Now What?

Screenshot from the Matrix.
Credit: Wikipedia:

You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.

––Morpheus, The Matrix

You've learned some fact, or a series of facts, which radically change how you see the world. Things you once took for granted are now seen as fantasy. I don't know what these facts are, or where you found them. For the purpose of this tutorial, it doesn't matter.

I'm assuming you've learned something that

  • undermines a widely-shared ideal
  • makes the world look very different from how it used to look––but also explains patterns and tendencies that you'd noticed but never quite recognized
  • is more or less taboo in society, polite or otherwise.

You may be in the initial "pink cloud" period after taking the red pill, where the implications of what you've learned haven't yet percolated to the surface of your consciousness. That's okay––it's all the more reason you should know what you're about to be in for.

But First - A Warning

Sometimes, you may feel like you have great insight into the world, but that insight is actually a symptom of something else. You might be having a psychotic episode or reacting to some kind of internal imbalance. You might be in a vulnerable and suggestible state following trauma or loss.

Even if something like this is going on, you may still have hit upon something that's both true and suppressed––but it's probably a better idea to address your own issues if they're very actue. As Elvis said: "Truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain't goin' away." It will still be there after you're on a more even keel.

If you think something like this might be happening to you, know that there's no harm in reaching out. You don't have to confide your beliefs to anyone, but a second opinion can be helpful––especially in ruling out physical causes of mental distress.

1. You can't go back--but you can go forward.

You can't un-know something. True, in the future, new data may come to light which will change how you see the world again. Your feelings may change as you get older. But even if that happens, you won't be able to return to how you saw the world pre-red pill.

If you're in the pink cloud period, you probably don't believe this. That's totally fine (see #2). Just know that if you follow some of the steps below, you can see yourself through the dark times and find a way forward.

2. It takes years to come to an understanding about anything, let alone something which is off-limits in some way

At first you might feel confused, upset, overwhelmed, lost––these are all normal reactions. They don't ever fully go away, but in time they fade and become the new normal.

You may not understand everything yet––but you don't need to. The main thing you need to know is how you can make a positive difference in your family, community and possibly your nation. Worst case scenario, you find out that your job, or your hobbies, are harmful in some way––meaning it's time for a transition of some kind.

Here's a great quote from, of all places, Yahoo! Answers: "The harder the truth is to take, the longer you have to go." This is very true. Time is going to pass anyway, so if you have to spend some years not being fully aware of what's going on, at least you're heading in the right direction.

If these new realizations are impeding your ability to function, find ways to cope with them that will help you become more funcitonal (see #4).

3. The first cut is the deepest.

Was there ever any pain more acute than Adam and Eve's on eating from the Tree of Knowledge? It might even have been more painful than their expulsion from paradise. To suddenly lose one's innocence, often without realizing what's going on, is quite painful.

In the Matrix movie, Joe Pantoliano's character even says "Why, oh why didn't I take the blue pill?" And Morpheus points out that many people are stuck in the Matrix:

You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it.

The initial shock can be painful. You may experience feelings of abandonment. You may find your "narrative" of how the world works fragmenting. Some people try to trivialize what they're going through, or deny what's happening. In a way it's like going through the grieving process: you're grieving the loss of a world that never existed.

After that shock passes, things get progressively easier. Yes there are hard days, but you'll have had hard days before and you'll know how to deal with them. Press on––what else is there to do?

4. Find ways to cope with intense emotions--you'll need them.

Pilates, tae kwon do, yoga, meditation, kickboxing, cooking, Dungeons & Dragons––find something that will help you calm down and serve as an outlet for pent-up emotions. Cultivate an impersonal interest, or two, that will release any intense emotions you feel. Perhaps your spouse can assist you in this! 

Also, try to make things like this a regular, even daily occurence––20 pushups every morning are better than nothing. You never know when you're going to learn something that will start the roller coaster rider all over again.

5. Help your community in some tangible way.

Reading articles and keyboard jockeying isn't terribly fulfilling. Neither is donating the odd dollar to your favorite blogger. Whether you believe positive change is possible or not, helping your community can at least take your mind off "the big picture" for a while.

When I say "help your community," I don't mean that you must work for an organization which you feel has a net harmful effect. Ostentatious charity or volunteering isn't necessary. Something as simple as picking up trash on the side of the road has a slight positive effect.

6. You don't have to save civilization all by yourself--you just have to do your part.

It's really scary to see how many people have no idea what's happening. It's tempting to give in to despair, since the problems are so huge. However, it's not your responsibility to single-handedly prevent a collapse. You cannot. What you can do is meet other like-minded people and, possibly, give others the red pill as well. 

Even if there's nothing you can do, living a good life is its own reward, and the efforts you made towards saving the doomed speak to your character and integrity.

7. Don't beat yourself up for being brainwashed

Lots of smart, curious people have been brainwashed before you. It's not a sign of weakness, since many propagandists are master manipulators. All it means is that you're human, like everybody else is.

Be glad that you are able to face the truth, at least in part. That is a rare and valuable skill! Now put it to good use.