Monday, August 24, 2009

The Joy of Uncertainty

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 a person believes something to be true, the less he or she can even 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. One method I've mentioned a few times here is The Work of Byron Katie. I went through the "Four Questions" exercise in a past post to show how it works.

I invite you to join me in giving it a try after downloading the Judge Your Neighbor Worksheet and the Facilitation Guide. I will share a new worksheet on the topic of "being flamed" with you next post. Till then, I wish us all the Joy of Uncertainty.
All of our sufferings derive from our habits
Of selfish delusions we heed and act out
As all of us share in this tragic misfortune,
Which stems from our narrow and self-centred ways,
We must take all our sufferings and the miseries of others
And smother our wishes of selfish concern.
From The Wheel of Sharp Weapons

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