Undoing Self-deception

     Welcome to stren #74 of the EC wisdoms that teach a newer way of thinking.  Today’s stren encourages you to examine the degree you remain a slave to fate and circumstance.  The chart that follows compares the mental behaviors predictable when we uncritically obey the forces that make us what we are, with the humane attributes that we require to survive and thrive in modernity.  Many of the problems we create for ourselves are due to self-deception.  We believe we are our own master when actually we are merely acting on what feels right because nature and our nurturers have programmed us to believe their way is our way.  Put to rational scrutiny, we discover which of the authority’s assumptions that determines our thinking, feelings, and actions fail the test of common sense (see stren #91).  The perspectives we inherit and passively acquire, primarily through instinct and those inscribed by our nurturers sometimes become maladaptive, even dangerous.  The greatest problem is that we deceive ourselves into thinking we are right and justified when we are acting quite stupidly.  “Stupidity” is uncritically obeying authority when we are capable of wiser problem solving by our use of common sense. 

     A child’s world is one where direction is required and mistakes are usually forgiven.  Our earliest processing of information must be simple and easily learned; authoritarian directions must be authoritarian, clear, and require little or no judgment.  Blind obedience to authority is a life-saving skill in a dangerous environment when our own problem-solving skills are limited.  For the first dozen years of our life our brain is exceptionally skilled in mimicking the behaviors and beliefs of our nurturers and what other role models provide us.  Consider how effectively everyone acquires their native language.  Even an abused child will cling to its nurturers because they are seen as the most important source of protection and survival from unknown greater dangers. 

     In stren #86 I refer to a parable that compares us to sheep, hypnotized to believe they are protected and happy when they are not.  A single sheep dog can control the herd by its mere presence, bark, or a nip to the legs of a few sheep.  I also referred to the helpless/hopeless response, a more contemporary explanation of why we fail to take wise action when common sense would urge us to do so.  Socrates, regarded as one of our wisest teachers, concluded, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Until we become consciously aware of our self-deception, habit will sustain our mindless self-deception.  Mental freedom is more than just “growing up.”  We become our own person by teaching ourselves a newer way of thinking (ANWOT).

     We require conscious awareness to motivate us to assume self-mastery.  Comparing the assumptions commonly acquired during our formative years with those that are supported by universal common sense wisdom will inspire you to a newer way of thinking.  The chart will sharpen your awareness of how strongly your life experience is determined by fate and circumstance.  By assuming personal responsibility you can add common sense wisdom to problem-solving to make your life more joyous and meaningful.  

     The chart highlights two ways of thinking, each assuming different beliefs: (1) those acquired from our genes and modified by our nurturers through our formative years, and (2) our mental behavior when information is processed substituting a newer way of thinking (ANWOT) that conveys self-mastery.  The ANWOT side expresses the humane action pathways that elevate us above the animals, while the other side predicts the actions advocated when the animal portion of our brain dominates our intelligence.  The extremes are emphasized to highlight the differences; in real life, the line separating the two is not so distinct.  Nevertheless, you will gain considerable enlightenment to improve your life experience.

      The characteristics that most distinguish the animal portion from the cerebral cortex portion of our brain  can each be conveyed in one sentence:

Animal brain:  “My way the only way.” 
Trial and error learning has enabled us to survive by making the highest priority repeating the life cycle.  The either/or two-category way of thinking we first learn pre-wires us with loyalty to our family, our tribe, and whatever interpretations we learn from our nurturers.  We identify with those who are like us – our flag, religion, teams, ethnic group, gender, geographic location, and on and on.  Those not perceived as “our side” are devalued, dehumanized, and considered a resource to be of service without consideration for their own survival or well-being, because it is “not us.”

Human brain: “What will make things better for me and you, for now and the future?” 
Mature and equipped with knowledge, the intelligent humane portion of our brain is capable of discovering the universal “laws” of cause and effect, and can store them, pass them forward, and add common sense problem solving to the power of knowledge.  We create morality as each tribe discovers universal common sense values that improve the quality of life and adaptation for survival: love, forgiveness, kindness, mercy, compassion, and the ideals that we call “humane.”  We can recognize that society is like the different systems of our body – survival requires that each specialized organ must contribute to and cooperate with the whole for the system to remain healthy and survive.  One deviant component can extinguish everything.    

     Study the chart.  Add to it and strive to become your own person!  Attain your highest level of competence to make your life experience joyous and meaningful.  Share your mental wealth to benefit those you love and those who you will never know.   



     The ever-changing reality we experience through the metamorphosis of our thinking from immature to mature and super-mature, from animal brain to human brain, cannot be fully reflected in a simple two-category chart.  Keep in mind that the traditional way we express information emphasizes polar extremes; dichotomous thinking conceals the true connected relationship between the animal portion of our brain and the newer “human” portion of our brain.  Written communications are snapshots that are incapable of fully expressing the continuous motion of reality.  A more accurate representation would provide a scale to reflect the degree to which each master contributes to the reality we actually experience.  The following figure demonstrates how we start life dominated by our animal brain, and how gradually our cerebral cortex increases in strength of leadership:      
        Animal brain     10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10     Human cerebral cortex   

A slightly more sophisticated figure would show a continuous time line to identify the changing relationship as we progress from dependency to self-mastery:

      Animal brain  10⇔9⇔8⇔7⇔6⇔5⇔4⇔3⇔2⇔1⇔0   (line represents passage of time)   
      Human brain   0⇔1⇔2⇔3⇔4⇔5⇔6⇔7⇔8⇔ 9⇔10

Both extremes of this relationship between our animal and human brain may be undesirable.  Some combination of our animal brain’s emotion with our cerebral cortex’s intellect in which common sense has become the chief executive officer (C.E.O.) would be most desirable.

     But even these representations fall short.  We know that the degree of influence by each of the masters who control us is in continuous to-and-fro motion like the waves of the ocean.  A motion picture would be far superior.  We have yet to create a language that’s sophisticated enough to allow us to fully comprehend the motion picture we call reality.  Do not be discouraged.  We can attain amazing insights from our current level of sophistication.  In studying the chart, try to process the either/or presentation by replacing the vertical line that separates them with a horizontal line that connects them gradually creeping towards ANWOT but moving to and fro depending on the amount of strength each entity presents at any given time.