Thursday, October 25, 2012

Why do people rationalize?



Someone said: "Rationalizing is a thing we *all* do, to feel better about who we are and what we believe in … the stronger the hold of the belief, the stronger the rationalizing."

No. Only *some* people do that. Some people have evolved beyond that. But yes, *most* people do rationalize. They do it in order to protect their self-image. Doing so helps them feel better. Rationalizing is irrational. Because it shields ideas from criticism. It resists error-correction.

The people that have evolved beyond rationalizing have rid themselves of the meme (among other memes) that causes a person to feel bad when he feels that his self-image has been attacked. So how does one get rid of this meme? In other words, having this meme is a problem so what is the solution?

The reality is that *having* a self-image is bad. Having a self-image means that a person holds a certain set of ideas as his. Ideas that he doesn't want to change, because they *define* him. This is bad because its possible that any one of those cherished ideas could be wrong. So if you resist change of any one of your ideas, then you stay mistaken about the mistaken ones. This is problematic, so what is the solution?

*All* of my ideas are on the table. That includes all my preferences, all my interests, all my beliefs, and so on. Any of them could be wrong. So if someone tells me (or I have) a criticism of any one of my ideas, I will consider that criticism (where most people would rationalize it away as untrue with the goal of protecting their self-image).

Another problem that causes people to feel bad when they think their self-image is attacked, is the meme that causes people to feel shame when their mistakes are exposed. The implication is that mistakes are bad. But mistakes aren't inherently bad. Humans are fallible. That means that we all make mistakes. It means no one is perfect. So if we take that meme to its logical conclusion, then *all* humans should be ashamed. Of course this is ridiculous. The reality is that mistakes are common. They are so common that most mistakes go unnoticed by the person making them. So if someone exposes a mistake of mine (one that went unnoticed by me), that gives me the opportunity to correct that mistaken idea (i.e. to prevent that type of mistake in the future). So that makes me a better person. I've improved myself. I've become a better person, a better father, a better worker. So the act of exposing my mistake led to my becoming a better person. So exposing one's' mistakes is good!

So why would mistakes be considered shameful? Why do people think this way? Its because they learned it from their parents and society. Parents punish their children for making mistakes (like hitting/scolding/frowning/timeouts). Teachers punish their students for making mistakes (like taking points off tests). And employers punish their employees for making mistakes (write-ups and scoldings). And society frowns on people who get punished. So this *mistakes are shameful* meme is prevalent among almost 100% of the human population.


- If you read this far, then you'll learn from this: http://fallibleideas.com/emotions
- And if you liked that, then you should read Elliot Temple's whole site: http://fallibleideas.com 


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