If you are trapped by a reaction despite the clear fact that there is a better way to act, you are a victim of mental slavery. We all are. Every one of us sometimes find ourselves saying or doing things that we later regret, and wondering why. Ignorance can be a factor, of course. We all can make straight-out mistakes based on a lack of knowledge. But what we're referring to here is those instances when we say, "I knew better than that," or "I should have known better than that."
In those cases we followed the urges that arise in our minds. The programming there demands, for example, that we defend something we have previously said, even if we are wrong. We go along with this, a slave obeying the master we have made of that thought in our heads.
In fact, we are barely able to be objective in cases that touch on the biggest slave-driver of all: the ego. This is why almost everyone can intellectually see that it is better to learn than to lie, yet few can choose at the moment of decision to admit ignorance or be corrected by others. At the crucial moment we want to be right rather than be better.
Interestingly, though we spend a lot of mental energy flattering ourselves and trying to prove those flattering images and ideas correct, we also do the opposite. We are often ruthless in our judgment of ourselves. Again, this is a form of mental slavery. We get trapped in following the logic of a mind that insists we can correct ourselves by beating up on ourselves. We can see this when we listen to the dialog in our heads saying "I'm so stupid!" or "How could I have done that?!"
Consider for a moment how often you have said such derogatory things to a friend. Chances are good that it hasn't been often. We try to encourage our friends and understand their flaws, yet we condemn ourselves. Why? Does that even make sense? Shouldn't the rules be the same for everyone?
The key to understanding this particular phenomenon is to see that our condemnation serves a purpose. It is away for one part of us to feel superior to the person who did the stupid thing. In fact, the more we beat up on ourselves for our flaws, the more superior some part of us gets to feel about it. How strange we are! In fact, though we would never like to admit it, we condemn ourselves while forgiving our friends for the same things because it makes us feel superior to them. After all, our condemnation implies that we - unlike our friends - are really better than our actions suggest.
There is a lot of nonsense going on in our heads. We listen in on this internal dialog in the mistaken belief that it is who we are. Thus we obey like a slave under orders from his master. The results? Look around. People are under the influence of internal voices that say they must blame others and so hurt them - so we have wars. People defend their ideas before they even try to understand what another person is saying - certainly not a path to truth. We are not quite conscious of how much we play a slave to thinking that isn't really who we are and has no interest in what is good for us nor anyone else.
Becoming aware of this process is the first step to getting beyond mental slavery.