Beautiful . . . .
Beautiful . . . .
Magical, mysterious and heavenly . . . .
Another peaceful, relaxing tune . . .
You’ll find I periodically state, “Don’t deny reality.” What does that mean and why is it important?
As it relates to the way I use it when I say, “Don’t deny reality,” I mean it from the simple perspective of Knowledge Adventuring:
If you have facts and/or a preponderance of evidence staring you in the face, don’t delude yourself by denying its existence.
Don’t ignore it. Don’t default to Cognitive Dissonance. Don’t default to Confirmation Bias. Don’t default to Rationalizations. Deal with it. Embrace it as an opportunity for real growth and enlightenment. Pursue the truth, no matter where the path of inquiry leads.
Just because this set of facts and evidence may be overturning your existing belief paradigms doesn’t mean it’s wrong – or not real. Sure, it’s unsettling as hell, but ignoring or denying it doesn’t make it less real, or make it go away. It only serves to make you a denying, deluded fool who can’t face reality.
Don’t stick your head in the sand. Reality won’t go away. Deal with it. Change, adapt, grow
In a future article I’ll delve into the more advanced definition of Reality – from a philosophical and scientific sense. Stay tuned.
Another critical barrier to “Proper Thinking” and intellectual integrity is the theory of Cognitive Dissonance.
It’s important to understand that this cognitive weakness can be the reason for us to default to other barriers to accurate thinking such as Confirmation Bias and Rationalization. As part of our Knowledge Adventuring it will always serve us well to be aware of these thinking biases and adapt our attitude and approach to the pursuit of enlightenment and truth.
Cognitive Dissonance is a theory developed by Leon Festinger in 1957 and essentially holds that we as human beings experience mental stress and discomfort when we either:
We have an inner drive to hold all our attitudes and beliefs in harmony and avoid disharmony (dissonance) as it is psychologically unpleasant. We seek consistency between our expectations and reality so we are motivated to attempt to reduce the dissonance.
The degree of dissonance will vary with the importance and level of ‘investment’ of our beliefs and values, with the degree of inconsistency between our behavior and this belief, and our inability to rationalize and explain away the conflict.
It is most powerful when it is about our self-image. We don’t want to feel foolish or immoral so those feelings are a sign of dissonance within. The greater the dissonance the more you will be motivated to resolve it.
“People don’t like to think. If one thinks, one must reach conclusions. Conclusions are not always pleasant.” – Attributed to Helen Keller
We deal with Cognitive Dissonance in one of a few ways:
#1 is extremely difficult and not likely to occur unless a person is open to change and adapting new information. This isn’t the natural tendency for us. Our beliefs and values tend to stay the same or even strengthened as they are (in the same direction), and our cognitive biases naturally rally against this course of action.
#2 is when we want to eliminate the discomfort from dissonance by seeking out confirming evidence to support our existing beliefs and values. We don’t consider disconfirming evidence, as that would only increase the dissonance.
#3 is when we want to eliminate the discomfort from dissonance but can’t quite find enough confirming evidence to support our position (or too lazy to find it), so we ignore, reject or rationalize it to ourselves and others. If we can’t make an honest case for our stance, we may dismiss the dissonant information as insufficient or fraudulent.
We all have cherished beliefs that have developed over a lifetime of cultural/societal ‘education’ and conditioning. We usually go to great lengths to protect those beliefs – particularly the longer we’ve invested effort and ownership in them. It is extremely hard to change a belief that has grown to be a person’s entire soul, fiber and character (their self-identity).
So, when faced with information that might rock the foundation of those beliefs, we knee-jerk react to the dissonance created. Instead of stepping back, viewing everything objectively and with an eye for obtaining the most accurate and true picture, we default to being an arrogant and incompetent thinker – via irrational thinking.
The fundamental tendency of human behavior is to be irrational much of the time. So when the unpleasantness and tension of cognitive dissonance hits us we would rather be close-minded than be informed and deal with the repercussions of it.
Even people who erroneously think their beliefs are scientific may come by their notions gradually and their commitment may escalate to the point of irrationality..
Out of the three methods listed above for dealing with Cognitive Dissonance, we should ideally try to adopt #1 (Try to change one or more of our beliefs). This is, assuming of course, an objective review of evidence and information indicates our beliefs, values, behaviors are probably in error and in need of adjusting.
#2 and #3 are only mental gymnastics and are attributes of incompetent thinking. Do you want to be an incompetent thinker?
