Labels The intrusion of self-confirming biases BY: Troy Murphy | October 2017
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The self is a complicated subject. We are encouraged to discover the self. In noble vagueness this makes sense but in practicality simple definitions of self flounder, grasping to identify the dynamic being behind the action. We settle for simple labels; I’m honest; I’m smart; I’m a victim; I’m a drug abuser.
We need these labels to function in a world of language. But with utility, we lose the gifts of complexity. Simpleness has a significant cost, weakening experience, and intruding on openness. Our dependence on prefixed labels diminishes flexibility to the novel.
We shouldn’t abandon examinations into self. Understanding underlying motivations, histories and patterns of thought and action is enlightening. Knowledge of self is the building blocks of self. The loss occurs when our labels of self become rigid, demanding confirmations rather than open investigations. These mindsets refer to self-confirming biases.
Self-confirming biases interfere with openness to opposing information, contort experience to fit the preconceived notions, and twist interactions with others. We must include with all self-definitions an asterisk, footnoting the limitations, and leaving room for the more complex unexplainable whole. Deborah Luepnitz, in her wonderful book Schopenhauer's Porcupines: Intimacy And Its Dilemmas: Five Stories Of Psychotherapy, writes, “The point is not to go nameless, to refuse the question “Who am I?”, but to keep the conversation about identity going." Our discoveries of self are not definitive, all-encompassing explanations; but simply another clue to the great mystery of life.
We gain wisdom by knowing our limits of understanding. Accepting the human restrictions on understanding, opens our mind to continued gathering of knowledge unbiased by faulty knowledge. This mindset prepares not just for greater understanding of self but also for greater understanding of others, eliminating divisive biases creating unpassable barriers, and destroying the necessary conversations to heal the deepening wounds of hate.