Simplified Meaning |Justifying Bias
BY: T. Franklin Murphy | January 2015 (edited 2018)
The complexity of existence challenges our ability to adapt. We seek escape by oversimplifying and ignoring reality. With deeper wisdom, we can work with complexity to enjoy a better life.
We like a world that makes sense. We want simple clean meanings that explain why, when and how something happened. Explanations graciously grant security—if we can explain it, we believe 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 complexity into over-simplified stories. We extract the most salient cause from the mass of influencers, choosing a preferred and self-aggrandizing cause, soothing our ego, and dodging responsibility. We point our finger, and turn our backs to further examinations, failing to consider our flawed actions that contributed, invited or magnified the crippling event.
Demanding that you change to improve the situation is much easier than me taking some responsibility and making changes.
Experience often ignites emotions. The homeostatic balance is disrupted, communicating to our souls, “Something is wrong.” When a conflict exists between expectations and reality, we feel it, our bodies signal that something is off and worthy of examination. When the dissonance is recognized, we can examine the stirring of feelings, uncovering the raw emotion, evaluate the conflict and catch the simplified biased meanings.
This is mindfulness. Simply watching the process (experience, emotions, interpretations) is fascinating. We are emotional beings, enduring constant collisions with experience that provoke emotions, providing ample opportunities for exploration. We can watch the functioning of the mind. Often imperceptible, in the darkest corners, we spin webs of self-deceit, where we bob and weave around responsibility, drawing on logical justifications for stupid and misguided action.
We can justify anything; most notorious and nasty acts have some reason; the actor feels justified in their horrendous crimes against humanity.
By simplifying the meaning behind complex experience, pointing to single outside forces, we escape the heavy responsibility to change. We conceal laziness, selfishness, and ineptness. Simplicity ignores complexity, allowing for simpleness of mind, avoiding the heavier cognitive demands of thought; succeeding (and flourishing) demands more. By 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.
"Simplicity ignores complexity, allowing for simpleness of mind, avoiding the heavier cognitive demands of thought."
Relationship success is labored with the blurred meanings concealed in 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 of needed connection, 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—trade-offs. People order value differently, having more intense feelings on different sides of a proposed trade-off. Labeling (good or evil, right or wrong, giving or selfish) ignores the complexity and simply judges an act by our limited biases of what we prefer.
Our task is to mindfully examine situations deeper, discovering our involvement (actions and interpretations) in a disappointing event.
Conflict, by nature, creates discomfort, drawing attention to issues of survival; a built-in protection to effectively respond. But these emotions are not pure, influenced by experience. Like software utilizes 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 and cast a shadow on interpretations.
While some modules in our mind respond with emotions, other modules seek meaning. Measuring experience with the accompanying 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 that are awakened by conflict. Avoiding discomfort rewards with an escape, relieving the annoyance; while problems continue to fester. The growing gorge between perception and reality weakens motivations to change. We don’t see the need when our sorrows are projected onto outside and uncontrollable forces. We claim victimhood, feel life is unfair, and sorrow ourselves to the grave. We destroy our futures with undeserved pats on the back, excusing failure by finding blame, and ignoring our contributions to misery.
Our response to the original core feelings determines a path of growth or stagnation. By opening our minds, examine the depths of complexity, and analyzing our first assigned simple meanings, we can discover many hidden truths that when attended to provide the flourishing life we desire.