Over the weekend I watched the documentary: Behind the curve.
It follows the ever-growing movement of people who believe that the Earth is flat.
It was pretty bonkers. It’s so popular now that they even hold an annual international conference that’s attended by thousands.
It was also a fascinating study of the power of belief: how normal, intelligent people can be pulled into believing things about reality that are clearly in conflict with overwhelming evidence.
Watching it reminded me of a concept in psychology called ‘secondary gain’ – the idea that we often don’t want to change because we will have to give up something positive if we do.
For example, for some, it can be hard to reduce the amount of alcohol they drink because all their friends do it.
To do so could be detrimental to their relationships so they choose the sense of connection over lowering the amount they drink.
You see a similar thing with smoking. Often smokers form an attachment to both their cigarettes and the people they smoke them with.
So when they attempt to stop they’re not just giving up a habit: they’re untangling a relationship.
For the Flat Earthers you could clearly see the secondary gain.
Those featured on the documentary appeared to be mostly authority mistrusting, social outsiders who had finally found a group that accepted them.
They were experiencing a deep sense of belonging by sharing their conspiracy theories with like-minded people.
No longer were they odd-balls on the outer edge of society, they were accepted as being normal.
If they changed their beliefs they risked losing that. It’s understandable why they wouldn’t want to do that.
In fact, the main character of the documentary was treated like a superstar – he also now sells merchandise and has allegedly become a millionaire. Mind. Blown.
So when you’re thinking about creating a change, it’s useful to explore what the secondary gain might be. And to explore how you can preserve this when the change happens.
Ask the following questions:
What is it that you think you will lose – that’s positive – if you change?
And how might you preserve this when the change happens?
For the Flat Earthers, it certainly looked like the secondary gain was social acceptance; validation that they were worthy and decent human beings.
Who doesn’t want that?
For them to change, they would have to find a way to preserve this in some capacity.
So it might be worth exploring what you need to preserve in order to experience an important change in your life…
A slightly mind-bending thought, i know, but a profoundly useful one.
Also, here’s a link to the website of the documentary. It’s well worth a watch imo!