Something in humans wants to hold on to the known and the familiar. Maybe it is the perceived luxury of being able to put some of life on autopilot and not to have to think about our opinions over and over again. It may be as simple as having a fixed aversion to Brussels Sprouts. If a first encounter with these little gems was as a boiled, unpleasant smelling miniature cabbage, the file could be quickly closed on them. No matter what a menu promises, a closed mind will not explore further.
Only a chance encounter with bacon sautéed Brussels Sprouts could possibly yield a revision of opinion! And, maybe not!
While our brain is busy protecting us from the unknown, we can be lulled into a stubborn frame of mind that closes us off to fresh ideas and new perspectives that could enrich our lives. Any kind of prejudice is an example of a closed mind. Even a family or a workplace group or a community can develop this static and stifled world view.
Having an open mind does not mean that we have no beliefs or convictions or that we do not pay attention to experience and long standing patterns. It does involve cultivating the habit of listening deeply and being able to at least look at things from another perspective.. At first, our listening is like refuting each new idea before we even let our minds hear and consider it. Some of the most important discoveries in the world have begun with derision, closely followed by a collective, “It can’t be done.”
It is especially helpful in reviewing our lives to be open to new narratives about the past and to exploring new options for the future. Psychotherapy provides a gentle nudge to do that.