#21 Self-Awareness Part 2
Part 2 of the Self-Awareness Series.
So! To recap: you have an ego, the gatekeeper. It doesn’t need the right answers – just consistent ones. Consistent with what? Consistent with your ideas, beliefs, morals and experiences.
Subsequently, you experience your world through tinted glasses stippled with blind spots galore. Sometimes colours outside the acceptable spectrum sneak in – the garish neon pink of the LGBT, the brutish blue of the conservatives, or the alarming red of immigration – and they seem so overtly wrong, so very offensive, that your blood begins to boil, and your brain begins to shut down. Want some science to back up this big talk? Damn right you do, you wonderfully skeptical fellow! I promise I won’t let it get too dry.
In 2004, psychologist Drew Westen and colleagues undertook an examination of the seductive nature of the lies that we tell ourselves. He aimed to discover what happened neurologically when new information arrived that conflicted with our internal models; when our minds were forced into a state of cognitive dissonance. 30 participants -15 liberal, 15 democrat – were slid into a brain scanner (one at a time, sarcastic pleb!), and then fed clear inconsistencies between their party leader’s words and actions.
His findings: ‘Once participants had found a way to reason to false conclusions, not only did neural circuits turn off, but circuits involved in positive emotions turned on. The partisan brain didn’t seem just satisfied in feeling better. It worked overtime to feel good, activating reward circuits that give partisans a jolt of positive reinforcement for their biased reasoning.’
Simply put, our brains are rewarded for remaining congruent with our internal models – even if that means lying! Terrifyingly, the more conflicting information we receive the further entrenched in our beliefs we become.
What’s the point of all this?
Illuminating the overwhelming bias in human thinking allows us to stand closer to rationality by providing us an invaluable weapon in critical thinking. We may begin to question ourselves – our thoughts, feelings, actions. We may begin to strip our idols of their inhuman, infallible, God-like statuses. We may take the magnifying glass of ‘WHY?’ and bring everything under scrutiny.
Does this sound scary or tiresome? Denial is kinda cosy, right? I get it. All the happiness and power that’s on the table, i’ll put it away. Sorry to have wasted your time. Your every thought is like an immaculate diamond shot from the very asshole of Zeus himself right into your brain. Definitely don’t check out part three in the Self-Awareness series as it goes even further down the rabbit hole of happiness, purpose, belief, success, and feelings as they relate to self-awareness.
This is The Gentlemen’s Game.