Don’t ignore or deny the evidence. Consider it honestly and humbly. Is it telling you something? Can you achieve a more accurate picture of reality if you commit to changing when needed? Don’t knee-jerk rationalize or attack the evidence attempting to destroy it from your psyche.
If the topic of the dissonance is of importance, particularly if it’s something you feel STRONGLY about, do some investigation. Decide for yourself that you honestly want to review all the evidence in an objective manner – that you want to achieve accuracy and truth.
Step back, take some time to dig into it – again with honesty, refusing to bend to your natural biases. Make sure you don’t default to Confirmation Bias and Rationalizations. Objectively include opposing evidence and assess it with equal fairness and judgment as confirming information. Weigh all the evidence from all sides and come to a conclusion.
Where is the evidence leading? Might my beliefs and assumptions in life be in need of refinement – no matter how long I’ve held them or how ingrained and orthodox they are to the mainstream herd?
Know that your conclusions shouldn’t be cast in concrete and held as irrefutable. New evidence may come to light which would lead to further refinement. The goal, instead, should be a continual path of discovery and refinement as you learn and grow.
Do you want to go through life as an incompetent thinker with little-to-no intellectual integrity? Do you want to be a walking error?
Or do you want the adventure of enlightenment – continually refining your knowledge, beliefs and values with ever more accurate and representative of the truth?
Choosing the latter is a formula for an amazing life of continual adventure and discovery! There is a huge liberating feeling and realization you get when you refine, change and grow.
Admit you’re beliefs, values and behaviors may need refinement. Discover the most accurate information you can. Approach your discoveries with a humble attitude of wanting to know – regardless of where the road leads.
Don’t deny reality.
Some decent online sources: (there are many others of course)
Another personal impediment to “Proper Thinking” is Rationalization. If we want to improve our intellectual integrity and thinking prowess we need to be on guard from making rationalizations.
I like Neel Burton’s definition:
The use of feeble but seemingly plausible arguments either to justify something that is difficult to accept (sour grapes) or to make it seem ‘not so bad after all’ (sweet lemons).
We do something not so smart (a bad decision or behavior), or hold conflicting ideas (beliefs vs evidence), or feel uncomfortable about something we find difficult to accept, so we make excuses to ourselves and others. However, these aren’t genuine explanations. They’re manufactured excuses that are false or unauthentic yet masquerading as logical reasons.
We try to justify and explain after the fact, avoiding the true explanation by using self-serving reassurances that seem logical but really aren’t.
Each of us has a world-view and self-image. We have a knee-jerk reaction to protecting that self-image at all costs. It’s not human nature to admit our shortcomings and mistakes. We have an innate desire to defend.
Rationalization is an ego defense mechanism used to protect our self-identity. It’s used to reduce psychological discomfort of holding contradictory beliefs or thoughts. We don’t want to be embarrassed or feel like an idiot for making a bad decision, taking a stupid action or being mistaken about the beliefs we hold. We want to feel good on the inside that we’re maintaining consistency across actions, thoughts and beliefs.
It’s a natural reaction to an emotional conflict. We need to explain away any discrepancy. Yet it’s also a self-deception. By rationalizing we don’t come to terms with reality. We hide our true motives and shortcomings from oneself and others. We want to make reality fit our emotions.
“Questioning our own motives, and our own process, is critical to a skeptical and scientific outlook. We must realize that the default mode of human psychology is to grab onto comforting beliefs for purely emotional reasons, and then justify those beliefs to ourselves with post-hoc rationalizations.” – Steven Novella
We have an innate difficulty: Human beings are not rational. We are by nature rationalizing animals. Thinking and changing represent major threats to the beliefs that make up our sense of self.
Any large change in a person’s outlook is only going to occur incrementally over a long period of time. This is critical to understand. A person can’t jump from point A to point Z in one fell swoop. It’s difficult enough to simply move from A to B; and then only if the person wants to adapt and change. We have to embrace the concept of finding fault in our own thoughts and beliefs, and wanting to improve their accuracy. Refine, refine, refine. It should be a continuous process.
By doing so, you’ll gain self-esteem, courage, and integrity. You’ll also grow as an individual, have a more accurate picture of reality and practice a high level of intellectual integrity.
“I mean by intellectual integrity the habit of deciding vexed questions in accordance with the evidence, or of leaving them undecided where the evidence is inconclusive. This virtue, though it is underestimated by almost all adherents of any system of dogma, is to my mind of the very greatest social importance and far more likely to benefit the world than Christianity or any other system of organized beliefs.”
– Bertrand Russell
Embrace accuracy and change. Refine, improve, grow.
Some decent online sources: (there are many others of course)