That's where I draw the line. And I feel that frustration can be a useful too in motivating me to do something about it. It's like the kick in the ass to get you going, that sharp reminder that reason and logic need people to stand up for them, lest they are ignored and forgotten.
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