The headline is how we often appear to think, since it is how the world might look like. We have this insane blind spot concerning ourselves and even if we know this in theory, it seems to make little change. This is the first of two connected blog posts, this first about why we can’t trust ourselves and the next will be about why we can’t trust our friends, either.
One of the more useful(?) things one can use facebook for, is finding out what or who provokes you, and then analyse why you react to this specific thing. The provocation part often happens all on its own, so this could be said as ‘when something pisses you off, try to understand why’. The theory behind it, which is not wrong in itself, is that we will know our own faults intimately and so be able to see these same ones in others very quickly, since we know all about it.
The more you ‘speak the same language’ as somebody, the more subtle insults you will be able to pull off.. on the other end of the scale is punching somebody in the nose, which is pretty universally understood across different cultures.
The ‘if this annoys me, I’m guilty of it’-way of thinking can create some strange loops and questions about what sort of horrible person you really are, because the above theory is only true to some extent. If the fault you perceive in others is something most would react to because it is illegal, harmful to others or at least completely unethical by most standards, you don’t need to do this a lot yourself to object to it. At some point the reason you get provoked will be about something more than projection, but the line can be blurry.
But there are other methods for seeing our own faults and little illusions, which does not serve as an excuse for even more time wasted on social media. Discussing this lead to this blog post about why we can’t be trusted to observe ourselves, and also a follow up one about why we can’t trust our friends either. If it was easy, the world might have looked a bit different. Maybe not better, just different. Anyway!
To sabotage things for ourselves, we have this tendency to a whole collection of ways to habitually misunderstand the world, to make us more efficient at processing the information we receieve. Apparently it works when it comes to keeping us alive. Also known as cognitive bias, the fascinating but annoying ways our minds work in. I think knowing about these are fundamental to self observation since they will point out where we are likely to err simply from being human.
This following link is supposed to be decent, and has a list which will give some idea about how we like to misunderstand the world: https://www.allencheng.com/25-cognitive-biases-charlie-munger/
The irony is of course that we can know all those by heart and still fail to see them in ourselves due to a few of the same biases, even if we know what to look for. To change this takes training over time and even then it is not reliable. Because cognitive bias doesn’t care if you know all about it. We might even see the faulty reasoning initially and then rationalise it away, STILL due to the same damn biases. And if we are constantly going to examine ourselves and our thoughts according to twenty five cognitive biases, we wouldn’t get much done anyway. But there will be patterns and tendencies one can keep in mind, and I think this is their value. Especially when something you did not intend or want, keeps repeating with different persons and in different situations. As if it is actually something YOU caused!
If there is one thing which can help us, it would be to know what you desire and what you fear, even if uncomfortable. Anything else will be a motive for lying to yourself, even if it is only to make yourself look a bit better. Who the hell wouldn’t, we often fear what we know intellectually is silly and desire things we are told we shouldn’t.
So if we assume we are human and tend to want all that normal human stuff like power, money, sex, acknowledgement, being popular or famous or at least infamous, etc. I think an issue can arise already here if there is some hidden guilt about these motives, maybe because they used to be sinful or because it might feel like admitting we are not (whatever it is) already, or it seems too mundane and we should be over such things, or we pretend to not care about having what we think we can’t get. The reason doesn’t really matter, but the consequence is dishonesty (conscious or not) to ourselves about what we really want. From there and onwards, our real desire/motivation will be hidden behind something else.
What we fear can be even more difficult, it is the exact same thing: We don’t want to admit it to ourselves since we can rationalise away the reasons for it, so we deny it and dress it up as something else, avoid certain situations, blame others and so on. Quite some of the cognitive biases are involved here, too. After all they developed because they kept us alive, then the pesky world changed and we are still stuck with them.
It is very human: We want to be special and unique, but this is very hard to admit and often ridiculed. So we try to casually do things or appear as something which will make us special and unique in the eyes of others, rather than looking inwards to find and act on the parts of us which are this already. And the same time we want to be normal and accepted since to not be tended to mean certain death in earlier times. Which means we try to do and say the correct things, too. Being who we are or want to be is forgotten, while we try to look like and behave as we believe others want us to. At the same time we probably misunderstand what they want AND the impression we give.
I think this post could be summed up as ‘stop trying, admit you are human and no better or worse than others in most respects’, most of our lies about ourselves seem to be to deny the fact that the whole ‘human weakness’ thing has the name it has for a reason.