You’ve just made an incredible, mind blowing discovery! You absolutely know this is the real thing – you’ve seen it with your own eyes, and maybe this experience even changed your life. But this piece of awareness isn’t common knowledge – maybe it even goes directly against the currently accepted understanding. You want to shout about your theory from the rooftops but you’re aware there are possible implications – from disapproval of loved ones, conflict and judgement or maybe a serious implications such as legal or physical danger. This is a learning curve all of us go through in one way or another,though usually in less extreme ways – we all have some experiences or opinions that are different to those of people around us. But what if you are someone who discovers something horrific about the conduct of an organisation or makes an incredible scientific discovery that could help others? What if you truly believe your unusual opinion or idea could change the world?
Firstly: is it true or do you just want it to be?
Have you looked at the evidence for the opposing argument and truly tried to assess if there could be truth in another way of seeing things? Are you biased? Could your ideology – political , religious etc be obscuring you from seeing the facts objectively? In order to be an effective trailblazer you have to put your ego aside and search for the truth over validation. Have you spoken to trusted others (possibly people considered experts in the field that are unbiased) about any logical flaws or aspects you might have overlooked? If applicable, have you been able to gather empirical or legal evidence? Having others that are not invested in whether or not you are ‘right’ look over your proposals can help you to decide if you should share your opinions more openly. Many ‘alternative’ beliefs are downright dangerous – often people making these claims know this and are out to exploit others for money but even a well meaning person sometimes gives detrimental advice despite good intentions so it’s good to have others’ input.
How does it affect others?
Some truths are more personal and imposing them on others may not have a beneficial impact. For example having a ‘religious experience’ may not convince many people to convert to your belief system and people may indeed feel disrespected and imposed upon if you try to preach to them. There are some experiences that cannot be proven outside the person’s own experience – in this case it may be better to present the idea as more of a ‘food for thought’ leaving others a space to consider their opinion and only to others who seem interested/ curious. If your experience can’t be verified by data or observation then you should acknowledge that you cannot expect others to automatically believe you but simply suggest it is something they could explore for themselves.
One area which fits into a space between science and observation is nutrition. I have discovered a lot of things about the way my body responds to food and how to utilise the wisdom of ancient systems of holistic healing. Some of these pieces of knowledge are supported by nutritional studies and some do not yet have empirical proof but lots of anecdotes and a proposed mechanism of action. The fact that it works for my body is the the important thing for my life, whether or not it was tested in a lab and sharing my experience has helped others to get to know their own bodies and improve symptoms. But it is vitally important for your credibility and legality to make clear the distinction between what science has proven and what is a possibility but not accepted by the rigorous standards of scientific testing. If your observation fits within this box it may be helpful to verify that nothing that has been reliably proven disproves your hypothesis, whether there could be a placebo effect, and to look into the politics of the industry in question – if there haven’t been studies why not? In terms of nutrition there can be conflicting interests with pharmaceutical companies because they can make more money from patented drugs so they may not wish to fund research on less profitable natural alternatives which show evidence of medicinal benefit. Explaining the human aspect of research and how politics comes into the industry in question can help to contextualise to your audience why they (or ‘experts’ / ‘professionals’) don’t know about the information you’re presenting.
Does this information empower, improve the quality of peoples’ lives or help them to make important decisions? Is there an audience for which your message could be damaging? For example is it something you should avoid bringing up around children?
Is it safe?
Common sense here, but are there any legal implications? Could you threaten the interests of an individal or company that may take up legal action? For example making a scientific claim about the safety a product without showing the studies to back up this information could send you to court. Are there any other laws or cultural beliefs in your country that affect your choice e.g. could you lose your job or is there a risk of violence or threats against you? Could you even put a partner, family member or group at risk?
Can you live it without saying it?
Say that Pete had an incredible life changing psychedelic experience. He saw his understanding of life completely shift and realised some important things about how he wanted to live out his future. He could talk about the benefits of the psychedelic experience for him but he also knew that his conservative family and friends would see him as an abuser of drugs and it could affect his reputation and career as the drug he took was illegal in his country. He could speak out about the experience and risk these consequences or he could use the realisations he had to live out a positive example. He could for example start meditate daily, quit the job he had some ethical qualms about and start working for a local evironmental charity and write a book about everyday ways to help the environment. The realisations he had would still be shared without the controversial aspect being neccessary. Sometimes this is a good compromise – which leads onto the next point:
What is your goal?
Not everyone wants to be a social justice warrior (in the polite sense of the word rather than the overly-offended-by-everything definition). Some people want a quiet family life – in this case maybe you will decide the best course of action is to share your perspectives with your closest friends only or simply use your understanding to help you plan more socially accepted ways of making a difference. On the other hand you may feel a moral duty or the potential you see in your discovery transcends your desire for an easy life. How much are you willing to sacrifice to get this information out there? There are whistle blowers all throughout history who have risked everything, including their lives, to expose their truth – but the only person who should make the decision to make that sacrifice is you. Some of the world’s greatest minds were ridiculed or persecuted: Aristotle with spherical Earth, Wegener and continental drift etc… our idea of what is true has evolved dramatically over the centuries and maybe you’re onto something mankind can really benefit from!
Lastly, recalling this sufi saying can’t hurt:
Before you speak, let your words pass through three gates:
At the first gate, ask yourself “Is is true?”
At the second gate ask, “Is it necessary?”
At the third gate ask, “Is it kind?”