Simplified Meaning Justifying action by over simplifying the reasons BY: Troy Murphy | January 2015
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We like the world to make sense. We want a simple clean meaning explaining why, when and how something happened. Explanations graciously grant security—if we can explain it, we can control it. But most happenings have a complex slough of causes, intertwining to create the momentous NOW. Most experiences lack a tidy, neat cause. In our drive for meaning, we force the complexity into over-simplified stories. We extract the most salient cause from the mass of influencers; we choose the most preferred and self-aggrandizing cause, soothing the ego, and dodging responsibility. We point our finger, and turn our backs on further examinations, especially into the flawed personal actions, inviting or magnifying the crippling event.
Demanding YOU change is easier than ME making changes.
Experience often ignites emotions. The homeostatic balance is disrupted, communicating to our souls, “Something is wrong.” A conflict exists between expectations and reality worthy of examination. When recognized, we can examine the stirring inside, uncovering the raw emotion, evaluating the conflict and witnessing our assigning of meanings. If our lives weren’t impacted, simply watching the process (experience, emotions, interpretations) is fascinating. We are emotional beings, collisions with experience constantly provokes emotions, providing ample opportunity to explore the functioning of the mind. Often imperceptible, in the darkest corners, we spin webs of self-deceit, bobbing and weaving around responsibility, and drawing on logical justifications for our stupid or weak acts.
We can justify anything; most notorious criminals felt justified in their horrendous acts against humanity.
By simplifying meanings to a single cause outside of ourselves, we escape responsibility to change. Simplicity ignores complexity and avoids heavy cognitive demands of deep thought; succeeding (and flourishing) in demands more. Blaming easy targets, we channel energy away from workable solutions. Letting go of responsibility initially feels good; it’s a relief. Ignorance litters the highway of life with unfulfilled dreams. Justifications excuse addictions, laziness, and abuse, crying out, “It’s not my fault.” Most of us don’t live with extreme chaos; we enjoy order and structure. Our justifications are subtle, nestled in our protected world where we function, work and play. Self-deceptions dwell here, as well, hindering growth and altering futures.
Relationship interactions are labored with complexity. Instead of simple and pure, conversations carry hidden meanings. Words fused with emotions and straddled with multiple implications rock connections. Hidden motivations bounce between partners impacting meanings. Especially here in vulnerability, our minds default to simple meanings, excusing the complexity, settling on meanings that soothe rather than resolve. We slap on a label, blame the partner and invest energy to fix their problems. Most couple conflicts flow from differences (and pasts) rather than right versus wrong. Neither partner is wrong; just different. Most positions have kernels of truth with drawbacks—tradeoffs. People value different feelings towards proposed tradeoffs. Labeling (good or evil, right or wrong, giving or selfish) ignores the complexity and simply judges an act by already determined causes.
Our task is to mindfully examine situations deeper discovering our involvement in a disappointing event.
Conflict, by nature, creates discomfort, drawing attention to issues of survival; a built-in protection to effectively respond to threats. But emotions are influenced by experience. Like software utilizes the computer hardware, experience records on the machinery of the brain. These memories form the basis for emotional responses in the present. Hurts and joys are remembered.
While some modules of the mind respond with emotions, other modules seek meaning. Measuring experience with the accompany emotions, we interpret life in digestible way, assigning meanings—magnifying discomfort or enhancing joys. Interpretations solidify importance. A mundane, inconsequential event assigned larger meaning may trigger powerful emotions. Conversely, an event with great significance may be dismissed. Interpretations draw upon the past to add color to the present. Current events, associated with painful past, generate forceful feeling.
We should neither deny nor avoid feelings awakened by conflict. Avoiding discomfort rewards us with an escape, relieving the annoyance; while problems fester. The growing gorge between perception and reality weakens motivation to change. We destroy our futures with undeserved pats on the back, excusing failure by finding someone to blame, completely ignoring our contributions to our own misery.
Our response to the feelings of life will determine growth or stagnation. Open your minds, examine the depths of complexity, analyzing simple meanings for hidden truths and you will find the flourishing you have missed.