You’ve probably often read about the millions of little, automatic things your brain does every day, without you ever thinking about or even being aware of. Very true. But you know what else is astounding. The number of times your conscious brain fails you each day. This really should come as no surprise, since you go to extensive, diligent, and extraordinary measures to deceive it.
There are a few processes that occur in your development that create this result. First is trust issues. When you’re a child, the gulf between your wisdom and experience and that of the adults around you is so great, you see them as the ultimate paragons of knowledge. Slowly as the truth about Santa Clause, Easter bunny and the tooth fairy leaks out, your confidence in them is shattered.
Once you get past this issue of adults telling you things to protect you or make you feel better about yourself, you do your best to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. But even after we filter out the silly childhood fables, we realize that not all adults agree on the big issues, so some of them have to be wrong. Ideally, our discernment develops, and we create a sophisticated thought process to evaluate the people and institutions that provide information to us.
At least that’s the plan...
The goal is to use our rationality, logic, and discernment to know who and what is safe to trust: what experts, religious leaders, Twitter accounts, political leaders, podcasters, bloggers, government agencies, scientists, media outlets, and conventional knowledge we can believe. This almost never works out this way. Instead, you subconsciously decide that only the people and institutions that confirm what you already believe are the impeccable sources to rely upon. I could write an entire book on how marketers, governments, organized religion, and the educational system work to influence and distort your belief system. Actually, I already did, so let’s not belabor that point here. Instead, let’s explore how you voluntarily (although mostly subconsciously) sabotage your own thinking.
The stuff that doesn’t matter too much, most people will allow themselves to be persuaded by reason, logic, and new information. If you read about a new study demonstrating that a certain vegetable helps lower blood pressure, or that astronomers have discovered a new solar system, you readily accept it. But at some point, you’re going to reach an inflection point. Someone or something you trust greatly is going to provide you with new information that violates your existing narrative and confirmation biases and disproves something you desperately want to be true. This is the moment true self-discovery begins. Or doesn’t. You will be forced to change your belief or discredit the source you used to find credible. Choose mindfully.
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