Friday, August 5, 2016

stories we tell ourselves

I found myself in an all too familiar labyrinth, recently.  It's one I've desperately tried to navigate so many times before, but often upon first entering, I don't recognize it.  It's only as I follow the twists and turns, trying to make sense of one dead end after another that I think, oh for fucks sake.  I  know this place.

There's a study that's been done, which I've so far failed to dig up a reference to, that shows how people can be manipulated to make very predictable choices, by giving them subconscious cues.  Not only will people assume that they're making a rational choice of their own volition, but when asked, why did you make that choice?

They inevitably give answers that are demonstrably unrelated to the reasons the administrators of the study know to be the real reasons.  People not only lack free will, but lack the capacity to understand why their fettered will does what it does.  Rather, we have this process the ego goes through, as we attempt to explain why we do the things we do, after the fact.  This is the ultimate confirmation bias.

It's not impossible that we might somehow work out the right answer, or even stumble into it.  Surely, the stories we tell ourselves might occasionally be accurate.  The more intelligent we are, the more likely we should be to come up with a narrative that isn't utterly nonsensical.  We might also become adept at finding seemingly rational reasons for the irrational things we do.  Reasons that are still entirely wrong.  It's difficult to say for sure.  Maybe impossible.

So, why do we do the things we do? From neurological conditions to how circumstances influenced those conditions.  Even things we learned as infants that we couldn't possibly remember to explain ourselves, despite that these have been experiences which structured our predispositions for the rest of our lives.  The effort to understand ourselves isn't completely futile, but so much of it is bound to be beyond the scope of what we can be aware of.  We're forced to fill in countless gaps, as best we can.

At some point, it just seems to make more sense to say, you know what?  I have no idea why I am the way I am.  I have no idea what to do about it.  I'm just going to keep moving forward, as best I can.  A lot of my efforts to move forward won't make any more sense than the very missteps that got me here, but ah, fuck it.

I'm not entirely convinced that I have the freedom to do anything else, anyhow.  Rather, that we all fight tooth and nail, doing everything humanly possible, to become who we already are.
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