I’ve been dating a model. A mental model. We’re inseparable. And so cute! We finish each other’s sentences and stuff. It’s true love! Unfortunately, I keep getting so caught up in our torrid inner love affair that I forget that my perception of the world is mainly based on fictional narratives. I lose touch with the unreality of my reality.
We’re like people walking in a hedge maze. We know where we’ve come from, can see where we stand but have no way to foresee our future path except by walking it one step at a time. That said, predictive thinking is essential for progress and has been the key to humanity’s evolutionary survival. But in our current stage, it’s necessary to reality-test our mental models and be open to new information that contradicts current beliefs or calls them into question.
The human mind reflexively resists perceiving new information that conflicts with existing beliefs. Psychologists call the process Cognitive Dissonance. I call it a pain in my virtual ass. The more strongly we believe something to be true, the less we can consider contrary evidence, especially if there is a strong emotional element related to the topic. It is so stressful to be confronted with sensory data contradicting a deeply held belief, that the mind refuses to process the new information. Since there is usually a significant difference between the world as it is, and our mental perception of it, we often experience stressful emotions when it’s brought to our desperately resisting attention.
This is very easy to see in others and almost impossible to see within ourselves without concerted, intentional effort. Although Cognitive Dissonance is a built-in aspect of sentient beings, there are practices a willing and persistent individual can use to decrease its impact such as The Work of Byron Katie. One is simply asking yourself, “Is this true?” with humble awareness of one’s lack of omniscience.
Images created in Midjourney, some extended in DALL-E 2, enlarged with Topaz Photo AI and edited in Photoshop.
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